Politics Rove to Reichert’s Rescue?
Over the weekend, the New York Times offered two very interesting stories that, when combined with this story in today’s P-I about an upcoming Karl Rove-Dave Reichert fundraiser, paint a picture of a very worried Reichert re-election campaign.
First, the two New York Times stories. On Saturday, the Times reported that Karl Rove is “struggling to steer the [Republican] party to victory this fall,” largely because Republicans in Congress are increasingly losing faith in his political judgment.
Outside the White House, as Mr. Bush’s popularity has waned, and as questions have arisen among Republicans about the White House’s political acumen, the party’s candidates are going their own way in this difficult election season far more than they have in any other campaign Mr. Rove has overseen.
Some are disregarding Mr. Rove’s advice, despite his reputation as the nation’s premier strategist. They are criticizing Mr. Bush or his policies. They are avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove.
Also in that story, the Times reports that Rove and other Bush advisors…
…have determined that control of Congress is likely to be settled in as few as six states and have decided to focus most of the party’s resources there… Those states will likely include Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, though officials said the battle lines could shift in coming weeks.
When people talk about “control of Congress” this year, they’re mainly talking about the House of Representatives, because it’s the House, and not the Senate, that’s most likely to flip into Democratic hands this November. And what’s the big House race here in Washington? Darcy Burner vs. Dave Reichert in the eastside’s 8th Congressional District.
Why are Rove and others so concerned? If the Democrats take the House, Bush’s term is essentially over; he’ll be dead in the water, agenda-wise, for the next two years, and will likely have to deal with a series of Congressional investigations into… well, take your pick: Iraq WMD intelligence, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Plame-gate, etc. And as the Times reported on Monday, political analysts and party strategists now agree that…
…Republicans enter the fall campaign with their control of the House in serious jeopardy.
So what is Rove doing about it? As the P-I reports this morning, he’s on his way to Washington to campaign and fund-raise next week for Reichert.
But here’s the big question: Why would Reichert agree to this? Why isn’t he in the group of Republican lawmakers, mentioned in the Times story above, who are “going their own way,” “disregarding Mr. Rove’s advice,” “criticizing Mr. Bush,” and “avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove”?
Reichert has already had a visit from Bush this year, and has introduced Dick Cheney and Laura Bush at local fund-raisers. Each time, the Burner campaign has used the events to cast Reichert as too chummy with the unpopular Bush administration to be trusted with another term—a strategy that’s working quite well for Democrats in House and Senate races around the country. The Burner campaign has also said it gets big fundraising bumps of its own each time an unpopular Republican appears in town to help Reichert. (And Burner’s impressive fund-raising, as anyone following this race knows, is one of the main reasons she’s seen as so viable in the first place.)
So if you’re Reichert, why hang out with Rove? Why give Burner such an easy messaging and fund-raising opportunity? Why make yourself one of the few Republican Congressmen who aren’t “going their own way”?
My guess: Reichert is worried, and Rove & Co. are promising him something too good to pass up (most likely money and get-out-the-vote help). In Reichert’s calculation, the political benefit in turning on Bush and Rove must be less than the financial and get-out-the-vote benefits of sticking with them.
It’s an interesting gamble, and one that leaves Burner with yet another opportunity to hammer away at her main campaign theme:
Reichert = Bush (and Rove) = Wrong Direction
Burner = Change