November 28, 2004


Rove Unleashed: For the past 30 years he's focused like a laser on George W. Bush. What does Karl Rove do for an encore? The plans for a permanent GOP majority (Howard Fineman, 11/28/04, Newsweek)

One thing Rove will be up to, he made clear in a NEWSWEEK interview, is involvement of some kind in the race for the next Republican presidential nomination. Meeting with reporters only days after the election, he seemed to count himself out. "And 2008 is going to be left to someone who has a little bit more energy and interest than me," he said then. "This will be the last presidential campaign I will ever do." Last week he backtracked on that pledge. "I said that in haste," he said. "A lot of people in the White House told me that that was a really stupid thing to say. So let me say that I can't imagine spending two years away from my wife and son again, the way I did this time. But besides that, who knows?"

Telling it like it is: Rove, aboard Air Force One, shows the president his blueprints for victory
Charles Ommanney / Contact for Newsweek
Telling it like it is: Rove, aboard Air Force One, shows the president his blueprints for victory
Translation: the Karl Rove Primary has begun—or at least Rove (and Bush) want the world to believe it has, if for no other reason than to dangle the possibility of help from (or the threat of opposition from) the Architect before the eyes of would-be GOP contenders and power brokers. "The president will be a lame duck soon enough," said a Republican strategist. "He can't afford to let Karl be one, too." Indeed, being seen as "close to Karl" is a sign among desperate Republicans of "election" in an almost theological sense. All the more reason for Rove to be slow about taking sides. "He won't actually commit for years," the strategist predicted.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee is regarded by colleagues as a subsidiary of Rove Inc., following the Architect's plan to hem in Sen. Arlen Specter's power as chairman of the judiciary committee. Rove also has a close operational and conservative philosophical bond with Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. At the same time, Rove has worked well with two cultural moderates: former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Sen. John McCain has patched up relations with Rove (strained to the breaking point in the 2000 campaign), spending long hours with him and the president on plane and bus trips in the final days of the 2004 race. "If you spend three days on a bus trip with someone," Rove says, "you really bond with them."

For now, Rove's goals are at once more immediate and more lofty: to design a legislative and philosophical agenda that will lead to further GOP gains, and beyond that to a political dominance that could last for decades, as FDR's New Deal did. The core principles are clear to anyone who listened to a Bush stump speech. They are drawn from a well of conservative (and, in the 19th-century sense, "liberal") dogma: that only free-market democracies respectful of traditional moral values can bring us a planet of fulfilled citizens secure from terror. In fact, Rove's formulation is a new hybrid, willing to use big government in the service of markets and morality. Asked to name Bush's biggest accomplishment thus far, Rove replied in a flash: "His clear-eyed explanation of how to win the war on terrorism. It was the defining moment of our time." In other words, the Architect plans to be fully engaged in formulating foreign policy—and, while he isn't thought of as a leading neocon, his views are squarely within that camp.

On domestic policy, Rove has a theme at the ready: "the ownership society" he says the president wants to build.

If the Administration can pass a couple of major reforms--Social Security and taxes--locking them in so that the President's successor is likely to be mostly a consolidating figure rather than another revolutionary, then it would make great sense for Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove to get behind John McCain, who would win the election easily and appeal to the types of Democrats who can be won permanently to the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2004 11:33 AM

The bottom line is that Rove, and the rest of the Bush braintrust, want to develop and implement political ideas that solve real problems and make lives better and living freer. The opposition wants to stop them but offers no ideas of its own preferring instead to ignore the problems. We're running downhill here.

Posted by: JAB at November 28, 2004 12:02 PM

McCain is way to much like a senator to appeal to Bush as a candidate inheritor. The man is more straddle than belief. Also, he is growing a second head on one side of his face, a large amorphous mass rising beneath the skin that will look ghastly by '08.

If we go from social conservatives like Bush back to fiscal/defense conservatives like Giuliani or McCain, we're moving the country backwards and more than a million kids a year will continue to die in abortions.

We need red state platforms, not purple!

Posted by: JimGooding at November 28, 2004 3:28 PM

We shouldn't be hooked on the notion that Rove is unbeatable or some sort of genius.

Bush could (and probably should) have won by wider margins in 2000 & 2004, particularly given the opposing candidates.

Others can read about various things Rove did right & wrong & adjust. Rove has the advantage of experience & cash(ay). Newer entrants will have the advantage of innovation & surprise (assuming they are smart)

Rove will last as long as he has winning candidates. His lustre will fade the moment he hitches his wagon to Frist (or some other sure loser)

Posted by: BB at November 28, 2004 7:18 PM


Your post perfectly illustrates the problems that face any coalition of factions that wins big, in this case the GOP.

Every large component starts believing that they can appropriate all of the winning mojo, and turn the coalition into an ideologically pure organization.

If the GOP jettisons the fiscal/defense conservatives, they'll be back in the minority within a decade.
Many of the '00 - '04 "red" states are in fact very purple.

Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico & Nevada, for instance.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 29, 2004 6:16 AM


Reagan jettisoned the fiscal as did W.

Posted by: oj at November 29, 2004 8:21 AM

And did Reagan build a permanent GOP majority ?

Hey, hack off all of the coalition groups that you want to. It's easy enough to turn a big tent into a small one, although winning elections will get much harder...

You're advocating turning the national GOP into the Cali GOP.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 30, 2004 8:11 PM


Yes, he did.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 11:36 PM
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