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Karl Rove Remains Republican Powerbroker


Many political analysts cite one person as most responsible for the fact that the Republican Party now controls the White House, Congress, and a majority of state capitals. That man is President Bush's long-time political advisor, Karl Rove.

Karl Rove says he is a very competitive guy. Admirers and detractors alike say the 55-year-old Texan is a skilled tactician in sizing-up and tearing-down political opponents.

Former President Bill Clinton calls Rove a master of psychological head games. "He's a brilliant political strategist, and he's proved brilliantly effective at destroying Democrats personally," Clinton says.

President Bush calls Rove the architect of his 2004 re-election, the triumph of a political and personal relationship that began 32-years ago.

Politics came early to Karl Christian Rove. Even though he was too young to vote, the Colorado nine-year-old favored Richard Nixon over John Kennedy. As a young man, he campaigned for Republican candidates and was elected national chairman of the College Republicans in 1973.

A year later, Rove came to Washington to work for the head of the Republican Party, George Herbert Walker Bush. It was there he met his boss's son.

When Rove returned to Texas and opened a consulting firm, one of his first clients was George W. Bush.

Rove helped Bush become the state's first Republican Governor in a century, making early use of campaign technology including electronic voter lists, mass mailings, and telephone banks to create precinct-by-precinct analyses of candidate strengths and weaknesses.

It is a strategy that helped carry Bush to the White House and back again for a second term, each time strengthening Republican majorities in Congress.

An avid student of the presidency, Rove likens this Republican resurgence to the 1896 election of William McKinley, which put Republicans in charge for more than three decades.

"Would I like to see the Republican Party be the dominant party for whatever time history gives it the chance to be? You bet," Rove says. "I believe in the principles of the Republican Party."

Rove says it is those principles that set Republicans apart from Democrats.

"We are the party of ideas, and ideas as we know have consequences. A party's governing philosophy should be at the heart of our political debates because they are deciding factors in elections," he says.

Rove's enthusiasm for Republican philosophy has also earned him a reputation for political chicanery. In the 1970's he used Democratic Party stationery to invite hundreds of homeless people to a Democratic reception, something he now says was a youthful prank he regrets.

More recently, Rove has been the subject of an investigation into who revealed the identity of a CIA employee whose husband was critical of the Bush Administration's justification for going to war in Iraq.

So high is Rove's profile within the Bush Administration that White House spokesman Scott McClellan asked him personally about his involvement when the allegation first surfaced. McClellan told White House reporters that any suggestion linking Rove with those events is ridiculous.

"It's public knowledge. I have said that it is not true," McClellan said. "And I have spoken with Karl Rove. I am not going to get into conversations that the president has with advisors or staff."

Before the investigation was complete, McClellan also vouched for Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. Libby was ultimately indicted for lying to a grand jury and Rove remains under investigation.

But he has not let that dampen preparations for this year's Congressional elections, taking on Democrats who Rove says are making wild and reckless charges about a controversial domestic spying operation that President Bush authorized following the terrorists attacks of 2001.

"Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world and Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world," Rove says. "That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all, but it does make them wrong, wrong deeply and profoundly and consistently."

The man he helped defeat in the last presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry, told ABC News that Rove is evidence of a White House more concerned with division than leadership.

"All he does is divide America over this issue and exploit it," Kerry said. "And what he is trying to pretend is that somehow Democrats don't want to eavesdrop appropriately to protect the country. That's a lie."

Rove says he considers his political opponents fellow Americans, not enemies. But Republicans, he says, have an obligation to remind voters of the fundamental differences between America's two major political parties.

He has helped shape much of that Republican vision over the last 20 years and is expected to be central to the party's choice for president in 2008.