The Austin Chronicle

Campaign Karl

By Richard Whittaker, August 20, 2007, 2:21pm, Newsdesk

Can Karl Rove really help any Republican seeking elected office? Getting past the association with the Bush administration that most GOP presidential candidates are trying to avoid, is his rep as the campaign killer still really intact?

During the ’06 election, Chronic happened to be talking to a well-placed GOP campaign insider (and not some local apparatchik, either) and he (yeah, that’s the only clue you’re getting) recounted the story of the poll numbers. He had seen the gloomy internal Republican poll numbers, the ones that turned out be surprisingly accurate (i.e., that they’d lose Congress). However, Rove was wandering around, poo-pooing that data, and saying that he had his own research that showed a sunnier, Bushier future. "You have your numbers,” he would say, “but I have THE numbers."

What raised some eyebrows amongst the party operatives was that no-one seemingly ever got to see those mythical "THE" numbers. Which meant that either he was making up numbers for internal consumption (a trust-breaking cardinal sin amongst electioneers) or his radar was way off. Either way, that raised questions about whether he was a good campaign man anymore: because defending an incumbent and winning an all-bets-off race are totally different ballgames.

Of course, he’s as well known for his attack dog tactics and “schoolboy fun” approach to electioneering (also what was known in the Nixon era as ratfucking, so plus ça change). However, that was always done through proxies and cat’s paws (allegedly), so going on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and MSNBC’s Meet The Press to go after Hilary Clinton scarcely seems like the backstage manipulator of old.

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