Karl Rove to Republicans: Don’t Get Excited About Midterms Just Yet

A warning from someone who knows the pitfalls of high expectations.

National Journal
Marina Koren
March 13, 2014, 6:13 a.m.

Karl Rove has a warn­ing for his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans about their vic­tory in this week’s House race: “Don’t un­cork the cham­pagne.”

Rove quashed the GOP’s good feel­ing about Re­pub­lic­an Dav­id Jolly’s nar­row vic­tory over Demo­crat Alex Sink in Flor­ida’s 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict spe­cial elec­tion in a Wall Street Journ­al op-ed Wed­nes­day night. “Spe­cial elec­tions don’t al­ways dic­tate how midterms turn out,” said the former deputy chief of staff and seni­or ad­viser to George W. Bush. A win in March doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily sig­nal a change in the tide for the Grand Old Party in Novem­ber.

Rove knows well the dangers of head­ing in­to an elec­tion with high ex­pect­a­tions. On the night of the 2012 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, the Re­pub­lic­an polit­ic­al con­sult­ant, dis­patch­ing from the Fox News stu­dio, was con­vinced that Mitt Rom­ney would win. But when the net­work called Ohio — and, sub­sequently, the elec­tion — for Pres­id­ent Obama, a ram­bling Rove re­fused to ac­cept the res­ults. The pure dis­be­lief be­gins in earn­est at 1:38 in the video.

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:9T­wuR0jCavk}}

Many con­ser­vat­ives were sure they had the right can­did­ate and the right polit­ic­al cli­mate to take back the pres­id­ency that year. Like Rove, they learned the les­son of over­stat­ing the level of voter sup­port the hard way.

Re­pub­lic­ans and polit­ic­al ana­lysts may not be pop­ping bub­bly just yet, but they’re cer­tainly en­er­gized after Flor­ida’s spe­cial elec­tion. After all, “this was a race that most polit­ic­al ob­serv­ers ex­pec­ted Sink to win,” ex­plains Chris Cil­lizza at The Wash­ing­ton Post. “Jolly was a lob­by­ist — not ex­actly the best pro­fes­sion in this polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment — who was de­cidedly un­proven as a can­did­ate.”

A vic­tory des­pite a can­did­ate’s rook­ie status sug­gests that it was strategy that pre­vailed at the bal­lot box. This week’s spe­cial elec­tion was a test-drive for the two parties’ play­books for this year’s House and Sen­ate races, ex­plains Molly Ball at The At­lantic. “For Re­pub­lic­ans, the strategy is simple and single-minded: Pound on Obama­care, re­mind­ing voters how un­happy it has made them and how angry they are with the pres­id­ent,” Ball writes. For Demo­crats, it’s “frantic­ally try­ing to talk about any­thing else.”

A test-drive eight months out can pre­dict only so much. Still, Demo­crats are nervous about how well it ap­par­ently turned out for the op­pos­ing party. Re­pub­lic­ans know it, and they’re go­ing to stick with anti-Obama­care game plan un­til fall. “But only if they ap­ply its les­sons in dozens of oth­er con­tests for the House and Sen­ate,” Rove warns, “can they turn a good midterm in­to a great one.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
These (Supposed) Iowa and NH Escorts Tell All
2 hours ago
NATIONAL JOURNAL AFTER DARK

Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:

  • Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
  • Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
  • They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
  • One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
Source:
STATE VS. FEDERAL
Restoring Some Sanity to Encryption
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Hillary Is Running Against the Bill of 1992
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Trevor Noah Needs to Find His Voice. And Fast.
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”

Source:
×