The welcome come-uppance of Karl Rove

One of the most satisfying features of Tuesday’s election was the thorough discrediting of Republican strategist Karl Rove. Rove was this supposed political genius, the one-time boy wonder who was credited with engineering George W. Bush’s two successful runs for the presidency and was known as ‘Bush’s brain’, as if that were a compliment. Rove’s mystique was such that mainstream media figures would fawn over him.

His claim to fame was that he seemed to know how to best micro-target voters and appeal to narrow interests in order to drive up the vote for his party. He was confident that this, coupled with a huge advantage in fund-raising and ways to get out the vote, were sufficient to win races. The 2004 elections in which ballot measures opposed to same-sex marriage were strategically placed in swing-states like Ohio were credited with bringing out evangelical voters in large enough numbers to defeat John Kerry.

Rove claimed to have access to data about voters that were not generally available and this was considered the secret of his success. The first sign that Rove was not the genius he was portrayed to be came in the 2006 mid-term elections when he confidently predicted that Republicans would retain control of the House and Senate and bragged about his secret knowledge of polls that were not available to others. The now-famous conversation that he had with NPR’s Robert Siegel illustrates his brash and condescending confidence. When Siegel pointed out that polls suggested that the Republicans could well lose, the following exchange occurred. I heard it on the radio and it stuck with me because of the sheer arrogance on display.

Mr. ROVE: Yeah, I’m looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you’re entitled to your math, I’m entitled to the math.
SIEGEL: Well, I don’t know if we’re entitled to our different math, but you’re certainly –
Mr. ROVE: I said the math. I said you’re entitled to yours.

Of course, what followed was a major shellacking with Democrats gaining control of both houses. But Rove’s star did not seem to diminish, at least as far as the media went, as can be seen in this video from 2007 with alleged journalists like David Gregory even acting as his backup dancers at one of those disgusting events at which reporters and politicians hobnob.

This election saw Rove raising huge sums of money again along the lines of $400 million dollars for his SuperPACs, much of it from secret mega-donors. But as this Politico reports says, “Of the of the 31 races in which the groups aired ads, the Republican won only nine. And, since the groups spent $137 million on the presidential race, less than 5.7 percent of their total spending went towards helping winning candidates.”

Rove’s shock on election night was palpable, with him once again claiming access to secret knowledge caused him to even challenge the Fox News statisticians for awarding Ohio to Obama, thus ending the election.

For now, some of his rich donors are refraining from attacking him and you can understand why. They don’t want to look like chumps who were suckered into throwing their money away and they need to act as if it was a wise decision based on rational grounds.

But rich people hate to part with their money with no return and you can be certain that behind the scenes there is some serious score-settling going on.


  1. Trebuchet says

    The wealthy donors may not be attacking him but they didn’t get where they are by throwing money away. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I suspect they’ll be far less eager to make the big contributions next time around.

  2. glodson says

    The thing is that if Rove was just a pundit on TV, then his shockingly bad predictions would just be par for the course. His arrogance would just be the norm.

    But he ran a Super-Pac. He sold his donors the idea that he could shape the election with candidates they wanted. They had goals, those donors. And they didn’t part with the money to see it flushed down a hole. These strike me as people who demand results. And if I spent that kind of money myself, I think I would be demanding results too. And I doubt they’ll forget this disaster.

    What I saw when he broke down, and when I read that he claimed Obama won by suppressing the vote in a bizarre piece with an otherworldly feel to it, was a man seeing that his time running these elections might be over. He’s not going to pull in donations like that again, not with this return on investment.

    Oh, we’ll still hear him on TV. He’s good for ratings. But he’s going to be irrelevant when it comes to actual work for the GOP. And all of his self-deception won’t be enough to keep him from realizing that truth.

  3. F says

    “Of the of the 31 races in which the groups aired ads, the Republican won only nine.

    And the steam-drill drilled only nine.


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