Whenever a political party is out of power for a significant amount of time, things tend to get ugly. Generally, party leaders point fingers at one another and there is something like a struggle over who is to blame for past defeats and who should lead the party into the future. Granted, in our political system, the parties are pretty fragmented. While the Republicans and Democrats have national committees that make many important decisions, much of the “nuts and bolts” work in the party takes place at the state and local level; this is also where volunteers matter most.
At the same time, each elected official is also a party member (except for a couple in the Congress), and they are pondering running for re-election or for higher office. These politicians have to plot their own strategies for what it will take to win during the next 2, 4, or 6 years. When they make speeches and policy commitments, they, to an extent, define the party just as much as party leaders or volunteers.
Lubricating the entire process is an obscene amount of money. During primary and general election campaigns, ALL candidates need money to run for office. Only some are truly self-financed, so most are forced to raise money so they might be effective. In fact, one of the first big hurdles any candidate faces is the ability to raise enough money to compete, much less win.
Outside of the candidates themselves, there are private groups who are raising money to influence voters. Due to recent Supreme Court decisions (Citizens United v. F.E.C.), these organizations have few limits, even if they are corporations.
The final aspect of parties, of course, is you and me. Parties rely on our time and money, of course, but more than anything, they need our votes in order to survive. About 2/3 of Americans identify with a political party and then, generally, vote for that party when elections roll around.
Collectively, then, parties are complex organizations. When they are out of power, as noted before, struggles within the party are sometimes extreme.
Karl Rove is one of the most critical Republicans in the United States. Mr. Rove has never held office, though he was an advisor to President George W. Bush. Since his time in the White House, Mr. Rove has been a key political fundraiser through his own organization–American Crossroads (AC). AC spent over $300 million in the last election and the candidate it most supported, Mitt Romney, lost relatively handily.
This has generated intense criticism about how to spend money effectively, which Republican candidates to support, and, to a small degree, the future of the Republican Party. First Things posted a recent blog about the topic that might be worth your examination.