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Rove’s successor keeps low profile

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

President Bush is benefiting from a Karl Rove-free White House and the lower-profile approach of his successor, who high-ranking Republican Party activists and operatives say helped the administration to key victories at the end of last year.

Mr. Bush named Barry Jackson in September to replace Mr. Rove, the "architect" of Mr. Bush's electoral successes, and his understated style is credited with rallying Capitol Hill Republicans to wins on Iraq, spending and national health insurance.

While friends and colleagues of Mr. Rove use words like "flamboyant," "gregarious" and "flashy" to describe him, they portray his former deputy, Mr. Jackson, as "a man of few words" who is the right fit for a president now reliant on Republican legislators sticking with him.

"It's no accident that the president has had the four best months of his presidency ever in dealing with the Congress," said Terry Holt, a Republican consultant who worked with Mr. Jackson in Congress.

Mr. Rove himself has paid tribute to Mr. Jackson's consensus-building skills, which he cultivated as chief of staff to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, when the Ohio Republican was the third-ranking member of his party.

"He can draw people together and make everybody who's part of something better able to get the job done," said Mr. Rove, who is writing a regular column for Newsweek magazine and working on a book.

While Mr. Jackson's behind-the-scenes sway has been right on time for the president, Mr. Rove's in-your-face style and larger-than-life reputation often fit with Mr. Bush's approach to governing in his first term and early in his second term.

The president's scorn for "small ball" governing is well-known, as is his penchant for pursuing big ideas and big reforms.

Mr. Bush dubbed Mr. Rove "the architect" after he guided the incumbent to victory in 2004. In the White House, Mr. Rove and fellow Texan Dan Bartlett had significant influence over policy, politics and communications.

But entering 2007, the White House knew that for any of the president's initiatives — particularly the war in Iraq — to succeed, he would have to maintain the support of Republicans in Congress.

"Bush is in a time in his presidency where his success is in part related to his ability to persuade other people to work together," said Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a veteran of both Bush campaigns.

Enter Mr. Jackson, and counselor to the president Ed Gillespie, another former Hill staffer. The two have helped frustrate Democrats' attempts to splinter the Republican Party on the war, spending and children's health insurance, said Paula Nowakowski, Mr. Boehner's chief of staff, who has known and worked with Mr. Jackson since the early 1990s, and others.

"I think President Bush had a very good year and had a strong close to the year, with those guys in there," said Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist who has advised Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as the current president.

"You've got a Democratic Congress and an unpopular war, and they still won a lot of battles," Mr. Black said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at her year-end press conference, expressed surprise and frustration at the Republican Party's discipline. The California Democrat said that foiled her party's promises to end the war in Iraq this year.

"We see a difference on the Hill in discipline, in message, in all of those things. I know that's Barry's hand, as well as Eddie's," said Ms. Nowakowski. "Look at the fall. Who in God's name would have thought we would have been as successful on so many issues as we were this fall?"

Mr. Gillespie yesterday told reporters that the administration has figured out how "to get results for the American people" when dealing with a Congress controlled by the other party.

"It's not always pretty, but it does get results that I think are beneficial," he said.

Not all of Mr. Jackson's efforts to infuse White House policy with Republican congressional support succeeded last year. While still working as Mr. Rove's deputy, Mr. Jackson was unable to push the president's immigration-reform plan through Congress, which was torpedoed by intense opposition from Republicans in the House and Senate.

Mr. Jackson, who came to work for Mr. Bush in 2000, did not receive all of Mr. Rove's powers in the White House.

Mr. Rove's title was deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to the president, while Mr. Jackson is now the assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and external affairs, and oversees four divisions within the White House — political affairs, intergovernmental relations, public liaison and strategic initiatives.

Mr. Jackson, who is single, declined to be interviewed for this article. He was born in Washington, D.C, but grew up in Ohio.

In 1983, he graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism, and eventually helped run a family rental business in Mason, Ohio, before going to work for Mr. Boehner's first congressional campaign in 1990.

Longtime friends and colleagues sang Mr. Jackson's praises, saying they were delighted he has been promoted to his current position.

"He's one of those rare people in Washington who has managed to achieve enormous respect without an ounce of self-promotion," Mr. Holt said.