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The political analysis of Karl Rove, a week away from the Florida primary

Thursday, January 24, 2008

HH: Pleased to welcome back now Karl Rove, former assistant to the President. Karl, it’s good to have you, but I must tell you, I’m miffed. I was listening to you on Hannity about an hour ago, and you said you were going to write in Sean in the election. And I’ve known you since 1974.

KR: I didn’t know you were available. If you’re running, I’m for Hugh Hewitt.

HH: All right, I’ll tell Hannity that. Hey…

KR: Hewitt, can you form a ticket? Could we have Hewitt and Sean?

HH: I’ll take Hannity. I’ll take Hannity in the second…

KR: H & H.

HH: H & H. Hey, Karl, first question, because I never hear anyone ask you this, the Ron Paul people are everywhere. They’re excited. They’re new in many cases. They’re unusual. What does the Republican Party do about these people?

KR: Well, I mean, you know, welcome them in, let them participate, and see if they feel committed to the process after their candidate does what he does, and ends up where he does.

HH: Should he be kept in these debates at his seven and eight percent? You know, Fox says he can’t possibly win, we push him out one time, and I’m thinking about the convention in St. Paul. Does he get a slot on the podium?

KR: Look, you know, at the convention, I doubt that every candidate who has run gets an appearance at the convention. But the question is, where is he during this process, and how is he doing, and I mean, he did well in New Hampshire, but everywhere else, he’s been sort of a no-show, so…

HH: All right, what about Bloomberg? Do you, Karl Rove, worry or welcome Michael Bloomberg into this race?

KR: Well, first of all, you shouldn’t worry or welcome, because it’s going to be what it’s going to be. I do think that he’s a very smart person. I don’t think he would get in a vanity race. I think his argument has been thus far that he’s worried about the center of American politics being unrepresented. I think it is unlikely that we’re going to end up with a candidate…you look at all of our major candidates who’ve got a good shot at this, and I think it’s hard for him to make the case that the extremes of American politics are represented, but not the broad conservative center-right of American politics. And he can’t, obviously he can’t make the argument unless Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, or John Edwards jumps up in the primaries here to a degree that I don’t think they’re going to. I don’t think he can make an argument about the Democrats that the center, center-left of the Democratic Party’s not represented. So I think at the end of the day, he doesn’t run. I’m hopeful he does not run. I shouldn’t say that. My sense is, as a prognosticator, is that if he does run, it hurts us more than it hurts the Democrats, because it would take somebody who would be inclined not to vote for Hillary Clinton, who I think will be the Democratic nominee, and give someone another place to spend their vote other than the Republican column.

HH: So it hurts them more than it hurts us?

KR: It hurts us more than it hurt them.

HH: Okay, I see, I see.

KR: Yeah.

HH: Let me ask you about the 527’s, Karl. Obviously you had to deal with those in ’04. They’re back. Is the playing field more level this time around? Or is the advantage still with the Soros machine?

KR: Well, I think it’s still with the Democrats. It depends, to a large degree, on the quality of the operations that everybody puts forward. I’m not certain Soros himself will be as enthusiastic about backing Senator Clinton through a 527 or a 501c4, or a…Harold Ickes has actually set up a thing called a qualified non-profit corporation to run their advertising. But somebody will be out there if she’s the nominee. The Clintons will certainly find somebody. And the question is, is there a comparable and effective effort on the Republican side? If you remember ’04, we were grossly outspent by the 527’s, Democratic 527’s, the principal one was Americans Coming Together. But on the Republican side, while they didn’t spend as much, the Swift Boat Veterans did a fantastic job of advertising, particularly, I think, their most effective commercial was the one that consisted exclusively of John Kerry, the footage of his Congressional appearance in which he accused the American military of raping and pillaging and acting in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan, said with a completely phony New England accent.

HH: Do you expect that we have 527’s capable of the same kind of effective campaign against Hillary, who will deploy?

KR: Well, my sense is that that probably will happen, but only time is going to tell.

HH: Let’s turn to the Evangelical vote. Mike Huckabee’s been the phenomenon of this year, and now he’s fading a little bit. He’s out of Florida, basically. He’ll be around on Super Tuesday. Nice guy, and his Evangelical, some of them are new to the game, and they’re very, very vigorously involved. How do you stitch them onto a coalition if Mike Huckabee’s not on the ticket?

KR: Well, I think that the Republican nominee, whoever he is, would be very smart to recognize that our party is a great coalition of fiscal conservatives, national security conservatives, and social conservatives, and has got to do a good job in the aftermath of securing the nomination in knitting together that coalition. And I think there’ll be a natural tendency to. I think primaries generally are chaotic, and out of the primary, a nominee emerges, and a smart nominee recognizes the nature of the Republican coalition, will move to make certain that that coalition is drawn together, and is there. Now I think that the social conservatives, you have personnel and you have policy. And I think policy matters a lot to every element of the Republican coalition. So the question of does our candidate emphasize some of those issues in a way that gives them comfort, that this is somebody who will carry their banner? And I think that’s going to be very important for all of the elements of our coalition.

HH: You’re a student of American political history. Religion has played more of a role in the Republican primary than at anytime since 1960, or even 1928. Do you think, if Romney’s not the nominee, that the LDS, which is a significant portion in some states of the Republican values base, or on the other hand, Evangelicals who are literalists, are easily brought back in if their guy isn’t on the ticket?

KR: Oh, I think so. I do think so. And I think, look, again, it’s, they’re not drawn into politics simply because of the presence of Mitt Romney as LDS, though they applaud that. They’re brought in by the fact that he’s a person of deep personal faith, who has espoused socially conservative values, and fiscally conservative values, and has a life record that they find attractive. I don’t think it is the only thing, or even the principal thing that drives a lot of LDS to vote Republican. And so you need to be worried about does it look like if, does it look like 1928? I think it did hurt the Republican Party long term, that it looked like we were anti-Catholic. And so we’ve got to make certain that we don’t look anti-anything. We need to be for something. And to the degree that that happens, depending on what, you know, if a Huckabee doesn’t win, or Romney doesn’t win, or if their supporters who are going to feel…if they feel welcomed, are going to remain and be enthusiastic in the fall, particularly given a choice between our likely nominee, whoever that is, and the Democrats’ likely nominee, whom I suspect will be Hillary Clinton.

HH: We’ve got a minute left, Karl Rove. You warned about the cliff of turning Latino-Americans against the Republican Party. Have we gone over that? Or are we dancing on it? Or have we drawn back from it?

KR: Well, we’re dancing on it. I don’t think we’ve drawn back, and I don’t think we’ve gone over the cliff. But we are, we are at a point where we’d better be very careful about this. I understand people’s deep concerns about securing our borders, and about being overwhelmed by a wave of illegal immigration, and about giving amnesty, which is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. But we have to be very careful about not looking like we…look, we did this once before. We did this in the 1920’s when Republican congresses and a Republican president passed legislation that essentially shut the door to Jews and Italians coming into the United States. And we suffered for thirty years, forty years as Jews and Italian-Americans remembered sort of the closing of the door to people who looked and acted and thought like them, and came from the same part of the world originally in order to become Americans. We’ve got to be very careful about that.

HH: Karl Rove, always a pleasure, thank you.

End of interview.

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