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07.05.11

Karl Rove Battles Back!

In a proxy war for 2012, The Daily Beast’s Paul Begala wrote that the GOP mastermind was a boon to Democratic fundraising. Karl Rove returns fire—on why bogeyman politics don’t work.

Paul Begala’s faux-praise in The Daily Beast last week of my work with American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS was amusing and revealing. He’s been recruited by Team Obama to help counter Crossroads GPS’s $20 million advocacy campaign about the debt ceiling that is running in 10 states and on national cable. The first GPS ad is up, backed with $5 million.

Begala’s piece was amusing because he said he’s invoking my name to raise money from rich (and terrified) Democrats to help President Obama. “Even the most disenchanted Democrat gets motivated to fight back” when told Karl Rove is active on the other side, Begala crows. Problem is, the early results of his strategy aren’t so good.

Begala’s group, Priorities USA, says it will respond to our $20 million blitz with (wait for it)… $750,000 in ads. As of Friday, the group had placed less than $490,000 in five states. On some level, I guess I should be flattered that Begala thinks I’m a big help to his efforts for Mr. Obama, but aren’t the results sort of pathetic?

It is also revealing that Begala concedes Democrats cannot defend the Obama economic record. He didn’t even try, in either his Daily Beast piece or his Priorities USA ad. The best he could say was that “some Democrats were disappointed when they realized that President Obama doesn’t ride a unicorn and shoot jobs out of his fingers.”

Actually, Democrats—and Americans—weren’t looking for a unicorn-riding president. They would have settled for one who didn’t preside over a 25 percent increase in unemployment, a 35 percent jump in the debt, and more than a doubling of gasoline prices.

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File photo: Democratic strategist Paul Begala speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" January 22, 2006. GOP strategist Karl Rove (left) speaks at a fund raising luncheon at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, June 1, 2011. (Alex Wong / Getty Images (left); Ed Andrieski / AP Photos)

Americans would have settled for a president who hadn’t seen a net loss of 2.5 million jobs since he took office, a double-dip recession in the housing market, the biggest deficits in history, a national debt that’s doubling in size, unemployment at more than 9 percent, and chronic unemployment rate worse than the Great Depression.

Americans would have settled for a president who didn’t overpromise and under-deliver, as Obama did on his stimulus. Before it passed, he promised it would lower unemployment to roughly 6.7 percent by July 2011. But unemployment is now over 9 percent. Even Factcheck.org said “it’s accurate to say the stimulus has failed to live up to its initial expectations.”

On some level, I guess I should be flattered that Begala thinks I’m a big help to his efforts for Mr. Obama, but aren’t the results sort of pathetic?

Now most Americans want to take away Obama’s blank check, rein in his spending, put the nation’s fiscal house in order, and get about reducing the Obama deficits that threaten prosperity and jobs.

I was surprised that in his Daily Beast piece, Begala implicitly whacked Obama by dwelling on how his former boss President Bill Clinton shrunk the government, balanced the budget, and created jobs (in stark contrast to Obama).

You would also think someone smart enough to recognize that “message matters” (as Begala wrote) would be able to grasp that making “Karl Rove is on the other side” your principal talking point is a lousy idea. But apparently Democrats can’t raise money by talking about Obama’s record or Harry Reid’s achievements or Nancy Pelosi’s dream of returning to power.  Instead, they’re stuck with invoking my name. 

Begala is not the only Democrat to play the Rove fundraising card last week.  James Carville, floating around the Baltic on a cruise ship, emailed out an appeal for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that invoked my specter as well.  It asked for the funds necessary to keep the Senate in Democratic hands, which were… a whopping $48,000.  By comparison, Crossroads and GPS raised nearly $72 million last year and will raise $120 million this year and next.

Bogeyman politics is the last refuge of those without a positive agenda to advocate, a real issue to contest, or a principle worth defending.  That’s where many Democrats—including Paul Begala—now find themselves after two and a half years of President Barack Obama’s leadership, which led to an historic defeat in 2010 and now point to more losses in the coming election.