Veteran Republican political mastermind Karl Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column Thursday that the key to victory in the 2014 midterms is to win independent voters not aligned with either party: “This could be a Republican year if the GOP understands how important independents are to deciding elections and cultivates them.” Criticizing Democrats is all right, he says, but what is really important is a “comprehensive” agenda.
Not once does Rove mention or acknowledge that in 2012, the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney–whom he enthusiastically backed as the one candidate who could win–actually won independent voters and yet went on to lose to President Barack Obama by a wide margin, in an eminently winnable contest. Obama won by turning out his base and running a largely negative campaign focused on Romney’s flaws, real and perceived.
Rove tries to dismiss 2012 obliquely, by setting up a straw man: “Among political urban legends,” he says,”one of the more persistent is ‘base elections’–the notion that successful campaigns can rely simply on turning out a party’s hard-core supporters.” Note the word “simply.” Is there anyone who has actually, seriously claimed that a campaign can win on base voters alone–when neither party has support near the 50% mark? Of course not.
The “advice” Rove offers is a transparent effort to downplay the prospects of conservative candidates, and to dampen opposition to President Barack Obama’s favorite proposals, perhaps in the belief that he is still too popular to confront head-on. There are Democrats far less intelligent than Rove who understand the electorate better: voters–base and independent–want strong leadership, which is what the GOP is failing to provide.