Way back toward the beginning of this campaign, the general consensus on the political left and their commentariat was that one Karl Rove, that cloak-and-dagger/smoke-and-mirrors right-wing manipulator of American politics, was an unconquerable political giant. A mountain among political men, if you will. According to some left-wing reactions to the election (though cheerily not as many as I thought there might be), the reason Bush won (when he was so incredibly incompetent) was that he had "The Rove" in his corner, pulling strings to get out the votes of the ignorant and bloodthirsty.
Well, I'll be (perhaps) the first right-winger to say it: Bush won by only 3.5 million votes. If John Kerry can run the kind of campaign he did (massive issue-waffling, no solid positions on anything except his mysterious 'plans,' a basic disconnect with the average voter) and still stay within 3% of the popular vote, then I'm gonna have to go the opposite way: Rove is inept.
True, he had to overcome Bush's troubling difficulties with language. But John Kerry laid out like a doormat more times than I care to remember, and the Bush team didn't do so much as tap their shoes on him. They didn't make the case for Iraq (which does exist, and is quite strong: see the rest of the war-blogosphere) - had they done so, the population wouldn't see it as a 'mistake' or a 'wrong war', they'd see it as a necessary precaution - they didn't hammer home the facts about Saddam, they didn't point out over and over that Kerry was soft on defense (until the final week or so of the campaign, by which point it was already too late), they didn't respond adequately throughout the debates, they didn't prepare adequately for the debates, and as a matter of fact, it's only by sheer fortune - the fact that Michael Moore is so reviled, the fact that OBL quoted him, and the fact that Carter/Moore were paired together at the DNC - that the Bush team survived this election.
I'll give Rove credit for getting out a lot of Republican voters - the ground game was as good as its ever been - but the point remains: they shouldn't have needed an incredible ground game. Make no mistake. This win should have been huge. Bush should have broken the 300 ECV barrier with several states left to go. Bush should have won the popular vote not by 3.5 million, but by 7, or 10. No, Democratic friends - you have nothing to fear from Karl Rove. If he couldn't pull a landslide election result from the incredible opportunities the Kerry campaign kept handing him, he certainly doesn't deserve the title of 'evil mastermind.' He's just your average politico. The James Carville of the right...maybe.
Of course, we could have done it a lot earlier on election night but for "Boy Genius" Karl Rove. It's absurd that the election was as close as it was. The nation is at war, Bush is a magnificent wartime leader, and the night before the election we didn't know if a liberal tax-and-spend, Vietnam War-protesting senator from Massachusetts would beat him.[HatTip to Greg over at Political Staples for spotting this one.]
If Rove is "the architect" - as Bush called him in his acceptance speech - then he is the architect of high TV ratings, not a Republican victory. By keeping the race so tight, Rove ensured that a race that should have been a runaway Bush victory would not be over until the wee hours of the morning.
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