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.