Haley Barbour at American Crossroads: Seismic GOP Fundraising Shift?

Perhaps only one other Republican occupies as high a throne internally as Haley Barbour: Karl Rove. Recall that Rove was one of the founders of American Crossroads. Crossroads GPS formed in May 2010 after the landmark Citizens United case that transformed political fundraising and spending. This decision opened the floodgates, allowing unlimited corporate, union, and individual spending in elections.

So now, united under one roof are Karl Rove and Haley Barbour, the two undisputed kings of Republican fundraising and campaign strategy, with a 2012 fundraising goal of $240 million.

With this level of funding, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS will act and react to counter President Barack Obama, perhaps impacting the outcome of the presidential election even more than the official campaign of the eventual Republican presidential nominee.

This impact has already begun. In October 2011, when President Obama campaigned in Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina, American Crossroads “welcomed” his visits with this television ad.

Rove, Barbour, and other top leaders of American Crossroads -- including former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, former RNC Co-Chair Jo Ann Davidson, and political director Carl Forti (Romney’s 2008 deputy campaign manager/political director) -- will be able to run more television ads, target specific candidates, and exert more influence earlier and more often than the RNC.

The Republican Party right now looks to be a weakened structure, fractured between the tea party wing and the establishment. Yet American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are lean, tested, and ready to flex their muscles in 2012, as they did so well in 2010: when the organizations were only seven months old, they raised a combined $71 million.

Today, Haley Barbour and Karl Rove are not in control of the Republican Party, which still has the unique ability to nominate candidates. But who needs a party? They now have the ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in support of or against a candidate, to buy media time, and to interject their message wherever they like.

If the “Republican establishment” -- accused of shoving Mitt Romney down the throats of the tea party/conservative base -- had a face, it would be Barbour. Yet at this point, Haley Barbour has not endorsed Mitt Romney. In fact, Barbour recently said on Face the Nation that Romney is “not a true frontrunner.”

No one knows exactly how this power-player politics will play itself out. But by joining American Crossroads, Haley Barbour brings the hefty wallets of the “establishment” along with him and away from the GOP.

This is a major trend worth noting and watching in 2012.