Upbeat Rove says GOP setback only temporary (Peter Baker, 11/11/06, The Washington Post)

Allies argued that, without Rove, the losses would have been worse. “He deserves a good bit of credit for victories, and probably he would admit he should take a little blame for the failure,” said Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.

Rove’s brand of politics aims to sharpen differences with the opposition, energize the conservative base and micro-target voters to pick off selected parts of the other side’s constituency. As in past elections, he designed a strategy this year to paint Democrats as weak on national security and terrorism, the “party of cut and run.”

Last week, Rove said that strategy was working until the House-page sex scandal involving former Rep. Foley, R-Fla., put the Republican campaign “back on its heels,” as he put it. “We were on a roll, and it stopped it,” he said. “It revived all the stuff about Abramoff and added to it.”

The various scandals surrounding convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other ethical allegations, Rove said, had as much, if not more, to do with the defeat than the Iraq war.

In Rove’s analysis, 10 of the 28 House seats Republicans lost were sacrificed because of various scandals. Six more were lost because members did not recognize and react quickly enough to the threat, he said. That leaves 12 other seats lost, fewer than the 15 Democrats needed to capture the House. So without corruption and complacency, he argued, Republicans could have kept control regardless of Bush’s troubles and the war.

“It plays some role, but if Iraq is the determining factor and it is a dominant opinion, then in a blue state like Connecticut you should not have 60 percent of the voters vote for one of the candidates who said, ‘Stay, fight and win,’ ” Rove said, referring to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s victory as an independent. “I don’t deny that it’s a factor, but it is hard to declare” it is the overriding factor.

The problem is that the difference they chose to highlight–over the war itself–worked for Democrats and against the GOP. Choosing not to run on the economy and legislative record they’ve run up was an obvious strategic blunder.


25 Responses to IT EVEN HELD W TO 53% IN '04:

  1. Bruno says:

    I’ll take this post as an admission that I was right about the Foley Scandal and the power of the latent (but potent)
    corruption issue.

    BTW, Topinka lost big, and took my predicted 2 seats per chamber with her. The Dems (and their New New Left overlords) now own not only
    the state, but the vestigial IL Republican Party as well.

    Corruption was the biggest issue in IL, and Rove “picked” the one candidate that couldn’t use it. Brilliant.

  2. AWW says:

    Post-mortems have wide and varied but a few things should be clear:
    -Iraq was a negative but not THE negative as the MSM and some GOP are trying to say
    -House and most Senate losses were directly tied to the performance of the House and Senate
    candidates, not Bush.
    -GOP did err by not touting the economy and other strong GOP issues like judges more.
    -Anti-immigration didn’t help despite the claims of NRO and other hardliners

  3. Orrin says:

    Yes, it was the negative, which is why John Kerry was able to hand around in ’04.

  4. Orrin says:


    No, corruption was a non-factor. All that mattered was the war.

  5. AWW says:

    “Corruption was a non-factor” So Rove is just covering his butt here?

  6. Orrin says:

    No, he’s covering W’s. That’s what flaks do.

  7. erp says:

    Bruno, you were right and I was wrong.

    Rove’s optimism is misplaced because Bush is worse than a lame duck, he’s a dead duck.

    Dems won’t even attempt any changes to tip off voters about their real agenda. The next two years will bring nothing but hearings and investigations that lead nowhere, maybe even an impeachment attempt. The president’s initiatives and nominees will be endlessly smeared in the media until voters are softened up for a Democratic clean sweep in 2008. It matters not who the actual candidates are.

    The only silver lining is that Chafee is out.

  8. jim hamlen says:


    They won’t do impeachment – it is the one thing that might cause some of the blue dogs to switch (knowing they would
    lose in ’08). And if Conyers just can’t be held back, then the GOP should support him all the way. Remember,
    Henry Waxman voted FOR the war, and if the Dems want to split going into the next election, we should help them.
    Asking each of the prospective ’08 nominees about impeachment will be very interesting – Gore and Edwards will
    probably say YES!, while Hillary and Obama will have to say – uh, no.

    It hurts to lose Santorum and Talent, but holding PA was not going to be easy (the last time, he won by 225,000 votes
    against a former goofy weatherman). The sad part was not winning MD and NJ, but if voters want to elect butt-boys for
    Schumer (as in PA), then that’s what they will do.

    The GOP lost because they looked impotent and petty with their majority from 2004. It cost them some base votes, some
    independent votes, and some libertarian votes. The war hurt, too – but remember, if the battle of Fallujah had been
    televised, Bush’s approval rating would have gone to 65%. The war hurt because it is not being prosecuted
    aggressively enough. Imagine if Syria were already overthrown – the situation in Lebanon would be ten times better, and
    Iran would be more desperate.

  9. jd watson says:

    Jim nails it. The Repugs lost because they were incapable of running the House and Senate. Hastert and Frist came off as clowns. Despite promises on judges, Specter failed to bring many nominees to floor votes, and Johnny Boy McCain’s gang of 14 allowed the filibuster of judicial nominees to continue. Domestically, GWB will compromise with the Dhimmi Congress; it’s already started with minimum wages and immigration. James Baker will deliver either a partition or cut-and-run plan on Iraq, and the debacle will be complete.

    The Dhims need accomplish nothing, but instead will follow their winning strategy of scandal-mongering: endless investigations with media support which paint the Repugs as evil, corrupt tools of the rich. Any failure to pass legislation will be blamed on Repug obstructionism. If there is one thing the Dhims know, it is how to hold on to the Congress. With the Governorships and State Legislatures going Dhimmi, the 2010 redistrictings will favor them even more. It will be a long time before a confluence of events like 1994 gives the Repugs another opportunity to take either the House or Senate. The Repugs are facing another 40 years in the legislative wilderness.

  10. erp says:

    Mr. Watson is far more articulate in stating the case than I, but perhaps he’s a bit too optimistic about the forty years. It’s more likely that our cause will be in the dustpan of history within a couple of short years never again to see the light of day.

  11. Orrin says:


    It matters utterly.

  12. Orrin says:

    No one knows who Hastert and Frist are. It was just the war.

  13. Lou Gots says:

    I’ll go alomg with Orrin on this one–it was the war. Much too much so-called, self proclaimed “realism,” and not enough victory. Victory is what a country will fight for, not social work, not “building democracy.” Those things can come later, after victory, if they may come at all.

    From a judge advocate’s point of view, attempting to turn the former Iraq over to civilian control prior to pacification was a crime as well as a mistake. We had responsibility for restoration of law and order, which we shirked in the interest of political role playing. A better courrse of action would have been immmediate partition.

  14. Orrin says:

    Victory was letting the Iraqis decide to do with their own countries after we took out Saddam. Staying and trying to tell them what to do was a mistake both there and here.

  15. jim hamlen says:

    The war is the fog that muddles everything. Sure, the public at large doesn’t know much about Hastert and Frist, BUT
    they do know the mocking tone from the TV news when it shows the fat, rumpled guy on TV.

    The GOP won’t be in the wilderness for 40 years. But 2008 is important, because the redistricting is getting more
    and more sophisticated. See Texas and +5 House seats in one election.

    The ineptitude of the Republican party to ‘manage’ its majority after the 2004 election is the main reason it lost
    time (including issues related to the war). The Dems aren’t in a much better situation now, because they can’t keep
    their majority without keeping their ‘base’ bottled up.

    But I wonder if McCain (I-EGO) is regretting all his maverickness now. The loss last week hurts him, because many in
    the party will blame him for undercutting the President and the Senate leadership.

    My guess is that most issues will be set aside for after 2008. The Dems don’t dare try to revoke the tax cuts (no
    matter how much Charlie Rangel has the itch). They would face 1994 all over again. They can’t follow the Murtha
    plan on the war, because we would be back in Jimmy Carter land. Levin said today to re-deploy within 4 to 6 months;
    but of course, he didn’t say where. He can’t. He doesn’t know.

    The corruption stuff will bear watching the first few weeks – especially if Jefferson is ever indicted. It would be
    fascinating to watch if Harry Reid’s issues ever explode into a full-blown storm. Or if Mollohan is indicted while
    serving as House Ethics Committee chair. Or if Alcee Hastings gets nailed again while on the Intelligence

  16. Orrin says:

    If redistricting mattered the GOP would still have a majority.

  17. curt says:

    Rove’s got it right. The war is an abstraction for most folks, but GOP voters in a number of districts
    couldn’t avoid the fact that their Congresscritter was “corrupt” in one way or another. When you have districts electing Dems where all the registered Dems couldn’t fill up a schoolbus, it is
    because they couldn’t stomach their incumbent anymore.

  18. Orrin says:

    Rove can’t blame the President even though it’s his fault. It was just the war.

  19. curt says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, oj, but I could have sworn it was your view in the days before the election
    that people didn’t care about the war because they weren’t fighting it. Now it was all about the war?

  20. erp says:

    It was about voter fatigue. Clinton gained by it because the media showed him in the best possible light even after real scandal upon real scandal was revealed.

    Bush failed because he was shown in the worst possible light week after week even thought the “scandals” were trivial or fabricated.

  21. Orrin says:

    The light was the war.

  22. Orrin says:


    Yes, that’s what they said.

  23. Orrin says:

    The mistake W made was to nationalize the election on the WoT when it was the economy that played in the GOP favor.

  24. curt says:

    oj —

    Consider that your interpretation of what the people cared about is as
    flawed now as it was a week ago. Rove’s got a pretty good track record
    in this game. His analysis explains why GOP incumbents in 60-70%
    Rep. districts got 60-70% of the vote, while the corrupt ones in 60-70%
    Rep. Districts didn’t. (And why we don’t have a Sen. Lamont, for that matter.)

  25. Orrin says:

    A week ago people hadn’t voted and said that their #1 issue was the war, but even then it was obvious that the President ought not to be playing it up. Rove is flakking for his boss.

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