Karl Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff for former president George W. Bush, also said the national Republican Party has to match the Democrats’ technological edge in engaging with voters and getting them to the polls.
GOP political strategist Karl Rove suggested Monday night at Kent State University Stark Campus that the Republican Party emulate William McKinley, blasted President Barack Obama’s economic policies and said Obama beat Mitt Romney last year largely because Obama ran a barrage of negative ads against Romney and Romney failed to show voters he was a caring person.
Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff for former president George W. Bush, also said the national Republican Party has to match the Democrats’ technological edge in engaging with voters and getting them to the polls. And he criticized a culture within the GOP where Republican political consultants seek to rake in to their own businesses much of the campaign cash they help the candidates raise.
Rove spoke for more than hour before about 300 at the Stark County Republican Party’s 68th Annual McKinley Banquet at Kent Stark’s University Center. He was introduced by Timken Co. Chairman Ward J. “Tim” Timken, Jr., who is credited with arranging for Rove’s visit to Stark County.
Rove met for about an hour in a private reception with donors who had given the county party at least $1,200. He then addressed those who had paid $55 for a ticket to hear Rove speak after dining on chicken breast, mashed potatoes, green beans and a slice of pie.
Demonstrating his local connections, Rove recalled when Mary Regula, the wife of former congressman Ralph Regula, made Rove, one of the president’s top advisors, get her coffee on Air Force One. He also recalled serving in the White House with Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton.
Rove conceded he was wrong in his projections last year that Republican presidential candidate Romney would eke out an electoral vote win.
“I don’t know about you but I’ve gone through the suicidal to deeply depressed to despondent phase,” he said. “Now I’m in the ‘get back off of the mat’ and ‘back into the game’ phase. But we have a lot to learn, you may not know this, from William McKinley about what to do.”
Rove said the former president from Canton who served from 1897 to 1901 represented the grassroots by running a “man against the bosses” campaign. He recruited young, talented men to run his get-out-the-vote efforts, made his campaign about the middle class, reached out to supporters outside of the white Anglo Saxon Protestant establishment and made his campaign about big issues such as protectionism and the nation’s currency.
Rove then criticized the growing deficits and federal spending under Obama, the fiscal unsustainability of Social Security and Medicare and argued that the Affordable Care Act would lead to increased health care costs.
But he acknowledged that these arguments weren’t enough for Republicans to win in 2012.
Page 2 of 2 - “And we lost. And I hate losing. I hate losing almost more than I like winning. But you know the other side wants us to give up. They want us to treat this as a fait accompli. Which is French for ‘forget about it.’ And I’m not going to and I hope you don’t either.”
Rove said consultants shouldn’t be paid a commission on how much money they raise for a candidate or be allowed to spend the campaign’s money on services from their own businesses.
“Right now we have a lot of groups out there that are taking a lot of money from a lot of people and putting it in their pockets,” said Rove, who called them “an embarrassment to the conservative movement.”
“I can’t walk into some guy’s office and say, ‘give me a million dollars’ and have him worried about how much of that is going to end up in my pocket,” said Rove, who said it was “obscene” that a consultant paid himself nearly $8 million for fundraising.
He said his Super PAC, Crossroads GPS, paid fixed salaries to its staff. And he said he does his political work as an unpaid volunteer.
Rove also agreed with a Republican National Committee report that called on GOP presidential candidates to participate in fewer debates sponsored by the media.
“I’m sick and tired of us surrendering our control of our dialogue to some George Stephanopoulos or Brian Williams who wants to talk only about abortion and contraception and make us look weird,” said Rove. He added that conservatives would have a healthy “robust debate” about the Republican Party’s future, but they needed to remember that more things draw conservatives together than divide them.
Rove said Romney’s weakness was that he was unwilling to talk about his personal side, allowing Obama to paint him as an elitist with the negative ads. He said Romney could have talked about how his wife’s horse had helped her heal from Multiple Sclerosis. And a couple who talked at the Republican National Convention about how Romney helped their young son dying of leukemia should have been given a prime time speaking slot.
Rove said Crossroads GPS ended up shooting video of the child’s parents and paid $11 million to run the ad in battleground states. The Romney campaign could have produced and run the ad at a lower cost because the law guaranteed it lower ad rates, he said.
“Why was that couple not on the campaign trail visiting everywhere in the state of Ohio telling people this is a good man who can care deeply about a dying boy and he’ll care deeply about the future of our country?” Rove asked. “Look, you’ve got to win on the basis of the mind and the heart. We won on the basis of the mind. We didn’t win on the basis of the heart. And it’s sad because he’d be a great president, and our country would be in better shape today than we are, and in much better shape in years to come.”