In an interview that aired on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Friday, Republican strategist and former adviser to President George W. Bush sounded off on the race for the California Republican gubernatorial nomination between State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and businessman Neel Kashkari, which is set to be settled in a June 3 primary.
Rove warned that Donnelly could not be a liability for Republicans statewide in California, but also nationally. Rove touted Kashkari’s candidacy and said that he was a bit moderate for his taste as a Texas Republican.
Transcript as follows:
HEWITT: Now I want to go deep in the weeds, because yesterday, former Gov. Pete Wilson, longtime friend of mine, came on the program, and he issued a strong endorsement yesterday of Neel Kashkari, as have I, but also a very hard-hitting attack on Tim Donnelly. And we discussed the fear that Democrats might run an independent expenditure campaign to try and make Donnelly the nominee of the California Republican party, and thus the face of the Republican Party, and the down ticket impact that would have, and the national impact that would have. What say you, Karl Rove, about that prospect, and whether or not Tim Donnelly, about whom there have been many controversial statement, from whom many controversial statements have flowed, and he’s a very aggressive populist, Minuteman kind of guy. Can he be nationalized? Would he hurt the down ticket?
ROVE: Yeah, look, he would, I mean, because look, this may shock you. I know you’re an idealistic, young guy. But the national media are not our friends. And if the California Republican Party has as the leading candidate, the leading statewide candidate on the ballot this year somebody who has said the outrageous things that he’s said, and prone to the outrageous behavior that he routinely engages in, it will be used to tarnish not only the California Republican Party, but they’ll throw it at everybody on the ballot. And everybody else will, across the country, disavow the guy. We’ll be back to where we were when Todd Akin went out and said, famously, that there’s illegitimate rape, whatever the heck that concept is, and every Republican candidate around the country had to respond to it. So yeah, and every time he goes out and says something, and he, as we’ve seen, Mr. Donnelly is quite prone to sharing the weird recesses and corners of his mind, it could be really problematic for the GOP.
HEWITT: Do you expect Democrats or leftists to do an IE for him, then?
ROVE: I wouldn’t be surprised by it. I mean, they may think that it’s, he’s got enough momentum on his own enough, and they might have such a low opinion of Republicans in California, that they think they don’t need to do it, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Look, Harry Reid and the Democratic National Committee have gone out of their way to do things like remember, one of the things that they did in Missouri in 2012 was they spent several million dollars attacking Todd Akin before the Republican primary. And the way they attacked him was saying Todd Akin is too conservative for Missouri. He supports a balanced budget amendment. He refuses to raise taxes. He has voted consistently pro-life. He is too conservative for Missouri. And the object there was to make him so attractive to Republicans that they could get the weakest candidate nominated. And they might be inclined to do something like that in California not only to get the weakest Republican on the ballot against Jerry Brown, but also to give them a national talking point about this is what the Republican Party stands for, this is the face and the future of the GOP.
HEWITT: Before I turn to the other key races nationally, Karl Rove, do you know Neel Kashkari? Have you endorsed him? What do you think of him?
ROVE: I know him. He’s a remarkable guy. I think he fits California. He’s a little bit more moderate than I am. I’m sort of a Texas Republican. He’s a California Republican. But I think he’s a remarkable public servant who’s served our country well. I think he’s got an interesting mind. He’s smart. He’s forward looking. He’s a reform-minded guy. He understands the economic issues powerfully, and will help tackle the big problems that California has. I mean, he’ll stand up and say things like we can’t build that railroad to nowhere. I mean, he’ll be a tough, effective candidate. There’s no doubt about it.
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