By Ashley Killough, CNN
(CNN) — Karl Rove wasted no time in hitting back at Sarah Palin after she criticized him for getting involved in Republican primaries last year.
“If she can play in primaries, other people can play in primaries,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
During her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, Palin chided Washington establishment attempts to shape the last election, especially in congressional races. While she didn’t mention his name, the former Alaska governor seemed to be aiming at Rove, the former top political adviser to George W. Bush who was dubbed the “architect” of the former president’s campaigns.
Rove now runs American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two independent groups that spent money for conservative candidates in last year’s contests, as well as in the 2010 mid-terms. While candidates that Crossroads supported two years ago saw success, most of them failed to win their contests last year.
“If these experts who keep losing elections and keep getting rehired and raking in millions, if they feel that strongly about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck. Buck up and run,” Palin said. “The architects can head on back.”
Rove is now starting another organization, the Conservative Victory Project, that’s designed to help find candidates who can easily win Republican primaries. Palin joined tea party activists in blasting the new move, saying it’s simply a way to push out more conservative voices.
Palin herself was active in backing the more conservative candidates in several Republican primaries last year. Many of them went on to win, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska.
With 20 months until the 2014 mid-terms, Palin said Washington should not be in the game of hand-picking a candidate. She urged her CPAC audience to change the “top-down political process” and create their own search for the next best crop of contenders.
Asked to respond to her remarks, Rove said Sunday that the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee had little room to talk.
“Well, first of all, I live in Texas, and I don’t live in Washington,” Rove said on Fox, where Palin once served as a paid contributor.
“Second of all, look, Sarah Palin should be agreeing with this. She didn’t support Todd Akin, and when he said the reprehensible things he said, she wisely came out and said he ought to get out of the race.”
He was referring to Akin’s controversial statement about rape that ultimately derailed the Missouri congressman’s campaign for the U.S. Senate – a seat he was favored to win. Akin made the comments soon after he became the Republican nominee in the race. Palin had backed Republican Sarah Steelman for the nomination.
Rove said he also had to set the record straight on two other points of contention.
“First of all, raking in millions – I’m a volunteer. I don’t take a dime from my work with American Crossroads. I even pay my own travel expenses, out of my own pocket. I thought Sarah Palin was about encouraging volunteer, grass-roots activity. I’m a volunteer,” he said.
“Second of all, look. I appreciate her encouragement that I ought to go home to Texas and run for office. I would be enthused if I ran for office to have her support. I will say this, though: I don’t think I’m a particularly good candidate. Sort of a balding, fat guy. And second of all, I’d say if I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term. I wouldn’t leave office midterm,” he said, taking a swipe at Palin’s decision to resign from her governorship in 2009.