By Dalton Karwacki
The presidential election this November will be extremely close, but there is a clear strategy for a Republican victory, according to Republican strategist Karl Rove.
Rove served as senior advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000 to 2007 and deputy chief of staff from 2004 to 2007. During this time, he coordinated the policy-making process and is considered the architect of Bush’s 2000 and 2004 election wins.
He discussed a range of political issues at the Monday night event sponsored by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, including the upcoming presidential election.
“It’s going to be a close, close race,” Rove said.
He said that the simplest way for the Republican nominee to win would be to follow what he described as a “three, two, one” strategy. In addition to the states John McCain carried in 2008, the Republicans only need to win six others. However, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina historically vote Republican but went for Obama in the last election.
“Together they have 39 Electoral College votes,” Rove said. “If they swing back to the Republican column, it is a shift in the electoral college of 78.”
Ohio and Florida both voted for Bush in 2004. Obama won both states in 2008, but by narrower margins than his victory as a whole. Their 49 electoral votes would create a shift of 98 electoral votes if the Republicans win in both states. According to Rove, the Republican candidate would only need to win one of several other states to win the election if he carries those five states. These states include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
“That’s where the election’s going to be fought, in the states that I just outlined,” Rove said. “Those of you who get Philadelphia TV, my apologies to you. Your screens are going to be filled with television ads.”
Another factor in the race is the fact that the electoral redistricting following the 2010 census will benefit the Republicans. Rove said that if the electoral map ends up identical to the 2008 results, the Republicans will have six more delegates than they did in 2008 because of the way delegates were reapportioned.
“There’s already been a shift in the electoral college that works a minor advantage for the Republicans,” Rove said.
There are also three voting groups that can severely harm Obama’s chances of reelection if they decide not to support him like they did in 2008, according to Rove. Latinos, young voters and independents all supported Obama in 2008, but their support has fallen more than the national average since his inauguration.
“If he does not get anywhere close to the margins that he got among these groups last time around, his reelection could be in terrible danger,” Rove said.
Rove went on to say that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act and Obama’s subsequent reaction also play a role in the election. He said that if the court strikes down the law, Obama will have two options. If he calls for bipartisan support to create a new version of healthcare reform, it will help his reelection chances as it will be seen as him returning to the political center, Rove said. However, if Obama chooses to attack the Supreme Court for such a decision, it will hurt him.
“I do think the individual mandate is likely to be invalidated, and if I were a betting man I’d say the president is likely to double down, not move to the center,” he said.
Rove also said that the building tensions between Israel and Iran could play a role in the election. He said that if something does happen with Iran, the initial public reaction would likely be to support the country and the president.
“The initial response of the American people will be to rally around the flag and rally around the president,” Rove said.
“However, I think the president does not want the Israelis to act before the November election simply because he does not want another factor added into the big mathematical equation that is the presidential election.”
Regardless of how the election plays out, Rove said that there will be an unprecedented amount of scrutiny on the candidates.
“I don’t think that we’ve seen a presidential election in our lifetime in which what every candidate does, every single day, is going to matter as much as in this election,” he said.
Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute, said that he was very happy with Rove’s visit.
“Mr. Rove is a very busy man and we had to work through a lot of different hoops to put it all together, but it was tremendously successful and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.