CRAWFORD, Texas – Master GOP strategist Karl Rove won’t let up in his attacks on Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the intriguing question is why.
Is it a sign that Rove, who masterminded Bush’s two presidential victories, is worried about Clinton? Or a calculation that the GOP attacks will get Democrats to rally to her side because the GOP would prefer not to take on Democrats John Edwards or Barack Obama?
“The Democrats are going to choose a nominee. I believe it’s going to be her,” President Bush’s departing political adviser said Sunday, noting her negative rating with the public is very high.
He appeared on three Sunday talk shows after announcing last week he was leaving the White House at the end of the month to spend more time with his family.
Asked why he was helping Clinton by saying she would headline the ticket, Rove said: “Didn’t know that I was. Don’t think that I am.”
Then he harshly criticized Clinton, saying more people have an unfavorable than favorable opinion of the New York senator and former first lady.
“She enters the general election campaign with the highest negatives of any candidate in the history of the Gallup poll,” Rove said.
In a USA Today-Gallup poll this month, 49 percent viewed Clinton unfavorably compared to 35 percent unfavorable for Obama and 34 percent unfavorable for Edwards. Clinton’s favorable score in that poll was 47 percent.
Rove might be revisiting his 2004 play book. Bush’s re-election team aimed its harshest comments at Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the eventual nominee, because it wanted Bush to take on Kerry rather than Edwards, then a senator from North Carolina.
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reported that Bush’s former pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd said at a 2004 Harvard University conference that Bush’s re-election team went after Kerry because they were more afraid of Edwards.
Asked whether he was attacking Clinton because the GOP feared Obama, Rove replied: “I read that in the LA Times this morning. Those, those guys out in LA have got to get clued in. I mean, come on.”
Asked for his opinions on Obama, Rove demurred.
“I’ve said enough,” he said.