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 »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.