GOP strategist Karl Rove believes Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) may have what it takes to win the presidency in 2020.
Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, appeared on “Fox and Friends” Friday morning to explain in further detail an op-ed he penned this week titled, “Bernie Sanders Could Win This Time.”
First, he commended Sanders for eschewing DNC Chair Tom Perez’s signal to Democratic candidates to stay off of Fox News when he partook in an hour-long town hall with Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
That decision paid off for Sanders who was rewarded with “the largest viewership of any campaign event thus far," Rove said.
He also observed that Sanders has learned from mistakes during his 2016 campaign.
“He is a lot more fluid,” Rove said, noting that Sanders deftly pivoted to the messages he wanted to push when Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier asked him tough questions about his taxes and to respond to presidential contender and South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s call for a “new generation of leadership.”
“He says ‘I paid all the taxes I owe,’ and he quickly pivots and says ‘I released 10 years of tax returns, President Trump ought to do the same.’ Martha says ‘You know, here’s Mayor Pete, he says there should be a new generation of leadership. You will be 79 if you’re sworn in as president.’ He makes a joke. He says ‘It’s a fair question.’ He says ‘It’s not whether you’re young or old, it’s what you believe.’”
“Every time he brought it back to his message,” said Rove, who wrote about Sanders' strong 2020 prospects in a Wall Street Journal editorial this week. “That demonstrated to me that he has learned from having run before. He really did a good job of softening the edges of socialism. Whenever the issue came up, he made it feel warm and fuzzy, kumbaya, shake hands, run around the campfire.” (FoxNews.com)
Sanders also seemed to take a different approach than other Democratic candidates, understanding that “bashing Trump” all the time will not work.
“He was focused on what he was for,” Rove said.
In his op-ed, Rove explains that Republicans need to look at polling that could be telling for the 2020 election. According to RealClearPolitics’s average of polling, a majority (56.4 percent) of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction while only 37 percent say it is going in the right direction.
“Mr. Sanders could be perceived as an agent of change,” Rove writes. “If he is the Democratic nominee, Mr. Trump’s task will be to convince Americans that a socialist turn would be a ruinous change. Based on Monday’s town hall, that won’t be as easy as Republicans may think. Mr. Sanders is a real contender.”
During his appearance on Fox, Rove said the Trump team is taking him seriously.
“Some of the Trump campaign people said ‘You know what? We’re paying attention to this guy. We’ve got to take him seriously.’”