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Karl Rove’s Handicap On The Last 28 Days Before The Midterm Elections

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HH: I begin today with Karl Rove, the Architect, the author of Courage And Consequence: My Life As A Conservative In The Fight. He is of course a Fox News Contributor, regular columnist in the Wall Street Journal and all around good guy. Hello, Karl.

KR: Greetings. How are you?

HH: I’m terrific, except that the lower third on CNN right now is new arrests in a UK terror plot. Yesterday on this show, Dan Balz said the Ebola case in Spain was just going to add to the general sense of a world spinning out of control. What does that do to the President and the Democrats as a backdrop to an election, Karl Rove?

KR: Well, the Ebola doesn’t add to the sense of competency. Rightly or wrongly, people are looking at this saying how did somebody from Liberia get into Dallas, Texas and escape detection until he’d placed perhaps a hundred people at risk? So rightly or wrongly, that’s going to add to it. I’m more worried about, I’m more worried both about terrorism than I am the threat from Ebola, but I’m also, I also believe this will have a greater impact on the President’s standing, because this is one where the administration’s culpability is more at stake.

HH: Four men were arrested in London today just hours ago on what is called quite a serious case. And of course, ISIS is about to slaughter Kurds in Kobani. I don’t think, I’ll talk to Jindal and Lindsey Graham about this. I don’t think anyone is impressed with the President’s strategy, if you can call it that, Karl Rove. And I can’t imagine that leads to votes for Democrats at any level.

KR: No, in fact, look, the administration’s discombobulated approach to this, its weak, feckless manner, the President’s excuses, they aren’t making anybody happy. And it’s putting Democrats in a very bad place all across the country. The Republican advantage on which party is better able to deal with terrorism and military threats is, I think, well over 30%. And this issue has zoomed up in people’s consideration. Back in, you know, the spring, it was nowhere on the list of most important issues. And now on a whole slew of recent surveys, it’s shows up as the number two or number three issue at the top of people’s minds. And look, the American people look at this and say Mr. President, we applaud you having air strikes in Syria and Iraq, but we’re not confident that this is going to get the job done. And this adds to the impression of you as a weak leader who’s not up to the job. So the President’s getting it from all sides. He’s got people saying we agree with what you’re doing, but you know what, we just don’t think that you’re up to doing what needs to be done.

HH: Now Karl, I have to ask you about two races. Whenever I watch you on Fox, Bill always interrupts you before you can get to the bottom line. Kansas concerns me greatly. I wrote my Townhall.com column today in response to an email from a conservative saying that we deserve to lose there, because Pat Roberts shouldn’t have run. And this drives me crazy, because that’s the majority leader gavel right there. And Pat Roberts is a conservative. So how do you, the Marist/NBC poll said that he was down ten points. That’s an outlier. He probably isn’t down ten points. But how does Pat Roberts reintroduce himself to Kansas in 25 days?

KR: Well, I think the main thing is to say here’s your choice. You get to send somebody to Washington who is going to be seen as a victory for Obama and a vote for Harry Reid, or you get to send President Obama a message that we don’t like his policies. You know, you get a choice between a guy who says I wouldn’t have voted for Obamacare, but I’m not certain I’m going to repeal it versus a guy who voted against Obamacare and will vote to repeal it. You get a guy who said I appreciate and applaud the President’s economic policies. You’ve got a who voted against the stimulus and all the President’s spending. You have somebody who has a consistent record of being a conservative, or a guy who may have been a college Republican like you and me, but has long since become a Democrat, ran against Roberts six years ago as a Democrat, gave money to Obama, now claims that he voted for Romney, but is, you know, an adult Democrat liberal. I mean, this is a clear choice. Do Kansas Republicans want to have somebody representing them in Washington who’s going to vote with Harry Reid and with Barack Obama, or do they want somebody who’s been a consistent opponent of them?

HH: Now to get that message through, I played on the air yesterday an amazing ad made by a superPAC called Free At Last featuring Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory, which just lacerates Mary Landrieu. It’s out of the box. It’s very different, very effective. Can that, a similar thing be done in Kansas? Obviously, the same sort of issue set isn’t there, but is there a need to do something completely different in Kansas to shake it up?

KR: Well, look, they’re starting to do it. They’re starting to take Orman’s words and Orman’s actions, and what he has said and done, and put it in the frame of here’s your choice. You can vote with, you can send somebody who stands with Obama, or you can send somebody who has stood against him.

HH: All right, now go to North Carolina with me, because I know you know the Tar Heel state very well, and you’ve been telling me about Thom Tillis for a long time, that he’s going to make a super Senator. There’s maybe a two point deficit. It’s a too close to call race. And now Hagan’s husband is caught in some cookie jar antics with the stimulus funds. That can’t help. But how do you close the deal for Tillis in North Carolina?

KR: Well, ironically enough, you look back six years ago. Six years ago, Elizabeth Dole was ahead of Kay Hagan. Senator Dole was stuck in sort of the mid-40s. Senator Hagan, then a state senator, was three or four or five points behind her. And at the end of the day, what happened is the undecideds broke for change. Well, Senator Hagan this time around is stuck generally between 40 and 46%. The latest NBC/Marist poll has it at 44-40. But she’s well known. She spent a lot of money on her behalf, and she can’t get above 46. Tillis is sitting there right on her tail, you know, somewhere between three and four points behind, and making the case in a very straightforward fashion that you’ve got a choice between somebody who votes with Obama 93% of the time after criticizing Senator Dole for having voted 95% with President Bush. She said you know, Senator Hagan said nobody should vote 91% of the time with any president, and yet she has voted 93% with President Obama. So that’s part of it. Interestingly enough, the other part of it is that he needs to set the record straight on education. The thing that has hurt him with sort of Republican-leaning or independent-minded North Carolinians, particularly women, is a relentless set of attacks on him on education. They say he cut a half a billion dollars out of the state education budget. In reality, the state education budget has grown every year that he has been the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. When he came in, it was less than $7 billion dollars. Now, it’s more than $8 billion dollars a year. And for the first time in many, many years, the teachers were given a pay raise, 7% pay raise. So he needs to set the record straight on education so that, because it’s phony math. It’s liberal math. We wanted you not to spend $8.1 billion dollars. We wanted you to spend $8.6 billion dollars, and therefore because you didn’t spend what we wanted you to spend, we the teachers union, we’re going to say that you cut education. I mean, it’s sort of, it makes me frightened a little bit for the math skills of North Carolina students if that’s what the teachers in the state are actually teaching. But he’s got to do two things. He’s got to prosecute the case against her that she is with Obama on every major issue, and at the same time, setting the record straight that he is a guy who has done the right thing for education in North Carolina.

HH: Now Karl Rove, you raise money for Crossroads, but you don’t make money from Crossroads, and so this is a very important distinction I want people to know as I ask this question.

KR: No.

HH: If you were a member of the Darrell Issa-Matt Fong primary a few years back in California for the Senate, Darrell Issa took his foot off the gas, didn’t spend the money, because he thought he had it locked up. Are Republican donors taking their foot off the gas? Or are they pouring it on, because right now, a lot of races are within three, four, five points, and Republicans are feeling good. And I’m just worried they’re taking their foot off the gas.

KR: Yeah, well, I don’t sense they’re taking their foot off the gas. I don’t sense that they’re pouring it in. But they are being, they are adding to the numbers. I was just talking with Steven Law, the CEO of American Crossroads, and on some of these critical battleground states, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, the Republicans in the final month of the campaign have now achieved a parity with the Democrats in the weight of television. And that’s being made possible by people generously stepping up and giving money to either campaigns, I mean, you look at Cory Gardner in Colorado, raised, I think it was $4.3 or $4.5 million dollars. In Iowa Joni Ernst raised a record amount for a Senate candidate in that state, and also giving it to groups like Crossroads. We’ve been blessed here as we come down this final stretch with some supporters who have been giving generously to make sure that our candidates have the air cover and the ground support they need. We spend money not only on television, which is seen, but we spend it on, about 10% of what we spend on media goes to the internet. And then right now, we’re filling up, getting ready to fill up mailboxes. We’ve been phoning a lot of people and microtargeting and so forth.

HH: Are we making up the gap on Spanish language media, Karl Rove, that was there in 2012?

KR: Yeah, I think so. My sense is anecdotally yes. Now it’s obviously more critical in states like Colorado than it is in states like Arkansas or Alaska for that matter. But yes, my sense is candidates have come to understand the importance of this, and look, and doing other things that Republicans have not traditionally done. I like it that a lot of our candidates are being very aggressive in going into the African-American community, and the Latino community, and the Asian-American community, often with the understanding that this is a long term project that’s not going to necessarily pay a great deal of benefit in this immediate election. But they feel committed to it over the long haul, and that’s really, really important.

HH: Fox News Contributor, Karl Rove, the Architect, thanks so much. I enjoyed your piece last week on Reince Priebus’ 11 principles. I’ll look for your piece in the Wall Street Journal in two days as we get close to the election. No one better to talk to than Karl Rove.

End of interview.

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