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Posted by on Jun 17, 2006 in At TMV | 11 comments

Karl Rove’s Plans For 2006 (UPDATED)

The Washington Post outlines White House political guru Karl Rove’s game-plan for 2006: the same as in 2000 and 2004. Aggressively hammer in the theme that the Democrats are weak on national security and arouse the GOP’s base on hot-button issues so they flock to the polls:

Now Rove has the freedom to concentrate on preserving the GOP majorities in Congress, and an opportunity to purge the mistakes of the past two years. Based on recent Rove speeches and interviews with senior GOP officials, his plan for the midterm elections echoes the strategy he plotted out in 2002 and 2004, adapted to a new and more difficult environment. He hopes to make the election a choice between the philosophies of the two parties, especially on national security, rather than a referendum on Bush’s performance. He also aims to stoke the Republican base with such issues as tax cuts, same-sex marriage and judicial appointments. Rove declined to comment for this article.

So there you have it: it truly WILL BE a case of “changing the subject” as he veers the debate away from Bush’s record and towards whether the Democrats are soft on military issues and by implication and most likely overt surrogate statements soft on terrorism. If you transplanted this to the 1950s you’d have “soft on communism” instead. It’s a new cold war campaign for a new cold war era where the Republicans will run as the party that can save the United States from its biggest, gravest threat: the Democrats.

The Post notes that Rove for the first time faces a Republican party with a creaky coalition “at odds over immigration and spending” and that Rove has been working to reunite it. And, the paper notes, what happens in 2006 will be his positive or negative legacy to the GOP:

“The results of the 2006 election will be the final verdict of his standing with the president and his party,” said Tad Devine, who was a senior strategist in the campaigns of Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore and John F. Kerry. “If the Republicans hold the House and Senate, Karl’s stock will go up, and if they lose it, the cloud that hung over him for a long time will return.”
In reality, the paper notes, members of both parties believe Rove’s stature is largely intact. But some of his efforts such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit plan have hurt the Republicans.

And then there was the fiasco called the plan to “reform” Social Security:

“When you look at the history of this second term, the Social Security proposal and selling of it . . . was a big tactical mistake,” said a former White House official, who would discuss internal operations only under the condition of anonymity. “The problem was the opportunity cost: When Bush was busy selling Social Security ineffectively, the numbers on Iraq were dropping precipitously.”

And there’s a mention of a popular theory that has been out there for some time:

Some Republicans said Rove’s preoccupation was partly responsible for the debacle of White House counsel Harriet Miers’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court last fall. Conservatives loathed the choice and eventually forced Bush to pull her nomination, a low point for his presidency.

“That really damaged Bush,” said William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, who added that conservatives routinely tell the president that the Miers pick was the moment they started to question him. “It was not an accident that it happened at the height of the [CIA leak probe], when Rove was at his weakest.”

So Rove is back in the saddle again. But has the kind of horse changed?

Even so, the combination of staff changes, the failure of the Social Security plan and the distraction of the leak case allowed other aides such as Bolten and adviser Dan Bartlett to rise in status and influence with Bush, the officials said. Rove remains a powerful force but one whose judgments are checked by Bolten, who is considered a more forceful chief of staff than his predecessor, Andrew H. Card Jr.; by Bartlett; and by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And, indeed, that is a reality: Rove has a proven record of running masterful (if your definition of “masterful” is winning as the bottom line, which it is in politics) campaigns. The other reality is that the Democrats now clearly see him headed his way and know the general outlines of what he intends to do to demonize them and whip up the party base in 2006. Do they have a plan? And, if there is a plan, is it tough enough to handle what Rove has in store for them?

BUT THAT’S JUST OUR OPINION. FOR A FEW OTHERS ON KARL ROVE BE SURE TO READ: The always original The Heretik, Redneck Liberal, Bark Bark Woof Woof, Impolitical, The Horse’s Mouth, Talk Left, Patriotic Dissent, Americablog, On Topic