Karl Rove: 'The Keystone State is the keystone in any presidential bid'

'The Architect' described himself as 'Captain Ahab' chasing the 'big white whale' in elections

February 24, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Karl Rove, right, talks with Judy and Andrew Papoutsis of Waynesboro, Pa., Thursday night during the Franklin County (Pa.) Republican Committee's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Green Grove Gardens in Greencastle, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — There were two sides of Karl Rove on display Thursday evening in Antrim Township, Pa.

The first was a relaxed, approachable man who shook hands and posed for photographs with many of the 500 people gathered for the Franklin County (Pa.) Republican Committee's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

With a microphone in hand, the second version emerged. Rove, a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, sounded like the man on the campaign trails that made him famous, condemning increased federal spending and urging Pennsylvania Republicans to vote in droves in the 2012 presidential election.

"You save, you work and you invest your way to prosperity," he boomed, denouncing federal stimulus initiatives.

Rove  — whom Bush referred to as "The Architect" after winning re-election — served as the keynote speaker for the dinner. Committee Chairman Dwight Weidman said Rove did not charge a speaking fee, but rather the committee purchased copies of "Courage and Consequence" for attendees and worked that cost into the $60 ticket price.

The dinner "will show what a strong, united party we are, and it'll put a lot of money into our coffers to fund further activities," Weidman said.

Rod and Beverly Freshman drove from Mechanicsburg, Pa., to hear Rove speak.

"He's very smart," Rod Freshman said. "He thinks very well on his feet. ... He's not arrogant or aggressive."

Zullinger, Pa., resident Bill Sellar, who attended with his wife, Lois, said he mostly agrees with Rove's messages in the news.

"We're sick of the way our government is being run," Lois Sellar said.

In an interview before the event began, Rove, 60, said he spoke at six Lincoln Day dinners across the country this week. His stops in Pennsylvania were scheduled in Centre and Franklin counties at the request of Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason.

He said today's political climate differs from other eras.

"It's pretty unique," Rove said. "We're a narrowly divided country."

Rove said the American people tell him they are very concerned about national debt and spending, and he predicted those issues will "be a fixture on the American political scene" during the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

He criticized Democratic President Barack Obama for this year's State of the Union address in which he outlined high-speed rail, Internet improvements and jobs in "green" technologies as his domestic priorities.

"You're not being serious," Rove said, saying the president should be "putting his fiscal house in order," and green technologies generate few jobs.

In a January interview, Mike Barley from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania said Rove is familiar with Franklin County. When asked about that, Rove smiled and said he is.

"The Keystone State is the keystone in any presidential bid. The thing about Pennsylvania is you can't take it for granted," Rove said.

In his speech, Rove described himself as "Captain Ahab" chasing the "big white whale" of Pennsylvania in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Bush lost the state in both years.

Chuck Sioberg said he's attended past Franklin County Lincoln Day Dinners, but it was the anticipation of hearing Rove speak that prompted him and his wife, Karen, to buy tickets for 2011.

"I just think he's a Washington insider," Chuck Sioberg said of hearing a key player speak.

Rove talked about his residency in Washington, D.C., during the Bush administration and said he kept his voter registration at his home in Texas. It was in that Texas county 10 to 15 years ago he found a photograph of a beardless Abraham Lincoln tucked in a mesquite wood frame at an estate sale.

"Of course, being a cheapskate and a Lincoln fan, I bought it for $25, and it's hung on my wall ever since," Rove said.

Rove mused that history can be "bent" by important people, such as Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Ronald Reagan and Lincoln. He praised Lincoln for his efforts during a time in which the country was sharply divided.

"We would not be a nation united in liberty and freedom playing a huge role for the good of the world if not for Abraham Lincoln," Rove said.

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