The Architect Karl Rove joined me today:
HH: Karl Rove is the Architect. He’s also the author of an incredibly timely book about 1896, because we’re going to a contested convention, and The Triumph Of William McKinley, Karl Rove’s brand new book, is about a contested convention. It’s about the bosses who no longer exist. But he also has a terrific Wall Street Journal commentary today on an ugly election taking shape. He’s of course a Fox News contributor as well. Karl, welcome, I’m sure you’re one of the guys who will get up early and do the show in the morning when I move to the mornings next week.
KR: Well, I will, and congratulations. What great news. I’m going to, I’m sorry that we’re going to miss Bill, but he’s taking on the statesman role, and you’re going to have to be the working man in the morning.
HH: That’s it. He’s gone Brit Hume. He’ll just show up when he wants to.
KR: There you go.
HH: So Karl Rove, I want to start with very inside baseball, which is Rule 40. On this show yesterday, Ted Cruz said it’s a rule, it would be wrong to parachute in people to change it from Washington, D.C. insiders. It’s only Trump and me. And I thought to myself, oh, they’re going to actually run this convention. What do you think of that strategy of trying to hang onto Rule 40?
KR: Well, Rule 40B…
HH: To be specific, yeah.
KR: What it is, yeah, look, and he misinterprets it. Rule 40B says that in order to have your name officially placed in nomination with a speech and seconding speeches, you have to have the majority of delegates in a certain number of states. I believe it’s eight states. But it does not say that those are the only candidates that you can vote for. This was an attempt to, in 2012, and the rules committee just before the convention proposed this rule, because Ron Paul said I want to have, I don’t have a chance at winning. I’ve got 5% of the vote. I’ve got delegates from a couple of states where I dominate, but I want to be able to have a full blown nomination speech and speak to the country, and chew up valuable prime time TV. So what they said is okay, you can vote for anybody you want, and those votes will be tallied and counted. But we’re not going to have everybody that wants to be nominated be able to be nominated. You’ve got to show a certain level of support. So Senator Cruz is wrong. There is no rule on the Republican Party side that says that you have to be formally nominated in order to have people receive votes. I mean, people can get, Carly Fiorina has a delegate. She’ll be, and whoever that delegate is, is going to be able to vote for Carly Fiorina on the first ballot, because they’re bound to them. Ben Carson has delegates. Marco Rubio has delegates. John Kasich has delegates. Jeb Bush has delegates. They can all have those delegate bound to them, and remain bound to them, and vote for them, on them, even though their name is not placed in nomination.
HH: How interesting. So there is no, you aren’t disqualified? Well, then, Senator Cruz is doing a very shrewd thing. He’s defining the controversy before the controversy is actually investigated and defined.
HH: Tell me a second thing, Karl Rove. There are 112 members of the rules committee. Who are those people? And who runs them? And who controls them? And what do they have to do with this?
KR: Well, there are, every election, every convention has committees that represent, two people representing each state, territory and district. They’re chosen by the delegation themselves, and there’s a committee on credential, there’s a committee on arrangement, there’s a committee on rules. And they will receive a report of the rules committee of the Republican National Committee the week before the convention, and then they will consider those rules. And then they will adopt the rules that will govern the 2016 convention, and remain in place until the eve of the 2020 convention. This is the way that it has always been. And in the modern era, there have been very few significant changes in the rules from convention to convention. I was on the committee that last considered the major, Rule 29, that the 1972 convention, the rule, they adopted a rule calling for a committee that would examine all of the rules of the Republican Party and make a recommendation for significant changes, particularly in the allocation of delegates before the 1976 convention, and as college chairman, I had an automatic seat on that committee. But we have made very few changes in the nature of the party rules, and 40B was a cosmetic change, not a structural change.
HH: Now here comes the most important question of all. If John Kasich were denied under some interpretation of 40B or an amendment to 40B, through the cooperation of Cruz and Trump, the opportunity to make a speech in his home state in a big convention on the red carpet in Cleveland day, does that hurt the general election chances of the Republican ticket by antagonizing the Republican state party?
KR: Well, I’d say this. I would say you’d have to put it a little differently, which is not that John Kasich, John Kasich will get to speak to the convention. He as the home state governor will, by tradition, be able to welcome people to his state. The question is will he have the ability to be nominated formally with a speech and with seconding speeches. And you know, look, right now, he wouldn’t, because he doesn’t a majority of the delegates from eight states. If this rule were kept in force exactly this way at the convention, you know, it might, but I doubt it. I want you to remember this. And I want your listeners to remember this. At every Republican National Convention from 1856 until 1952, perhaps, there have bene miscellaneous people who receive votes at the convention who were never placed in nomination.
KR: And you know, for example, in 1952, Earl Warren had 81 votes. Harold Stassen, the governor of Minnesota had 20 votes. Douglas MacArthur had 10 votes, none of whom were formally placed in nomination for the Republican presidential ticket. And you know, this notion, I understand why Ted Cruz is doing this, but it strikes me that he should not be out there suggesting that the only two people who will be able to receive votes at the Republican National Convention are he and Trump by virtue of the fact that they have the majority of delegates from eight states or more. This is disingenuous.
HH: Last question, Karl.
KR: This is like what happened in Iowa when he said, you know, Ben Carson’s going to get out next week. Ben Carson’s going home. He’s going to have a major announcement this next week, be sure to vote for me. I mean, this is not what the rule says. And if you don’t believe me, call the RNC and get their lawyer on your program tomorrow, and get him to referee on whether or not I’m right or Cruz.
HH: I will, but I’ve got to ask you for your input, and I’ll see if you can stay over one more segment as well. Should the RNC be scheduling the votes well in advance, like I suggested 10:00 and 4:00 every day starting on Monday. If we’re going to go multi-ballots, we don’t want it happening all at once at night when people are drinking, do we?
KR: Yeah, well, you know, that’s traditionally, I mean, first of all, you can’t schedule these things narrowly, because even, as states take a long time, you’ll have, you know, disputes. But it makes good sense. I’m not certain that logic will prevail.
HH: Okay, I’m going to be back maybe with Karl Rove after the break. His piece is An Ugly General Election Takes Shape at the Wall Street Journal, you’ve got to read it, about the negatives of Donald Trump and the dynamics of this race.
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HH: And I’m amazed, Rove, that no one has actually, you haven’t been on air talking about this, because you know the answers to stuff that people are going to be asking. Here’s the key question. If Donald Trump is the nominee, how do you recover from a 30% favorable/63% unfavorable, as you note in your column today?
KR: Look, I don’t think it’s possible. You know, he claims that he can be presidential when he needs to be. If he wants to change those numbers, he ought to start acting in a presidential manner, whatever he thinks that is, because right now, his numbers are abysmal. I mean, 30%, no one has ever been nominated for president with numbers this bad. And nobody has ever won the presidency with numbers anywhere near this bad by the time of the election. Now maybe the numbers are pliable for him. I doubt it. But he’d better show us some evidence by July 18th that he can change these numbers. He may be popular inside the Republican Party, though he has only gotten an average of 37% of the votes. But among general election voters, he’s more than 2-2-1 negative.
HH: Is Ted Cruz much more electable?
KR: Well, the polls would indicated that he is somewhat more electable. He looked a lot more electable earlier in the year. But now, he is, along with Trump, fallen behind Hillary Clinton in the polling on a pretty regular basis. But you could make the case that he lacks the misogynist comments, and the four bankruptcies and all these other things that are causing trouble for Donald Trump. But yes, he is more electable.
HH: Who is the most electable Republican, obviously, John Kasich could be on the list, but of people who could be available to run?
KR: Yeah, look, I don’t know. I mean, I think we’re going to, we are not going to be able to be, and shouldn’t be guided simply by polls on this. I mean, we do need to understand the polls with regard to what the people are thinking about, the people who might be prospective candidates. But in terms of being able to match somebody head to head against Hillary Clinton, that’s going to be difficult to do. We’ve got numbers on Kasich. And he is tending to, in most of the polls, beat her. And Ted Cruz runs a lot closer to Hillary than does Donald Trump, tends to, I’ve seen in some polls beat her, but mostly slightly behind here. I think, though, that let’s say this. If we have somebody who we think has, has been battle tested, and has strong conservative principles and the ability to articulate them, and they are nominated at this convention, there will be a lot of acrimony from the people who were seeking the nomination. But if it’s somebody who has, you know, has those convictions that they can express in a compelling way, we could come out of the convention in relatively strong position, because we do have, you know, look. Donald Trump excites a lot of enthusiasm. But he also excites a lot of anger within the Republican Party and outside of the Republican Party. And a fresh face might be the thing that could give us a chance to turn this election and win in November against Hillary.
HH: Karl Rove, always a great pleasure. Follow him, @KarlRove on Twitter, and go read An Ugly General Election Takes Shape at the Wall Street Journal.
End of interview.