Boy Genius or Turd Blossom?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2006; 8:26 AM

There have been other famous political strategists--Lee Atwater, James Carville, Pat Caddell, Roger Ailes--but no one has ever been as lionized, and vilified, as Karl Rove.

The man's mystique is off the charts. Even now, Republicans are wondering whether he can save them, and Democrats are jittery that he will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Can Rove actually be the Machiavellian genius portrayed in the press? A brilliant historian and tactician building a new Republican majority (to his fans) or a divisive, base-coddling panderer who barely escaped indictment in the Plame case (to his detractors)?

I saw him in the talk radio tent at the White House last week and he looked like, well, a middle-aged balding guy trying to put the best spin on things in one interview after another.

Rove engineered Republican wins in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and there's nothing the press likes better than a winner. Unless it's a winner who's about to become a loser, allowing journalists to write their end-of-an-era pieces. Thus we have two major takeouts on the man himself.

The LAT calls him the "maestro," and describes how snow-ravaged Buffalo was declared a federal disaster area soon after Rove stumped for endangered Rep. Tom Reynolds (the White House says Rove had nothing to do with it):

"Polls show Democrats extending their leads in pivotal races across the country. But the man largely responsible for the Republicans' glory days -- and arguably still the most powerful political operative in the United States -- is far from discouraged. Instead, Rove is giving a virtuoso performance designed to prevent the Democrats from taking control of the House and Senate or, if that is no longer possible, to hold down the size of the Democratic victory to make it easier for the GOP to come back in 2008."

The WashPost questions whether Rove has something up his sleeve:

"Rove is just eight days from having his genius designation revoked -- or upgraded to platinum status.

"Even within Rove's own party, expectations are widespread that the Nov. 7 elections will mark a repudiation for the base-rallying, contrast-drawing brand of politics with which he and Bush have been so closely aligned. But it is a mark of the particular place Rove holds in the Washington psyche that even the most exuberant Democrats are wondering why he seems so confident.

"There are two questions. Is Rove just acting cocky as a way of lifting GOP morale, or does he really believe it? And, if the latter, is he deluding himself, or does he once again know something that Democrats do not?"

Greg Sargent feels so strongly that he has two Rove posts on different Web sites. On the LAT piece:

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