Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove's Legacy?

Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. Mike Duncan says that Karl Rove "will be remembered most for engineering two successful presidential campaigns...." That may be true, but it is also possible that Mr. Rove's legacy will in the end be remembered otherwise.

In the 1990's, President Clinton became known for his use of "triangulation," which was the term used for marginalizing both the left and the right in order to achieve his own political objectives. That approach proved personally advantageous for Mr. Clinton, but to a large degree he advanced himself at the expense of his own party, which endured severe losses in numbers of elected leaders in both Congress and in state capitols nationwide.

Mr. Rove has become famous for a strategy that centers around "exciting the base." While that strategy has its merits, it also risks focusing on an ever shrinking pie of core support. In fact, the narrow wins of President Bush in 2000 and 2004 stand in stark contrast with the much wider margins of victory by Republican presidential candidates in the last quarter of a century.

Perhaps the narrower victories are representative of a different era. On the other hand, they may be the result of a strategy that focuses on looking inward at the expense of reaching out. President Reagan prevailed in elections with a legion of Reagan Democrats. No one is talking about the Bush Democrats.

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