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What's Going on at 538?

I'm Baaaack...

So, I heard Rove resigned?

What in the world will the Left do without its favorite bogeyman? Barone looks at the verdict on the architect:

What is the verdict on his legacy? Rove is, as Bush put it, the "architect" of his political and policy strategy, and to many, that intertwined strategy seems to be in ruins. I take a longer view. For most of his career, Rove was a political consultant. In my own briefer career as a political consultant, I advised candidates running for executive office that they needed to come up with a small number of issue positions that would enable them to: a) get their party's nomination, b) win the general election and c) govern effectively.

I was surprised how few managed to carry this out. Bill Clinton, who drew on many consultants, did this quite well in 1992. Bush, with Rove at his side, did a pretty good job in 2000.

It's not easy. Going to the right (or left) can help in the primary but may hurt in the general. Policies widely appealing during the campaign may prove impossible to deliver on in government. Veering from your platform can be politically damaging, as Clinton discovered in 1994. But failing to adjust to changed circumstances can be a problem, as well.

He goes on to say that Bush's 2000 platform, as designed by Rove, accomplished a), b), and c). It certainly accomplished a) and b). C), I'm not so sure about. He cites the Education Accountability Act and the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill as victories for the architect while I would cite them as the beginning of conservative discontent with the Bush administration, which contributed greatly to the 2006 losses that eventually knocked the architect off his girter.

As Mike Pence recounted in 2004:

A decade ago, when I first ran for Congress, Republicans dreamed of eliminating the federal Department of Education and returning control of our schools to parents, communities, and states. Ten years later (all thawed out), I took my oath of office in the 107th Congress to join the revolution and they hand me a copy of H.R. 1. One--as in our Republican Congress's number one priority: the "No Child Left Behind Act." The largest expansion of the federal Department of Education since it was created by President Jimmy Carter.

In the end, about 30 House conservatives and I fought against the bill and were soundly defeated by our own colleagues. Our Reaganite belief that education was a local function was labeled "far right" by Republicans and the President signed the bill into law with a smiling Ted Kennedy at his side.

Conservatives were told to bear up: This was the exception, not the rule.

And so, relieved to have that experience behind me, I anxiously awaited a new H.R. 1 for a new Congress--an H.R. 1 that I could be proud of. At the onset of the 108th Congress, I was handed another H.R. 1: the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, the largest new entitlement since 1965.

To the frozen man it was obvious. Another Congress. Another H.R.1. Another example of the ship of our movement veering off course.

Actually, this bill started out promising. The President asked Congress for a very limited program: extending existing welfare benefits to seniors just above the poverty level--where most of the one-in-four seniors without prescription drug coverage reside.

Many conservatives, myself included, were prepared to support this limited benefit. I told the President that we shouldn't make seniors choose between food, rent, and prescription drugs. We were a better country than that.

Yet instead of giving the President the limited benefit he requested, Congress set sail to create the largest new entitlement since 1965--a massive one-size-fits-all entitlement that would place trillions in obligations on our children and grandchildren without giving any thought about how to pay for it.


Rove's innovations in political microtargeting and GOTV efforts were huge, to be sure, but let's not forget that trying to harness a populist drive for "compassionate conservatism" gave us several new, huge, ever-growing federal programs and a bunch of ticked off small-government conservatives.

And, again on the pro side, because I'm being fair and balanced, Patrick Ruffini challenges the conventional wisdom about Republican vs. Democrat New Media politics, and Rove's role:

And so goes the narrative. Republicans are all top-down. Democrats are bottom-up. What this ignores is that Rove and Mehlman ran a great new media-centric campaign in 2004, fully leveraging all the tools available to them at the time.

In 2004, it was John Kerry who had his blinders on when it came to new and alternative media. His campaign wouldn’t respond to anything in the Drudge Report. After the Swift Boat story broke, they thought they had contained the damage by leaving it to talk radio, the Internet, and Fox News to cover 24/7. The ultimate example of the New Media Davids slaying the Old Media Goliaths favored the right (Rathergate). To the Kerry campaign and its left-liberal allies in the press, it didn’t matter if the New York Times wasn’t covering it — and I’ll bet you can find a Frank Rich column to that effect backing this up.

So, big thanks to Rove for some things; not so much for others. He's an undeniably smart man, and not nearly the eeeeeevil force liberals believe he is. As he seems a man of good humor, I'd bet he's endlessly amused at the ridiculous nightmares and conspiracy theories he inspires on Democratic message boards. In fact, he's probably on his expansive estate right now, donning a smoking jacket and swirling a snifter, laughing riotously at DU as he shoots passing wildlife with death rays-- from his eyes.


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