Jim Brulte

Brulte

By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine
Monday, February 11, 2013

By snagging GOP strategist Karl Rove as the featured speaker at the California Republican Party convention in March, former legislative leader Jim Brulte – who won’t take over as CRP chairman until the day after Rove speaks – has already begun trying to alter the role his party plays in statewide politics.

What better audience for Rove’s newfound anti-extremist message than the most entrenched ideological Republican activists – delegates to the state GOP convention – in the largest state in the nation?

For those who might have missed his ecdysis, the cold-blooded Rove has regenerated himself as the Conservative Victory Project, targeting unelectable candidates in Republican Senate primaries. This from the architect of George W. Bush’s rise to power who used proto-Tea Partiers as his shock troops. This from the mastermind of the monumentally unsuccessful right-wing American Crossroads super-PACs that spent about $300 million in 2012, including $30 million on behalf of Tea Party candidates.

Lock and Load Rove, who was always more at ease among the country club Republicans, is taking up his squash racket against the pitch fork brigade of the chapel Republicans – the same forces he used to catapult his client Bush in 2000 and 2004.

He’s right, of course. Republicans have no chance of creating an electoral majority by lashing itself to the “legitimate rape” wing of the GOP. But who can buy the Reptilian Mr. Rove as a voice of reason and principle?

Jim Brulte, apparently. It was Brulte – a longtime ally and pal of Rove’s — who got Bush’s Brain to agree to speak to the state GOP after an initial invitation from outgoing Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

Brulte is a radical pragmatist. His definition of ideology is what works. Sure, he’s a conservative Republican, who was willing to bottle up the state budget in order to cripple Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in hopes of recalling and replacing him.

But he was also a deal maker, willing to horse-trade a loss for one Republican principle for the victory of another. He’s not part of the Tea Party Wing of the GOP that sees all compromise as capitulation. He actually believes government should govern.

What, Me Worry? In his bid to become chairman of the California Republican Party, however, Brulte is assiduously avoiding talking about anything having to do with policy and politics: immigration, abortion, taxes, gay marriage, legislative compromise or anything that smacks of substance.

For him, it’s all about operations, party building, fund-raising, mechanics. Right. As if backing down the ultra-conservatives who have outsized power in the CRP isn’t critical to returning the party to relevancy.

So who will deliver the message to the California Republians? The man who once called Brulte “our political brains and insightful wizard in California.”

There are plenty of chapel Republicans who don’t buy Rove’s new theology. They still like the unreconstructed Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The Rushbo Wing of the GOP is not warming to Rove’s new persona. How he’ll go over when he speaks to the California GOP luncheon will likely depend on who buys tickets to the luncheon.

The Calbuzz Chordata Bureau will be watching to see if Brulte’s lips move when Rove is talking.