- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004


White House senior political adviser Karl Rove yesterday said that Sen. John Kerry’s vote for, then against, funding in Iraq and Afghanistan was the “gift that kept on giving” in Mr. Rove’s effort to deliver President Bush a second term.

The deft strategy of Mr. Rove, whom Mr. Bush calls the architect of his re-election campaign, is credited with helping move the nation from the 48 percentstalemate of the 2000 election to a 51 percent to 48 percent split in the Republicans’ favor.

“The country is still close, but it has moved in a Republican direction, and this election confirmed that,” Mr. Rove said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Tactically, Mr. Kerry’s decision to vote for the $87 billion in funding for troops and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then deciding in October 2003 to vote against it, was a bonanza for the president’s campaign, “the gift that kept on giving,” Mr. Rove said.

Mr. Bush’s campaign featured the videotape in thousands of commercials around the country to paint Mr. Kerry as a flip-flopper, and the label stuck to the Massachusetts senator.

Mr. Rove played down the importance to the campaign of moral values, which exit polls Tuesday unexpectedly identified as a major consideration of many voters, especially those who voted for Mr. Bush.

The political adviser said 34 percent of the voters were motivated by issues surrounding Iraq and the war on terror, compared with 30 percent motivated by moral values.

“What essentially happened in this election was that people became concerned about three issues: first, the war; then the economy, jobs and taxes; and then moral values. And then everything else dropped off of the plate,” he said.

Mr. Rove said he felt sick, then got angry when he started reading exit polls on Election Day as Air Force One returned from a final campaign swing. Surveys of voters just leaving polling places around the nation tilted toward Mr. Kerry early in the day and through much of the evening, causing early optimism among Democrats for a recovery of the White House.

“I was on Air Force One, and we were literally on final approach into Andrews [Air Force Base],” Mr. Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The phone connection kept cutting out. I was holding a piece of paper on my knee, trying to scribble it down, holding the phone in the other hand. I got sick as I wrote them down. And then when I looked at them, I got angry, because they simply could not be true.”

“I mean, it had us 19 points down in Pennsylvania. It had us 17 points down in New Hampshire. It had us 1 point up in Virginia,” Mr. Rove said. “I mean, you looked at these numbers, and you realize, this is just insane.”

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