Republican political advisor Karl Rove weighed in on the Republican primary race, the Obama presidency, super PACs and more during an appearance at Rider University Monday night.
The senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to former president George W. Bush told an audience of more than 400 that he has never seen so much volatility in a Republican race.
“It is a fun time to be alive and watching if you are interested in politics,” Rove said. “This is wildest Republican presidential primary of any I’ve ever seen. After going through this wild one, it will also be an interesting general election.”
The lecture, hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, was funded by the Hennessy Fund. Christopher Hennessy, a Rider 2011 graduate, introduced Rove, calling him “one of the most accomplished and important political figures of our time.”
Rove predicted that a Mitt Romney victory in the Wisconsin primary Tuesday would be a turning point in the Republican race for Romney. A loss would have meant a much longer contest, he said.
“Another question is, is this nomination worth having?” He answered yes.
Rove predicted the November presidential race will be an “unbelievably close” election. He then cited poll results on President Barack Obama’s performance, claiming that no president has even been reelected with the ratings Obama has received recently.
“In the battleground states, he is not on good turf ,” Rove said. “You know why? Not because we don’t like him. Most of us like him. We look at his picture and say `there’s something good about that’. It’s a big break with the past, and it says something about our country that we elected a black president.”
Rove then went on to criticize Obama, saying that while he promised a different tone and an end to 20 years of partisan bickering,”We don’t like what he has done. We’re terribly disappointed in him.”
Though Rove said there is too much polling and that it often substitutes for real journalism, he went on to cite poll after poll showing high disapproval ratings for Obama regarding the economy, employment, and healthcare.
“The health care law is the only major social legislation in the country that has been less popular after it has passed,” Rove claimed. “Virtually every promised has turned out not to be true. When it was passed they said the average premium would go down $2,500 by 2010. If your has gone down, raise your hands and I’ll come kiss you on the lips.”
Rove said he wants insurance companies to compete for business like car insurance companies and be more efficient like Geico. He compared the rationale for the cost of the health care law to someone buying a boat and rationalizing the expense by saying the family will no longer have to go on expensive vacations.
Rove said the presidential candidates will need to focus on swing states and key voters. The states that will be crucial, he said, are Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida. It will also be important to carry states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, or Colorado. “If you watch Philadelphia tv stations, your screens are going to be filled with ads this fall,” he said.
Three groups that supported Obama the last election – Latinos, young people and independent voters – may or may not again, Rove said. “If their support drops precipitously, he is in trouble,” he said.
Rove predicted that three major events could affect the outcome of the presidential race: the Wisconsin special election in June to recall the governor, the Supreme Court decision on the health care law, and what happens in Iran.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a presidential election in our lifetime in which what each candidate does and says every day matters as much as it does in this one,” Rove said. “More information is being absorbed over the Internet. How people make use of it going forward is going to matter a lot. I’m looking forward to covering it for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.”
Asked what he thinks of Super PACs and whether they are eroding Democracy, Rove defended his involvement with American Crossroads and said the Democrats are being hypocrites on the issue.
“I’m really delighted people have expressed these concerns,” he said. “Where the heck were you when the Dems were using 501c4 groups to beat up Republicans for decades?”
Rove said liberal institutions have been attacking Republicans using contributions from anonymous donors for years, and that Republicans finally got “tired of fighting with one arm behind their backs. Now suddenly people are concerned.”
Asked how the GOP could appeal to younger generations, Rove said the party needs a more diverse group of candidates. “Don’t run a 72-year-old old guy for president like we did four years ago,” he said. “We will not win elections by not having young candidates.”