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When Karl Rove talks, people listen

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Only four men alive have captained successful presidential campaigns: Ed Rollins (Ronald Reagan, 1984), James Carville (both Bill Clinton campaigns), Karl Rove (George W. Bush‘s double) and the wily David Axelrod, now ensconced at the University of Chicago.

(If you are trying to think who ran Bush 41’s 1988 campaign, it was the late, much-missed Lee Atwater. Reagan’s 1980 campaign was piloted by William Casey, far more famous for his tenure at the CIA than for masterminding the success of the campaign of the man who defeated the Soviet Union.)

Rollins’ star has fallen far and fast, and few seek out his advice now, especially after his having turned on his past two employers, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, with stunning speed and ferocity. Carville works the circuit along with his wife Mary Matalin, who together are easily the most entertaining, informative platform speakers in America. Axelrod is building the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics into the equal of its far less balanced Harvard counterpart. (Rick Santorum told me a week ago about the splendid reception he had been given by students and staff at the institute when journeying there to promote his new book Blue Collar Conservatives.)

Rove never retires, never recedes into the background, but floats over GOP world like the Death Star. And with good reason: He knows of which he speaks, he speaks candidly, carries a political death ray called “funder loyalty” and he has won — twice. When Rove speaks, the GOP ought to listen, no matter how much what he says angers some or all of the constituencies that make up the party. Not necessarily always or even often follow, but at least listen. Very closely.

Thus when I hosted Rove for an hour on Friday’s radio show (the audio and transcript are posted at, Rove’s comments generated stories across many different platforms and for many different reasons.

The Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee zoomed in on Rove’s thrashing of Minuteman-turned-state senator-turned-would-be California GOP governor Tim Donnelly. Rove warned of the dire impact a Donnelly nomination could have.

Others focused on Rove’s defense of his comments regarding Hillary Clinton and her age, his takedown of Jay Carney for hypocrisy on the subject and his assessment of some in the commentariat’s effort to take him off the public stage. There is much and more there.

The point is that when Rove talks, people listen, even if they hate what they hear and don’t much like the messenger. The same is true for me and many other conservatives regarding Axelrod. (It is one of my ambitions for this summer to get President Obama‘s key guy to talk politics on air.) Guys who have won the big game get to talk about other campaigns with a credibility that no one else has. No one.

The meat of my long chat with Rove was about the 2014 map: the key governors’ races and the 14 vulnerable seats up for grabs currently held by Democrats. Rove of course provides caveats but the picture is very good for the GOP. Very good. If they don’t nominate any loose cannons, stay focused, funded and disciplined, the country will be in much better hands come January of 2015.

Read or listen to the conversation. Pay especially close attention to what Rove says about Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is surging towards a decisive win in a key swing state. (The state which should host the GOP convention, BTW, in Cleveland, of course, the new home of Johnny Football.)

Send the Rove link to your pals. Tell them to study up. If you have done it, you can brag how it ought to be done. Remember that when the Left attacks Rove. They’d rather see him on injured reserve than on the field.


Column originally appeared on


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