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Karl Rove looks at Obamacare and handicaps Republican chances in 2010 as a result

Monday, November 23, 2009
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HH: Joined now by Karl Rove, the Architect. Hello, Karl, happy Thanksgiving.

KR: Same to you, buddy, happy Thanksgiving.

HH: Thank you. What do you make of the depth of the changes roiling American politics right now?

KR: Pretty remarkable. I think we’ve seen this story once before when, but in a slightly different version when in 1991 and 1992, Americans got revved up about the deficits. It brought about a third party candidate for president. We saw, to a lesser extent in ’93 and ’94, though for tactical reasons, it had a bigger impact than it’s likely to have, but I mean, we’ve seen since the spring, seniors, independents and the college educated go from being 2-1, or better than 2-1 in favor of health care reform to being roughly 2-1 against it, or even more strongly against it in the case of seniors. And with that has gone, or maybe driven by it, a growing concern about the spending and deficit, and size and power of the government.

HH: Karl Rove, I see an army of walkers moving up towards the battle line here. And they’re not going to be happy with the Democrats. When seniors change their political outlook, as I think they’re doing because of the proposed massive cuts to Medicare, how pervasive, and how lasting will that change be?

KR: Well look, they vote. And we saw what happened once before. And as you remember back in the late 80’s, Congressman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois passed a series of changes in Medicare that proved to be highly, you know, inflamed the senior community pretty severely, and Congress repealed them right away. So if Congress were to pass something, and we begin to have a 20% reduction in Medicare Advantage, and we begin to have, as Senator Coburn made the point yesterday on ABC, 70 new government agencies that have a mandate to the secretary to produce 1,000, I think it’s 1,257 new sets of regulations on everything getting between a doctor and his patient. And we see all this money, and we see all this spending on some new government programs while we’re cutting Medicare. I think we’re likely to see a lot of people who are angry today become even more angry then.

HH: And does that kind of anger endure an entire 11 months in a cycle?

KR: Well, it can. We’re already starting to see it. I remind you that the first time the Republicans in the 1994 election cycle took a lead in the generic ballot was in March of 1994, when they took a one point lead in the generic ballot. Well, about ten days ago, the Republicans took the lead in the generic ballot for next year’s election by a four point margin, 48-44. And the turnaround came in basically nine months. And I don’t see anything in the future that’s going to make people feel better. I mean, the Democrats, particularly the Obama White House, have deluded themselves into thinking that the problem that they had in ’93 and ’94 was not trying to pass a bad bill, but failing to pass a bill. So they’re sitting there saying all right, people may think this is bad, but once we deliver the gigantic tax increases on medical devices and pharmaceutical companies, and the huge cuts in Medicare, and a federal takeover of health care, and a government run insurance plan that craters the private insurance market, well, they’ll love us when we do that. And that kind of mindset only gets you into difficulty.

HH: Is there enough of a move afoot that the House could reverse control in 2010?

KR: I don’t think so, because look, there’s 258 of them, and 170-some odd of the Republicans, and I just think that’s too steep a hill to climb. But on the other hand, it happened once before. Rather than winning 41 seats, which is what’s necessary to gain control this time around, we got 54 in 1994. The difficulty is, is that we had 22 of those came from retirements, where Democrats had retired and we had open seats. I think there are today, as of today, maybe six or seven seats that are open. And of those, three or four are potentially vulnerable. So a lot more Democrats would need to retire before we had as open of ground as we had in 1994. On the other hand, going from 178 to, say, 200 or 201 is a huge improvement, because there are 80 Democrats today whose seats were carried by George W. Bush or John McCain or both in the last three elections. And if you’re a Democrat in that kind of a seat, and you vote for things like the stimulus bill and the budget bill, the budget plan which called for doubling the deficit in five years, and nearly tripling it in ten, and you voted for cap and trade, and then you vote for this health care bill, plus all the other goofy things that Nancy Pelosi, bless her soul, from San Francisco, California is in favor of, you know, those kinds of things are going to not serve you well back home.

HH: Do you think, Karl Rove, that Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln can survive politically if in fact Obamacare gets out of the United States Senate?

KR: I think it’s going to be very difficult for her. First of all, Obama ran poorly in the state. She’s not particularly well anchored. She’s behind in the polls behind a very articulate and smart conservative state senator named Gilbert Baker. There are other good candidates in the state as well, but he’s my personal favorite. And I think she’s got a real problem on her hands. I mean, she’s not well anchored. She was on the Senate Finance Committee. She’s now been moved over to Agriculture Committee where she replaced Harkin. But she’s just fresh on that committee, doesn’t have a great deal of being anchored in the state on this issue. And look, her husband’s a physician. Can you imagine how ugly this is at home? I don’t suspect he’s like, I suspect he’s like most physicians, not a handful of physicians. I suspect he’s looking at his private practice, and seeing what this would do to it. And I don’t want to speak for him, but I can imagine that he’s likely to have some concerns, or at least be hearing concerns from his fellow physicians.

HH: Karl Rove, you’re a Coloradan originally. Do you think Michael Bennet, the appointed Senator serving out Ken Salazar’s term can survive a yes vote for Obamacare getting out of the Senate?

KR: No. No, in fact, he may be already cooked. I mean, first of all, remember, he’s only, I don’t know how many years he’s been in the state, but it’s not a lot. I mean, I want to say five or six years he’s been in the state. He’s got a Republican woman named Jane Norton, who’s the former lieutenant governor of the state, two times elected lieutenant governor, well thought of, native Coloradan, been there for a long time, you know, her family’s been there for a long time, and she fits the state like a glove. She’ll be able to hold the independence of the suburbs, and match in with the Republicans in places like Colorado Springs, and then a lot of the rural voters. And I feel very good about that race, provided she’s got enough money and good resources. She should be able to win that seat.

HH: And with a minute, Karl Rove, in Connecticut, we’ve got Chris Dodd in trouble, and Rob Simmons catching up, and we’ve got in Delaware, Mike Castle running against probably Beau Biden. What do you think of those two races?

KR: I think they’re great. I love how we’re going to reestablish ourselves in the Northeast. And don’t forget Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, who’s running for Judd Gregg’s seat, or Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, who’s going to be taking on I think either Arlen Specter or Joe Sestak in the general election there. Pat Toomey has found his footing as a candidate, he’s really articulate, very able, energetic guy, and a strong pro-growth conservative.

HH: Karl Rove, always a pleasure, we look forward to talking to you next when the book is out and before then. Have a great Thanksgiving, Karl.

End of interview.

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