Michael Barone

I think there's a strong argument that the Bush 2000 platform was well adapted to the nation's needs and that most of it has been put successfully into effect. The Education Accountability Act was a constructive and bipartisan federal push for reforms already proven in some states. The tax cuts, especially those of 2003, usefully stimulated an economy weakened by the bursting of the tech bubble and the 9-11 attacks. The Medicare prescription drug bill headed the nation's healthcare systems toward markets and away from government control. Social Security reform was defeated by obdurate Democrats (and not helped by reluctant Republicans), but who can deny that it addressed a long-term problem that must sooner or later require changes in policy?

Rove's political strategy in 2000 defeated the in-power party at a time of apparent peace and prosperity (and helped Republicans face the strongest push for a Democratic Congress between 1994 and 2006), made unusual off-year gains for Republicans in 2002 and, through micro-targeting and unprecedented volunteer involvement, produced a solid victory in 2004.

2006 was different. Rove was unjustifiably confident about Republicans' chances to hold Congress. But some things were out of his hands. The 2000 election might not have been as close as it was if Bush had revealed his DUI at the start of the campaign rather than let Democrats leak it in the last week, and the 2006 result might have been different if Bush had changed Iraq strategies in spring 2006 rather than winter 2007. These decisions, we can be sure, were Bush's, not Rove's.

Rove has failed to create the enduring Republican majority he hoped for. Bush has failed to attract young voters to his party, as Ronald Reagan and Clinton did, and no Republican candidate for president is campaigning as a Bush clone. But Rove succeeded in shaping the political -- and policy -- present for a lot longer than any other political consultant ever has. An impressive achievement, in my book.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM