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What's Karl Rove's Top Target?

It's up against a bigger story today, but Ken Vogel's got an in-depth piece up at Politico that deserves a read, looking at the coordination, or lack of it, among all the various conservative groups gearing up to spend their millions in the months ahead. Vogel reports:

The top conservative operatives who make up the alliance were scheduled to huddle this week behind closed doors to discuss how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to attack President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. And participants were reminded in an email that the gathering shares a key rule with Fight Club: no talking about it.
Karl Rove first pulled the group together to coordinate independent spending in the run-up to the 2010 midterms – and it worked. The coalition — including groups that hadn’t always played well together — has been credited with helping boost Republicans to sweeping victories across the country.
But this time around, the tenuous alliance is being tested. New players are joining, heightening already intense competition for money, voter intel and, in a broad sense, control of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, some conservative groups that participated in the 2010 effort — including Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth — seem to be keeping their distance.

Lower down, Vogel gets into one of the biggest questions: what is Rove thinking? His group, American Crossroads, is likely to be vying for the top spending spot with the Koch Brothers, having vowed to spend as much as $300 million this cycle. But where will Crossroads focus its firepower? Vogel quotes one "operative whose group was represented at the 2010 meetings" as predicting: “I don’t think there will be that same commonality of interest in 2012. The major potential fault lines will be over what happens if Romney wins the nomination and it starts looking like he can’t win...[Crossroads] will still spend money supporting him and bashing Obama [while] other groups will focus on winning the Senate, protecting the House or just pushing their issues.”

This caught my eye, because I had actually heard the exact opposite prediction from a well-placed source while reporting my current cover story on the deteriorated relationship between Obama and the hedge fund managers who backed him in 2008. A former Democratic fundraiser told me that people he used to raise money from on Wall Street were reporting that Rove's pitch to them for Crossroads contributions was specifically that, whether or not Romney could mount a serious challenge to Obama, Crossroads would be focusing on winning back the Senate for Republicans and holding the House, thereby guaranteeing that legislation these funders feared from a second-term Obama -- say, the closing of the carried-interest loophole benefiting private equity and hedge fund partners -- would never make it into law. "Rove is telling these donors, 'I’m going to crack the Senate for Republicans," said the former fundraiser. "These donors are worried about their taxes going up and that’s why he can go and pitch them. He's focused on the Senate. It's 'If Obama's going to punch at the rich guys, well, we’re going to stop [him] from passing carried interest.'"

But that was spoken a couple weeks ago. Who knows, Rove may now be feeling more confident about winning the White House, as well. After all, his latest Murdochia column, which just went up online, declares that Obama's infelicitous overheard remark to Dmitri Medvedev about holding off on missile defense talks until after November "could have a big negative impact" on his reelection. Bring on the Fight Club.