The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Morning Cheat Sheet

Eyebrow-Raising Success of Giuliani and Other Campaign Surprises For Karl Rove

He may be a political master, but Karl Rove admits the presidential campaign has contained "lots" of surprises for him so far. He never expected Rudy Giuliani to do so well, he did not think Fred Thompson would squander the "buzz" he had generated and he has been astonished that Barack Obama and John Edwards have proved to be such weak candidates.

Meet Karl Rove, pundit. On the same day that Newsweek signed Rove up as an occasional columnist for the 2008 presidential camapign, President Bush's former chief strategist offered his analysis of the field to a university class taught by C-Span's Steve Scully and aired on C-Span 3. Although he was not as pungent as his former colleague, Dan Bartlett, was in a recent speech, his analysis does come from the man who orchestrated the last two successful presidential campaigns.

At the beginning of the year, Rove told the class, he would have scoffed at the notion that Giuliani would be the front-runner for the Republican nomination less than two months before primary voting begins. "I would have raised an eyebrow" at such a suggestion, he said. "I think Rudy Giuliani has done a very good job of staying atop the Republican field longer than I would have anticipated and with a substantial amount of support from people that I would not have thought he would have been able to draw."

Rove attributed that to Giuliani's decision to make terrorism the centerpiece of his campaign but also to the former New York mayor's use of his experience running the nation's biggest city. By taking on crime, welfare and "the coarseness of life" in New York City, Rove said, Giuliani connected with conservatives who otherwise would have been turned off by his positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights. Rove particularly cited an episode when Giuliani took on a public art exhibit that seemed to mock Christianity.

"It speaks to them about his values," Rove said. "That's one of the reason that he's been able to knit together this coalition, is because he's been clear about the values that motivated him as the mayor of New York and people applaud that."

Rove said he has also been surprised by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's methodical campaign. "Romney's done a very good job, has run a textbook campaign in building strength in Iowa and New Hampshire," he said. "He has a very well organized and well run campaign and the strength he has in these early states is authentic."

By contrast, Thompson has not exploited the opportunity the former Tennessee senator and Hollywood actor had before him, Rove said. "Early on he had a very interesting approach using the Net and a big buzz," Rove said. "I'm not certain that he got in as early enough to take advantage of that buzz."

On the Democratic side, he said, "I've been surprised at, you know, how weak Obama and Edwards have turned out to be. They're both going to give [Hillary Rodham Clinton's] some scares. She's going to lose something along the way, maybe starting with Iowa. But it surprised me that they've not been able to take the openings they've been given and exploit them. Someone characterized Obama as another Adlai Stevenson and I think that's probably accurate."

Not quite as colorful as James Carville on CNN, but then he's just getting started.

-- Peter Baker

Posted at 10:39 AM ET on Nov 16, 2007  | Category:  Morning Cheat Sheet
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What? Rove was wrong about something? How can that be?

Posted by: jp1954 | November 16, 2007 11:47 AM

I hope Mr Baker washed his hands after this.

Posted by: zukermand | November 16, 2007 11:46 AM

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