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Rove & Carville Analyze 2012 Election

Rove & Carville Analyze 2012 Election

By Alexis Simendinger - November 14, 2012

NAPLES, Fla. -- Karl Rove on Tuesday argued that President Obama won re-election despite his weaknesses with voters because Mitt Romney was a so-so candidate lured by the media into conservative positions during the GOP primaries.

“I think that’s right,” he answered when former newsman Ted Koppel asked if Romney had been undone by that early phase of the presidential race. “I do think the primary was destructive to him.” Rove then added that he placed “blame” with journalists who hosted the debates.

If reporters and TV anchors had not posed questions about abortion and other social issues during umpteen Republican jousting matches, things might have turned out better, Rove harrumphed.

“Romney unwisely went to the right on immigration,” he told financial industry experts attending the Global Financial Leadership Conference organized by the CME Group at a luxury hotel here.

Democrat James Carville, defending the other side of the aisle during a session of political forensics, cheerily rejected Rove’s analysis, arguing that Obama’s victory and the Democrats’ ability to win seats in the House and Senate were nothing more complex than “pine on skull. . . . You’ve just been hit upside the head.”

Carville noted that 56 percent of voters believed the country was on the wrong track, according to polling, and unemployment hovered near 8 percent on Election Day, “and you honestly didn’t come close.”

Republicans cannot win future elections if the majority of young people and non-white voters back Democrats. The question Rove and his fellow conservatives should be asking, Carville advised, is not what was flawed about Romney or the media but “is there something wrong with what you’re putting out there?”

The audience applauded loudly.

Rove, shuffling through a red folder of election data in his lap, agreed that the GOP in 2016 should nominate “a modernist” who can discuss an issue such as abortion by adroitly acknowledging the realities of the law and life while talking up alternatives to abortion. His message: “You better damn well stop being judgmental.”

The pro-GOP super PACs Rove helped found, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have been faulted by some Republican donors and various election analysts for spending a combined $175 million on advertising, with six wins and 16 losses to show for that investment. But Rove in public has sounded unbowed, and his group has announced it will expand its work into lobbying on policy issues and on GOP primaries in the next cycle.

Looking ahead, Rove and Carville took stock of potential presidential candidates in 2016. The former close adviser to George W. Bush said the 2012 aspirants in his party are unlikely to be back four years from now, and attention will turn to new faces. Paul Ryan “has got to be considered,” he said -- a suggestion Carville thought less likely after the outcome in Wisconsin on election night.

Nonetheless, Rove touted as possibilities Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“There are going to be a lot more opportunities for people to emerge through the strength of their efforts,” he said. “It’s awful early.”

Among Democrats weighing a run in 2016 following Obama’s two terms, Carville said potential candidates will seek to learn early what Hillary Clinton has in mind. Although she has said she will serve as secretary of state through the inauguration in January and then return to private life, her denials of presidential ambitions have not quieted speculation that she will run again.

While Republicans need a primary in 2016 to shake out a direction for the party, Democrats would prefer to avoid “all that,” said Carville, the chief architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory against a crowded Democratic field.

“The pressure on Secretary Clinton is going to be enormous to run,” he said. “Whether she does or not, I don’t know.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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