The man credited with being the architect of George W. Bush's winning presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004 claimed Monday not to be a betting man but, perhaps unsurprisingly, said he expects Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to edge out President Obama in the 2012 election.
Karl Rove, who served as a senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff under Bush, spoke before a crowd of about 500 at Canisius College's Montante Cultural Center, where the GOP strategist addressed the relationship between running for president and actually governing as president.
"If I were a betting man, . I'd bet on Romney. I see a clear path for him to win," Rove said, speaking to reporters before his lecture.
At first, Rove demurred on the question of whether Obama has lived up to expectations in his first term as president.
"People are going to make their own determinations as to whether or not lived up to their expectations. I do think people had a sense that he was going to be a post-partisan president. I think one of the most powerful things he said was, 'I don't want to be the president of red states or blue states, but the United States,'?" Rove said. "I think a lot of people have regret and disappointment that that didn't come to pass."
Rove accused the president of ramming through the economic-stimulus bill that "was written by Democrats with little or no Republican input." In addition, Rove said, Obama promised to meet with House Republicans on the proposed Affordable Care Act in February 2009 but didn't meet with them about health care reform again until a year later.
At that point, Rove said, the president then tried to pressure House Republicans to vote for a bill in which they had no voice.
A longtime GOP consultant, strategist and policy adviser, Rove, a Denver native who grew up in Salt Lake City, has been acquainted with Bush since 1973 and worked on his two successful campaigns for Texas governor in 1994 and 1998. Unlike running a campaign, Rove said, there was no ebb and flow to working in the White House, which he described as being "like drinking from a fire hose every day."
Rove, 61, who resigned his official position in the White House in 2007, a year before the end of Bush's presidency, now also heads a Super PAC, American Crossroads, which, according to its website, is "a policy and grassroots advocacy organization that is committed to educating, equipping and mobilizing millions of American citizens to take action on the critical economic and legislative issues that will shape our nation's future in the years ahead."
A very small group of protesters, including a couple of members of the Occupy Buffalo movement, demonstrated outside the Montante Center prior to Rove's speech. Asked about their presence, Rove described them as "out of touch."
"They need to apply for a job and get a skill and make their way in life and not depend upon, you know, everybody else providing them everything they want free," Rove said of the protesters.
Protester Victoria Ross later retorted that she was fortunate enough to be employed.
"It's not about free stuff. It's about the common good," Ross said. "We don't want the rich to continue getting richer on the backs of the most vulnerable."
Monday, Rove said the Super PACs will play a "significant but not dispositive" role in the election.
"At the end of the day, they'll augment what the candidates do," Rove said. "Obviously, I'm involved with one, American Crossroads. We'll raise and spend $300 million.
"The labor unions will raise and spend $450 million. Ours will all be spent on behalf of Republicans. Theirs will all be spent on behalf of Democrats, and so it will tend to even things out."
Young people, in particular, Rove said, "had idealistic views of how Obama was going to perform, and he didn't live up to them.
"The signs aren't good . Last time around, 18- to 29-year-olds, the so-called millennials, represented 18 percent of the electorate. That was up from their previous performance, and they turned out with a very healthy margin for Obama, a 34 percent victory. . This time around, I suspect they will be a smaller share of the electorate.
"We do know this: In 2008, 3 million fewer Republicans turned out to vote than voted in 2004. . My suspicion is they're all coming out this time around," he added.
Rove said Romney "does need to do things in order to win, and that's to lay out with more concrete detail what it is he intends to do and then welcome the controversy that will emerge as President Obama attacks him over that."
"President Obama is the incumbent, and in the last six months, there have been, like, three polls since the (Democratic National Convention) in which he was at 50 percent or above," Rove added. "As an incumbent, you better be above 50 percent when Election Day comes because, in presidential races, if they're not for you, the tendency is to vote against you or stay home."