Springfield Journal Register

February 10, 2007

Rove has little to say about Obama

Bush aide to be in Springfield Monday

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 Day luncheon.

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 said.

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 reform.

“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.

Kjellander refused.

“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 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.