Mak­ing way: Rove al­lows new White House po­lit­i­cal play­ers to step up

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

Pres­i­dent Bush’s top strate­gist, Karl Rove, is leav­ing as the Repub­li­can Par ty’s po­lit­i­cal agenda is be­ing passed to a new crop of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, one of whom will set the party’s elec­tion mes­sage early next year.

With the like­li­hood that the 2008 Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion will be all but nailed down in Fe­bru­ary — by which point nearly three dozen pri­maries and cau­cuses will have been held — Mr. Rove’s pow­er­ful White House role in shap­ing his party’s strat­egy over the past seven years will be turned over to a new team of po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers serv­ing the party’s pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee.

“We are at a time when the fo­cus is be­gin­ning to shift away from the White House and to­ward the cam­paign trail. So the times do not de­mand that a mes­sage mae­stro com­mands all as­pects of the Repub­li­can mes­sage,” said Frank Donatelli, White House po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor un­der Pres­i­dent Rea­gan.

“I sus­pect the Repub­li­can cam­paign com­mit­tees will be strik­ing out on their own. You’re go­ing to see a less cen­tral­ized mes­sage and a more de­cen­tral­ized one, at least up un­til the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion next year,” he said.

Also fu­el­ing Mr. Rove’s de­par ture were the bleak prospects for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­main­ing agenda, which faces lit­tle chance with a Demo­crat-con­trolled Congress in the midst of the 2008 elec­tion cy­cle.

Never the­less, the de­ci­sion stunned some party ad­vis­ers.

“I was sur­prised at the an­nounce­ment. I thought Rove would have been the last one out the door,” said Repub­li­can cam- paign strate­gist Scott Reed, who man­aged Bob Dole’s 1996 presi- den­tial cam­paign.

With Mr. Bush’s ap­proval scores at near-record lows, and Repub­li­cans fac­ing an­other dif­fi­cult elec­tion year, Mr. Rove de­cided that the po­lit­i­cal ba­ton was be­ing passed to an­other gen­er­a­tion of strate­gists and that it was time to re­turn to private life, close friends said.

“He goes out as the undis­puted heavy­weight of po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants and will be able to spend his next year help­ing Bush plan his post-pres­i­dency, set up his pres­i­den­tial li­brary and tran­si­tion,” Mr. Reed said.

Other strate­gists said that al­though Mr. Rove’s de­par­ture leaves a big hole in Mr. Bush’s tight cir­cle of ad­vis­ers, his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties would be spread around to sev­eral White House of­fi­cials. Ed Gillespie, the for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man and a spe­cial ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, “would be best-po­si­tioned to pick up that job,” Mr. Donatelli said.

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