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Presidential Advisor Karl Rove has Long Bond with Bush Family


Electing an American president is a multi-million dollar undertaking with thousands of people working years in advance. No one is more responsible for President Bush's re-election than long-time political advisor Karl Rove.

After another close election, President Bush thanked Republican supporters for his victory last week, singling out campaign staff members who helped deliver four more years in office.

"I was impressed every day by how hard and how skillful our team was," said Mr. Bush. "I want to thank Chairman Mark Racicot, the Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman, and the Architect, Karl Rove."

Karl Rove has been building political successes for the Bush family for nearly 25 years.

Born in the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado in 1950, Mr. Rove has been a Republican for a long time, deciding at the age of nine to back Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy.

After dropping out of the University of Utah in 1971, Mr. Rove became executive director of the College Republican National Committee, rising to chairman two years later in a controversial election that was ultimately decided by the then-head of the Republican Party, George Herbert Walker Bush, the current president's father.

Karl Rove was the first person the elder Mr. Bush hired in 1980 when he ran for president. When Mr. Bush became Ronald Reagan's vice-president, Mr. Rove opened his own consulting business and his first client became the first Republican Governor of Texas in a century.

Mr. Rove made early use of electronic voter lists, mass mailings, and campaign telephone banks, breaking elections down to precinct-by-precinct studies of how many votes his candidate would need in what areas to offset a challenger's strengths.

Karl Rove kept his winning streak in Texas going, helping elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate and the state Supreme Court, as well as another Texas Governor, George W. Bush.

Mr. Rove met the current president in 1973 when he picked him up at Washington's train station to give him the keys to the Bush family car. When he first saw the cowboy boots and Air National Guard flight jacket, Mr. Rove says he thought young Lieutenant Bush exuded more charisma than any one individual should be allowed to have.

Mr. Rove has helped build that charisma into a political career for George W. Bush, securing his re-election last week in part by targeting four million evangelical Christians who did not vote four years ago. This time, they came out for President Bush.

"I think it's people who are concerned about the coarseness of our culture, about what they see on the television sets, what they see in the movies, what they read in the newspapers, how they see the values of the country, what they see as the future of our country," said Mr. Rove.

Mr. Rove told NBC television's "Meet the Press" that those voters turned out, because the Bush campaign focused on socially conservative issues including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

"Marriage is a very important part of our culture and of our society," he explained. "If we want to have a hopeful and decent society, we ought to aim for the ideal, and the ideal is that marriage ought to be and should be a union of a man and a woman. We cannot allow activist judges to overturn that. We cannot allow activist local elected officials to thumb their nose at 5000 years of human history and determine that marriage is something else. The people have a right to be involved."

Political opponents often accuse Karl Rove of playing dirty tricks during the campaign season. In the 1970s, he stole opposition stationery to invite hundreds of homeless people to a Democratic Party reception, something Mr. Rove says was a youthful prank he regrets.

But there is no evidence supporting more serious accusations of exposing the name of a CIA agent married to a political opponent or of political sabotage of Senator John McCain when he ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina.

President Bush calls Mr. Rove "Boy Genius," but the president's detractors call him "Bush's Brain."

Karl Rove has become such a White House fixture that the president's father told the BBC's David Frost that it was Mr. Rove who reassured him on election night when early exit polls showed Democrats ahead.

Mr. Rove told Fox News Channel that he was certain the early numbers would not hold up.

"I was on Air Force One, we were literally on final approach into Andrews (Air Force Base) and the phone connection kept cutting out," said Mr. Rove. "I was holding a piece of paper on my knee trying to scribble it down, holding the phone in the other hand. And I got sick as I wrote them down, and then when I looked at them, I got angry because they simply could not be true."

As a student of the presidency and the politics surrounding it, Mr. Rove's favorite election is the 1896 victory by President William McKinley, a Republican with keen advisors, who narrowly defeated a populist Democrat and established three decades of Republican dominance in Washington.

Mr. Rove has made no secret of his desire to engineer a similar sea change in the 21st century.

"Would I like to see the Republican Party be the dominant party for whatever time history gives it the chance to be? You bet. I believe in the principles of the Republican Party. I believe in limited government and the right of the individual to make choices, and in a strong national defense, and freedom and liberty as being the right of every person on the face of the earth," he added.

But Mr. Rove told NBC it is still too soon to say whether the president's re-election heralds a new era of Republican Party dominance.

"We only knew that it was an election that realigned American politics years afterwards, and I think the same thing will be here," he noted. "It depends on how Republicans act in office. Does the president pursue the agenda upon which he won this election, and do Republicans in the House and the Senate work with the president and with Democrats to make some important changes in our economy and in our country."

With changes in the president's cabinet and staff for a second term, Karl Rove, the president's top political advisor, is not going anywhere. He calls President Bush a tremendously inspiring leader.

"I'm honored to serve the country in his administration," he said. "And I have great affection and respect for him. He is a remarkable individual."

A self-described very competitive guy, White House officials say Karl Rove is already looking at this year's election returns for insights into how more Republicans can win in the congressional elections in 2006.
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