- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Donna Brazile, former Al Gore presidential campaign manager, credits White House chief political adviser Karl Rove with the surprise trouncing of Democratic candidates in the South and elsewhere in Nov. 5 midterm elections.
"Karl did something we didn't do," she said. "Karl looked back at the map of the 2000 elections, decided on the people who had to be turned out and turned them out."
Miss Brazile, who heads the national Voting Rights Institute at the Democratic National Committee, said the "genius" of Mr. Rove was to treat the midterm elections this year as if they were a presidential election.
Democrats' "strategy was to have midterm turnout results of 38 percent," she said in an interview Wednesday. "Karl projected that he needed 45 percent to 50 percent to turn out for Republicans."
She said Mr. Rove successfully carried out his plan to beat Democrats both in the "ground war" and the "air war."
She said Republicans, with more money to spend, beat the Democrats in television advertising. But more important, Republicans did a better job in organizing at the grass-roots level, identifying more Republican voters and, more important, swing and independent voters who liked President Bush and could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidates in their states and districts.
"He knew the Republican base was solid, with almost 90 percent approval of Bush, so he went for the independent and swing votes."
Miss Brazile said Democrats "got our base out that was not the problem. But the base can only provide the winning margin if we are competitive with swing and independent voters. We weren't. The Republicans were."
Mr. Bush's personal campaign efforts were also important, the Democratic strategist said. "We didn't have a salient message or messenger [Republicans] did," she said.
She also credited Mr. Rove with having Republicans, for the first time in memory, outspend Democrats in advertising on black radio and with seriously going after black voters, who normally vote overwhelmingly Democrat.
Miss Brazile cited as an example the Maryland governor's race, where Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and his black running mate, Michael Steele, upset Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her white running mate, retired Adm. Charles Lawson.
"It's the first time I've actually seen Republicans in Maryland actually compete for black votes that I've seen a black face in the campaign," she said.
Right after the 2000 elections, Mr. Rove and his political team of White House Political Director Ken Mehlman and Deputy Republican National Chairman Jack Oliver began talking about "returning to basics."
Although Mr. Rove was behind the all-out push to win over more Hispanic voters to the point of angering many Republican voters with what they saw as pandering Mr. Rove also let it be known that Republicans were not to write off the black electorate.
Miss Brazile also credited Georgia Republican Party Chairman Ralph Reed with carrying out the Rove strategy better than almost anyone believed possible. Not only did Rep. Saxby Chambliss upset Sen. Max Cleland but Republican Sonny Perdue, with virtually no money, defeated Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who had a $19 million campaign fund and was considered a leading Democratic presidential nomination contender for 2004.
"Georgia is going to be their playbook," she said. "When they sit around in a few months planning for 2004, they'll look to Georgia and New Hampshire and Missouri as having the best organized teams on the field."


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