Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, also a Republican, said Rove should leave the primary to Iowans.
Tim Albrecht, Branstad's spokesman, said the governor "believes Karl Rove received his message, which is that meddling in the Iowa primary would be counter-productive to his efforts, and that Iowa Republicans will be making this decision."
Collegio said he had no information on any talks between Rove and Branstad.
"It sounds like somebody from D.C. and outside of states and congressional districts is trying to make decisions for a local area as to what's best for that local area, as if they know what is best," said Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, which is based in Woodstock, Ga., and says it has about 1,000 active local coordinators around the country.
"That's the antithesis of what our movement stands for," she said. "We want local control. We want to choose our own nominees. We don't want consultants from Washington D.C. coming in and telling us who they deem the most winnable candidates."
The controversy prompted Trump to declare in one of many anti-Rove messages on Twitter: "I don't like bullies. I am not going to stand around and watch @KarlRove target the Tea Party. Karl Rove gave us Barack Obama. Loser."
John Weaver, the chief strategist for the 2012 presidential campaign of Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah, said his party is missing a larger point about policy.
"At the end of the day policy is politics," Weaver said. "It's kind of the self-appointment process that people don't like but at the end of the day primary fights should be over policy differences. To single out candidates and single out grass roots and spend more from sources not disclosed is not a healthy thing."