Rove's Legacy: Midterm Blowback
Karl Rove's effort to construct a lasting GOP majority suffered a setback in last November's midterm elections. His emphasis on turning out the conservative base -- rather than playing to the middle -- was not enough to help Republicans maintain control of Congress, possibly forever tarnishing his "brainy" legacy.
Prior to the 2006 midterms, Rove and others believed that President Bush had sustainable, transformational appeal to younger people, Catholics, women, African Americans and, critically, the rapidly growing Latino population.
But the results showed any previous gains were tenuous. For example, while 44 percent of Latinos cast votes for GOP House candidates in 2004, last year just 30 percent did so. And while nearly half of 18 to 29 year-old voters cast ballots for Republican congressional candidates in 2000, only 38 percent voted GOP in 2006.
The last election also undermined Rove's intense focus on "base-driven" politics that left independents an afterthought in campaign strategy. In 2006, political independents broke heavily for Democratic congressional candidates, fueling the Democratic takeover of Congress. (For more on independents, see our in-depth polls conducted this summer with the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University.)
Here's how Republican congressional candidates fared among each of these groups (the percent voting for GOP House candidates in 2006, 2004 and 2000, according to national exit polls):
2006 2004 2000 Latinos 30% 44% 35% Independents 39% 46% 50% Age 18-29 38% 44% 48% Catholics 44% 50% 48% Women 43% 46% 45% African Am. 10% 10% 11%
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