In his Friday show, “the great one” – Mark Levin – featured the American Thinker piece “Why Karl Rove and the Establishment Will Lose Again” in the second hour.  The pertinent bit starts just after the 80 minute mark.




karl-rove-confused-afpAs featured on home page of and Big

Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS PAC are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the senate — by campaigning to the left of incumbents Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan on behalf of Republican challengers Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis.

So blatant is this attempt in the latest round of TV ads that the Washington Post teased Rove with a headline that taunted him as a “bleeding heart liberal.” Reporter/blogger Greg Sargent said in the story that the two ad campaigns “show Republicans once again hitting Dems from the left on entitlements.” Salon ridiculed the North Carolina ad as the “dumbest of the season” so far, and it was almost identical to one run in Arkansas a few weeks ago.

The Post and Salon are often wrong in their assessment of Republican strategies, but in this instance, they are right on the money. In the recent spots for both the Arkansas and North Carolina markets, the emphasis is on Social Security and plays on the fears that Pryor and Hagan both support raising the eligibility age for benefits. When you consider that incrementally and gradually raising the benefit age is a common sense conservative idea — and that Democrats routinely fear monger off of this very issue — this is a clear case of Rove trying to out-liberal the Democrat candidates and not just settling for the normal “Democrat lite” campaign the GOP establishment prefers.
While this shameless pandering is bad enough on its on, it is simply incomprehensible given the current mood of the country to reject big government liberalism and all things Obama. It is also the most cynical type of niche politics.

This strategy assumes that those approaching 60 or 65 in those two states do not care about ObamaCare, the VA scandal, the IRS scandal, the southern border’s erasure, Benghazi, or the fact that government is intruding into every aspect of our lives. It is dependent on these voters caring only about their particular check at the appointed age. There is no mention of Barack Obama or Harry Reid in the ads — two of the most toxic associations in those states. Firing Reid as majority leader is a compelling idea, as was firing Nancy Pelosi in 2010. Keep in mind that Hagan refused to appear on stage with Obama in Charlotte earlier this week, and now Rove’s messaging strategy is allowing her to keep her distance. Ditto for Pryor in Arkansas.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, the ads aren’t even true. In North Carolina, Hagan was tied to raising the social security age because she had told the Raleigh News and Observer that she was “a big believer in what Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson did on their final commission.” She is in fact on record on other occasions specifically opposing raising the eligibility age. The tie with Pryor was similarly flimsy. In trying to paint the two Democrat incumbents as fiscal conservatives, Crossroads GPS is connecting dots that simply do not touch.

Which begs the question, why would the supposedly smartest strategist in the Republican Party even try? With the national zeitgeist demonstrably against Obama, his policies, his party and in fact his belief system, why wouldn’t the focus be on the fact that a vote for Hagan or Pryor is a vote for Obama and Reid? The key may lie in two parts of Rove’s background.

First, he was in the direct mail business for 19 years, and direct mail is a very micromanaged type B left brained endeavor by definition. This is who Rove is, and what he does. On a tactical level, he probably knows more about the country precinct by precinct than anyone not named Michael Barone. As a talented tactician, he is not a strategist. The two skills are not at all the same.

As such, he has never directed a campaign with a compelling big picture, all encompassing message. In the direct mail world, you find one hot button and run a sale on that item in that zip code. In politics, it means you think of every voter as a single issue voter, and you try and niche your way to 271 electoral votes or 51 Senate seats with a little abortion over here and some social security over there — and maybe some trade protectionism some other place. When you run a television campaign the way you run a direct mail message, you actually damage your party’s ability to put together a coherent message.

Another tell is Rove’s reliance on focus group data, which was certainly true in his failed 2012 efforts. Focus groups by their very definition — they last a couple hours — cannot possibly judge the effectiveness of a campaign message over a period of weeks or months. And yet, this is precisely what Rove and Frank Luntz and Haley Barbour rely on them to do. Conversely, there’s no way to explain a conservative message in a couple of hours either, so naturally the focus group data leads to shallow and more moderate messaging. It’s a guaranteed fail for the conservative message.

Which could explain why Rove is running to the left of Democrats in some of the most vital Senate races in the nation, in states that voted for Romney no less.

As published in The American Thinker and heard on the Mark Levin Show

Karl Rove is at it once again. The so-called “strategist” is again confusing strategy with tactics, and is about to blow easy Senate pickups in Arkansas and North Carolina. This is not merely snatching defeat from the jaws of victory — this is snatching defeat from the bowels of victory — in astonishing tone-deaf fashion.

There is absolutely no excuse for not winning these two races.

So how is the one-time “boy genius” doing this? By running ads attacking Senators Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan from the left. Yes, you heard that right. Rove’s Crossroads GPS PAC is insisting in their latest ads in both states that Republican candidates Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis are better liberals than Pryor and Hagan, at least on Social Security. The ads attack Hagan and Pryor for wanting to raise the eligibility age for the defunct program.
Okay. So let’s somehow miss that Obama and Harry Reid are toxic associations in red states. Forget that ObamaCare is showing how big government liberalism is an abject failure. Forget that the VA scandal is showing the same thing. Forget that workforce participation is the lowest in history. Forget that the hated IRS has been outed as an arm of the Democrat party. Forget that deficits are at a record. Forget that the entire country is starting to recognize that our national nausea is almost always being caused by too much nanny-state liberalism.

Can’t mention those. No no. We have soccer mom focus group data that shows blah blah blah….

Rove and the GOP elite need to put down their pizzas and get out of the focus-group lab and into the real world a little bit. If they did, it might dawn on them to run a campaign of big ideas and overarching themes. You know, to tap into that anti-liberal anti-big government/nanny state mood? (No, that can’t work. I mean, those unapologetic big picture conservative campaigns fail every time — you know, like in 1980, 84, 94, and 2010. And of course, the moderate fake right, go left, niche-by-niche strategies tried in 96, 98, 2006, 2008 and 2012 worked so well, right?)

So how does all of this self-evident history, not to mention a common sense understanding of human nature, escape all of the top Republican messaging sorcerers? One big factor is the isolated bubble that is Washington (and includes the New York media center). Precious little reality seeps into this bubble. Conservative columnist John Nolte even theorizes that the media is just as intent on shielding Washington Republicans from exposure to what’s really going on outside the beltway as they are to push their general liberal bias. He may have a point.

But there’s more.

Rove has the mind of a tactician, and a good one. He was a direct-mail guru for a long time before rising to prominence in the George W. Bush campaigns and administration. The problem is that he is now so involved with strategy — and with the main thrust of messaging. Tactics and strategy are both necessary, but they are very different mindsets and skill sets. Strategy is a big picture right-brained enterprise. Tactics are a bureaucratic left-brained endeavor. The tactician Rove simply does not have the right mindset or skill set to be involved in ‘strategy’ messaging. It’s not who he is. No one is wired to do both.

Thus he runs broadcast campaigns the way he ran direct mail campaigns — talk abortion over here, trade over there, and social security in another place. The problem is, when you broadcast niche issues, you are destroying your team’s ability to advance a big picture message. Rove is literally campaigning against the overwhelming national zeitgeist with his overresearched misunderstanding of what the tea leaves are saying.

You cannot win this way. It never works. Why would it? It makes no sense except to those who are so bogged down with the minutiae of focus-group research that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Focus groups and snapshot polls are the death of conservative campaigns. Conservatism cannot be understood within the confines of a two-hour focus group, nor can focus groups predict the reaction of voters to a multi-month long campaign of conservative messages in two hours either. Focus groups cannot possibly judge the impact of a long campaign message over time — and yet, those who push this junk science use them for that express purpose. Rove is a big believer. We are big losers.

Consider: a focus group, by definition, tends toward emotional and big government solutions — because it is a lowest common denominator pursuit due to the confines of time, peer pressure, and the participant selection process. You can’t even get into one of these groups until you can prove you are low information. Yet inspired by focus-group data, the Rove and GOP establishment-style campaigns continue to be shallow, niche-driven low-information campaigns. They are designed to make the low-information people think that our party joins them in their low-information opinions. I guess it never occurs to these wizards to use a campaign to educate voters and persuade them to join us? You know, like 80, 84, 94 and 2010? Google Reagan, Newt, and Tea Party for clarification.

Rove made a point to personally insult my book at a GOP convention in Charlotte in 2013, calling it a “poorly researched piece of trash.” My reply was that his 400-million-dollar ad campaign in 2012 was the poorly researched piece of trash. So are his campaigns this cycle too.

George W. Bush has called Rove both a “boy genius” and a “turd blossom.” I agree with Bush about 50% of the time, so I’ll go with the latter.




Hmmm…..what’s the difference?

by C. Edmund Wright on August 20, 2014

you tell me

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