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Rove Road-Tests Tougher Attack on Democrats

By Michael Abramowitz and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Sunday, October 22, 2006

BUFFALO, Oct. 21 -- Republicans have been promising they would ratchet up the rhetoric against Democrats in the final two weeks of the fall campaign, and the man President Bush called "The Architect" of his political campaigns offered a preview of what they have in mind on Friday night.

Appearing in support of embattled GOP Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), Karl Rove offered biting jibes against House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), took a shot at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and asserted that Democratic policies would leave the country weaker.

"You can't say I want to win the war but not be willing to fight the war," said Rove, Bush's top political adviser. "And if leading Democrats have their way, our nation will be weaker and the enemies of our nation will be stronger. And that's a stark fact, and it's the reason that this fall election will turn very heavily on national security."

Officially, Rove was speaking at the annual dinner for the Erie County Republican Party, but in many ways, the appearance was a show of support for Reynolds, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, who is in danger this fall after questions about his role in responding to the Mark Foley page scandal.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was supposed to be the speaker at the dinner and rally, but he canceled, pleading a scheduling conflict, the Buffalo News said. McCain did speak to the rally by telephone, praising Reynolds as "one of my heroes."

Rove stepped in at dinner and used his speech to road-test new lines of attack on the Democrats. The basic themes -- that voters face a stark choice between the parties on taxes and terrorism -- have been a Bush standard. But Rove, who once claimed liberals preferred "therapy" to war against terrorists, delivered them with an acerbity not seen from his boss.

For instance, he needled congressional Democrats for voting against a GOP plan to try terrorist suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Many Democrats said the plan violated basic rights, but Rove rejected that. "You need to have the ability to try these people without worrying about the ACLU showing up saying, 'Wait a minute, did you Mirandize them when you found them on the battlefield,' " he said. "With all due respect, I don't happen to remember that in World War II, that when we captured Nazis and Japanese and took them to camps, that the first thing we did was provide them legal aid."

He also went after the would-be House speaker for voting against renewing the USA Patriot Act, the warrantless wiretapping program and the war in Iraq. "With a record like that, you can see why Nancy Pelosi wouldn't want this election to be about national security," Rove said.

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly responded, "Clearly, the White House is getting desperate to keep their rubber-stamp Republican Congress."

A Wrench in Nevada's Governor's Race

In Sin City, politics may be reaching a new low.

Less than three weeks before voters choose between Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) and state Sen. Dina Titus (D), the Nevada governor's race has been rocked by allegations that Gibbons assaulted a woman outside a Las Vegas restaurant.

Chrissy Mazzeo made three 911 calls about the incident. At a news conference Thursday, Gibbons denied wrongdoing, insisting he was helping Mazzeo regain her balance.

"I categorically deny that I ever engaged in any inappropriate behavior," said Gibbons, arguing he acted like "a gentleman."

Regardless, the story is not likely to disappear before Election Day. Gibbons and Mazzeo have hired lawyers, and the public relations fight is on in earnest.

Before the incident, Gibbons, who has held the 2nd District since 1996, appeared to be a shoo-in to replace outgoing Gov. Kenny C. Guinn (R). Gibbons labeled his Democratic rival as a Las Vegas liberal, calling her "Dina Taxes."

Although Nevada is competitive on the presidential level -- President Bush carried it 50 percent to 48 percent in 2004 -- Republicans enter most statewide races with an advantage.

It is unclear how large an impact the incident will have on Gibbons's chances. Several Republican gubernatorial candidates in such places as Iowa and Colorado have watched their numbers sink in the wake of the Foley page scandal. Gibbons has not seen the same erosion, but if this scandal continues, he may find himself in a far more competitive race than he expected.

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