Rove: Don't Blame Me Even If Everything I Said During The Campaign Was Wrong


Wall Street Journal columnist Karl Rove contradicted his previous analysis of the election to deflect responsibility for President Obama's reelection away from himself.

Throughout 2012, Rove used his Journal column to further the political and financial ends of his pro-Mitt Romney groups often without disclosure of his interests. After Romney lost, Rove's November 7 column blamed a wide variety of factors other than himself, including Hurricane Sandy, the "New York Times headline writer who affixed 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' " to Mitt Romney's 2008 op-ed opposing the auto industry rescue, and the release of a secretly taped video in which Romney disparaged 47 percent of Americans as people who are "dependent on government" and see themselves as victims.

Rove also said that part of the reason Obama won because of a relentlessly negative campaign:

Mr. Obama was ruthlessly efficient in executing what his campaign manager, Jim Messina, told the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza was "a grand bet" -- an early negative campaign that started in May and targeted Mr. Romney's character, business ethics and wealth. A massive volunteer army armed with these same arguments then worked in the fall to convince family, neighbors and friends to support Mr. Obama.

This strategy required money, lots of it. Team Obama convinced the president to attend a record-shattering 220 fundraising events over 20 months, with the campaign and Democratic National Committee raising around $900 million.

If this grand bet had failed to raise serious doubts about Mr. Romney among ordinary voters -- or if the attacks on the GOP challenger's character and business background had been effectively rebutted -- the Obama campaign would have been without money or time enough to pursue a different strategy.

But it succeeded.

But this directly contradicts what Rove said during the campaign itself. In prior Journal columns, Rove asserted that the Obama's campaigns supposed negative strategy would not work, in part, because Rove's own groups were in place to counter the strategy.

For instance, in a September 19 Journal column, Rove asserted that Obama planned "to bury Romney under negative ads over the summer," but that strategy didn't work because of ads from Rove's own group, American Crossroads:

His strategy hasn't worked. Team Obama planned to use its big financial edge to bury Mr. Romney under negative ads over the summer. From April 15 to Labor Day, they spent an estimated $215 million on TV. But this was more than offset by conservative groups (principally American Crossroads, which I helped found). While Mr. Obama drained his coffers his own negatives climbed, and Mr. Romney partially repaired his image with voters.

Mr. Obama needs a different strategy, but his team seems stubbornly focused merely on disqualifying Mitt Romney by whatever argument or means necessary.

In an August 8 Journal column, Rove touted a Gallup poll showing Obama ahead of Romney by just one point saying that it was "good news" because it showed that "Romney has absorbed a punishing three-month Obama television barrage that drained the incumbent's war chest" and that undecided voters will likely choose Romney as the election continues. Rove advised Romney to start running positive ads because negative ads are "better left (mostly) to outside groups." At the time, Rove's groups were running a torrent of anti-Obama ads.

Similarly, in an October 17 Journal column, Rove analyzed the second presidential debate, arguing that the Obama campaign's strategy of spending millions on attacking Romney was an "essential flaw":

The president and his advisers have been so intent on disqualifying Mr. Romney that they have done a miserable job defending the president's record and virtually nothing to frame a second-term agenda. Meanwhile, according to Pew Research Center polls conducted in mid-September and early October, the president's favorability ratings among all voters have declined to 49% from 55%.

The apparent boomerang of the attack ads may explain the sudden disappearance this week of the Obama television ads smashing Mr. Romney. They've been replaced with gauzy spots heralding Mr. Obama's great success in restoring prosperity and jobs. These claims are so at odds with reality that even Morgan Freeman's sonorous voice-over can't rescue these "Morning in America" wannabe ads.

To sum up: Rove repeatedly used his Journal column to push his own financial interests by claiming that Obama was running a barrage of negative ads but predicting that Romney would still win because of the work Rove himself was doing. Then, after Romney's defeat, despite the hundreds of millions spent by Rove groups, Rove blamed a variety of factors other than himself for the defeat, including Obama's own supposedly negative campaign.

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Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
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