Karl Rove and what comes next

As the Republicans' chief strategist steps aside, the GOP must think about the face it wants to present for the future.

Published August 13, 2007 6:40PM (EDT)

Maybe we've been doing this too long, but our first reaction to the news that Karl Rove is resigning was to wonder why he's doing it now. Which is to say, what does he want all of us not to be thinking about while we're busy thinking about him?

And along those lines, the first thought we had this morning was this: Jeez, Rove really didn't want Mitt Romney to have the post-Iowa day in the sun that he would be enjoying today if only Rove hadn't knocked him out of the news cycle.

Like we said, maybe we've been doing this too long. Although Rove used his going-away interview with Paul Gigot to fire a shot at Hillary Clinton -- she's "fatally flawed," he said -- we have no idea how he feels about Romney, Mike Huckabee or anyone else in the GOP presidential field.

But would Rove -- or any Republican, for that matter -- be happy if the subject of the day weren't what happened this weekend in Iowa? Ryan Sager seems to think so. The author of "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party" says the GOP can't move past the sorry spectacle of the Ames Straw Poll soon enough:

"The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate," Sager writes in the New York Sun today. "The pandering from the stage told the story. Mr. Romney promised not a chicken in every pot, but 'a button on every computer' for parents to block obscene material. Anti-immigrant ranter Tom Tancredo nearly brought the house down decrying the fact that Americans sometimes have to 'Press 1' for English. Mr. Huckabee earned his second-place finish in part by making the specious claim that farm subsidies safeguard America's food independence ... Senator Brownback of Kansas, the third-place finisher, declared as he often does in his stump speech: 'All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus.'

"This all may fly in Ames. But it won't in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the interior West, all of which will be battlegrounds in this presidential election and for many elections to come. Republicans need to broaden their appeal in this tough environment, and the first step is to turn their sights away from Ames and toward the rest of the nation."

Or, say, to the resignation of Karl Rove.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Karl Rove Mitt Romney War Room