WASHINGTON - As Sen. Barack Obama prepared to
formally announce his presidential intentions in
Springfield, President Bush’s top political
adviser, Karl Rove, had surprisingly little
negative to say about the Illinois Democrat.
“This is a difficult proving ground where
people are tested mightily and the quality of
their vision and the concreteness of their
proposals and the nature of the philosophy that
they espouse all have a big impact on whether or
not they are able to win in the fall,” Rove said
in a telephone interview Friday, three days
before he, too, will appear in Springfield.
On Monday, Rove will address the Sangamon
County Republican Party at its annual Lincoln
In doing so, he leaves one gloomy Republican
arena for another. The president’s low approval
ratings over the Iraq war and scandals in the
Republican-controlled Congress last fall led
voters to hand over control to the Democrats.
And, the Illinois Republican Party is torn by
infighting after a string of defeats.
Bush is remaining neutral in the Republican
presidential primaries, and Rove hasn’t
committed himself to any candidate yet.
But Rove said he disagrees with former House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s recent warning that
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton might be unbeatable.
“I’m confident that we have a lot of good
candidates who are capable of running the right
kind of campaign and articulating the right kind
of messages that they’re going to be able to
keep the White House in Republican hands,” Rove
Bush will use his final two years in office
to push an ambitious agenda, including
health-care and energy proposals, Rove said.
“Facing a Congress of the other party is
sometimes a recipe for success,” Rove said,
noting that tax reform was passed in the final
two years of the Reagan administration and that
Clinton worked with Republicans to pass welfare
“If people check their partisan, political
interests at the door, and say what’s in the
best interest of the country, then lots of
positive things can be done,” Rove said.
Rove also said he hasn’t intervened on behalf
of his old college friend, Bob Kjellander, who
was asked to resign as Republican National
Committeeman by Illinois Republican Party
leaders last month.
“I have not spoken to anyone on Bob’s behalf,
and the White House has not intruded on this
process at all,” he said.
Kjellander, of Springfield, was criticized by
some Republicans for his lucrative dealings with
the Democratic administration of Gov.
Blagojevich and for neglecting the party.
Rove insists that the state Republican Party
will turn things around.
“It’s a question of good candidates and
strong campaigns and running races that speak to
the heart of the people in Illinois and if
Republicans can do that, they can win,” he said.
Dori Meinert can be reached at 212-737-7686