Karl Rove: 2012 Barn-burner of a presidential race
As originally appearing in The Union Leader

By GREG KWASNIK
Union Leader Correspondent

BEDFORD – Karl Rove, the master political tactician who helped President George W. Bush twice win the White House, briefly threw his hat into the political ring Thursday during a visit to New Hampshire.

“I’m Karl Rove, I’m running for president, and I’m in it to win,” Rove said at the beginning of a speech to the New England Council, an alliance of academic, health and business institutions.

After the laughs from his audience subsided, Rove – who served as senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush – just as quickly withdrew his candidacy.

“Just kidding,” Rove said.

Instead of launching his own bid for the White House, Rove spent 40 minutes handicapping the 2012 presidential race. Rove, largely recognized as the man who engineered Bush’s two presidential election victories, said Republican candidates stand more than a fighting chance against President Barack Obama.

“If somebody will stand up and make arguments about the economy, deficit, debt spending and health care, there’s going to be one barn-burner of a race,” Rove said.

A major problem for Obama, Rove said, is that he bungled the economy. Though many Americans still feel affection for Obama and his role as the nation’s first African American president, Rove said, that fact alone won’t win over voters who are still treading water in a stagnant economy.

“The president has been unable to give them confidence, unable to energize those animal spirits that are so important to the American economy,” Rove said. “He over-promised and under-delivered.”

Rove reserved special criticism for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which he argued was poorly designed and did not create the economic boost needed to spur recovery. Rove took aim at billions of dollars spent on programs that targeted smoking and obesity.

“What does that have to do with getting the economy going?” Rove said. “I have yet to meet an out-of-work fat coach.”

Rove pointed out several other issues that could hurt Obama, including his passage of the Affordable Care Act. Rove made light of the president’s contention that the bill would not add a single dime to the federal deficit.

“With all due respect, in one way he’s right,” Rove said. “It will not add a single dime to the deficit. It’s going to add gazillions of dimes to the deficit.”

The problem with the president’s health care law, Rove said, is that it will fund itself by taking money from Social Security, Medicare, and payroll taxes and increase the federal deficit by $701 billion in 10 years.

“The bill is financed in a way that makes what Bernie Madoff did pale in comparison. We sent him to jail for 155 years for doing less than this bill does,” Rove said. “This bill is financed by a series of gimmicks which will drown us in red ink.”

While Rove singled out the economy, deficit, and health care as viable strategies to victory in the presidential contest, the path to the Republican nomination may be much less clear cut.

With several candidates in the race and no clear front-runner, Rove said, early primary states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina will be especially crucial.

“People are going to be a heck of a lot less anchored to their choice, and as a result what happens in these early primaries is going to be even more important,” Rove said.

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