Has the establishment won the GOP’s civil war?

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power PlayersJuly 15, 2014

The Fine Print

No one has fired up Republicans more than one person: President Obama.

But with his political spotlight gradually starting to fade as he inevitably slides into the role of second-term lame duck in the White House, will Obama be as much of a motivating factor for Republican voters this fall as he's been in recent elections?

"For voters more in the middle, I am concerned that he may be becoming almost irrelevant," Steven Law, president of the leading Republican super PAC, American Crossroads, said in an interview with "The Fine Print."

Four months before the midterm elections, with Republicans within reach of winning control of the Senate, that's one of the questions on Law's mind: Is stopping Obama as urgent for Republicans as it was in 2010, when the GOP won back the House?

In the ongoing turmoil between the competing wings of the Republican Party, Law has been one of the GOP establishment’s secret weapons. He has played a leading role in funneling financial support from major party donors to help boost candidates who bear the establishment’s stamp of approval.

And as the countdown to the November midterm elections continues, Law says he’s optimistic about the Republican Party’s chances, primarily because the class of recruits is far stronger than recent election cycles.

“I think people feel pretty good about it,” Law said. “We’ve got great candidates on the field, we've got really good terrain that we're competing on, and the playing field itself has dramatically expanded since last fall.”

That’s a change from the last election cycle in 2012, when Law was one of the establishment voices calling for greater control of the primary processes after some tea party-backed candidates who won their primaries ultimately lost the general elections.

“I think it comes down to candidate quality,” said Law, who emphasized the need for Republicans to take a “realistic” approach in selecting their candidates.

“We've got to beat some incumbents to take the majority," he said. "That's a tough thing to do."

Law made the case that it’s possible to find a candidate who’s both sufficiently conservative and competitive, pointing to the example of Colorado’s Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner.

“The entire field was cleared for him so that he didn't have a tough primary to deal with,” Law said of Gardner. “I mean that's an example where the party went out and found a very conservative candidate who was acceptable to all parties, but it was also somebody who could perform well in the general election.”

He also placed a bet on Iowa’s Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who has drawn national attention for her campaign ad that compares her ability to castrate pigs to cutting pork in Washington.

“We think we've got a really good candidate in Joni Ernst,” Law said. “She's new to the national scene, but she's got a personality that perfectly matches the state and a great resume as a soldier and a farmer.”

If there has been a civil war within the GOP in recent years, Law suggested that it’s far less divisive thanks to what he says is a return to “Reagan Republican principles” -- bringing the tea party forces back within the helm of the broader party platform.

“I think what's really going to go on is that a lot of that tea party energy we saw really come to the forefront in 2010 is starting to come back inside the party, and will be helpful to our candidates this fall,” he said.

For more of the interview with Law, including who he believes could pull off a Republican surprise in November, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, Tom Thornton, Hank Brown and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.