December 25, 2004


Our TEXAN OF THE YEAR: Karl Rove: The man who is building a Republican majority (WAYNE SLATER, December 24, 2004, The Dallas Morning News)

Editor's note: Today the editorial board names Karl Rove, the chief political adviser to President George W. Bush, as The Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year for 2004. He has the distinction of following in the footsteps of his boss, who was our 2003 choice, and therefore ineligible for consideration this year. After making its decision, the editorial board turned to Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater, one of the country's leading Rove experts, to analyze for our readers why Karl Rove mattered so much this past year.

The president, that famous giver of nicknames, bestowed a new one after his re-election on Karl Christian Rove: The Architect.

A perfect tribute. It was Mr. Rove – master strategist and political grenadier – who drew up the plan to win George W. Bush a second term in the White House and bird-dogged every detail to victory. He honed the central theme of the presidential campaign. He built the biggest, shiniest, most elaborate voter-identification and turnout machine in history. And in the process, he advanced an audacious goal of making the GOP America's permanent majority party.

In selecting The Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year, the editorial board sought someone of uncommon character who demonstrated both leadership and vision in 2004, who exemplified a trailblazing instinct and ability to navigate adversity. In these, Mr. Rove emerged as one of the most creative and influential political figures of our time. His work for the president helped assure the Bush agenda will affect Americans for the next four years. His desire for a Republican-dominated realignment of government could affect us for decades.

To be sure, candidates win elections, not consultants, and Mr. Bush proved the better candidate in 2004. But even the best candidate needs a savvy adviser, someone to match a leader's strengths with the mood of the moment. Bill Clinton had his James Carville, Woodrow Wilson his Col. House and President McKinley a nimble political guru-in-chief named Marcus Hanna.

Mr. Rove might very well be the best of the bunch. [...]

In making its decision, the editorial board said that his second-to-none tactical skills were not the only thing that earned Mr. Rove Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year status, but an uncommon political vision in which he has cast Mr. Bush's political success as part of something larger: a permanent Republican revolution of U.S. politics.

The blueprint started in Texas in the 1980s, where as a young political acolyte in the camp of Republican Gov. Bill Clements, Mr. Rove wrote a memo anticipating the GOP takeover of the Lone Star State.

He was right. And two decades later, he's taken the thing national.

Although he never graduated from college, Mr. Rove has proven himself an adept student of history. He finds particular meaning in the election in 1896 of William McKinley that launched a fundamental realignment of American politics. With Mr. McKinley began a 30-year run of near-exclusive Republican rule in the White House, ending only with Franklin Roosevelt and another fundamental realignment.

It's a model – an enduring Republican majority lasting decades – that Mr. Rove would like to duplicate in the 21st century.

In Washington, Republicans have indeed become the majority party. The party controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It controls a majority of governorships. And the results of the 2004 race suggest that the ideological center of the nation has moved toward Mr. Bush, who captured 51 percent of the vote. The shift is not wholly of Mr. Rove's making, but it is consistent with his larger design.

(And by the way, over 20 years in Texas, Mr. Rove was instrumental in turning Democrat-dominated Texas into a state where the GOP today holds every statewide office and both Senate seats, as well as dominating the courts and the Legislature. When U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay spearheaded the successful drive to redraw congressional boundaries in Texas, he found a Legislature and state leadership friendly to his purpose – thanks in part to Karl Rove's handiwork.)

A few days after the November election, Mr. Rove appeared on Fox News and was asked whether the outcome had the same kind of potential as the McKinley victory in 1896 to give a governing majority to the Republican Party for decades.

"It does. We'll only tell with time," he said. "It was an election that realigned American politics years afterwards. And I think the same thing will be here."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 25, 2004 5:02 PM
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