It’s hard to keep track of the number of candidates in the 2012 GOP presidential field with whom Karl Rove isn’t impressed. (He hit Rick Perry, for instance, on associating himself with the “nutty view” of the birther crowd).

FILE - In this May 17, 2010 file photo, former White House adviser Karl Rove gestures in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

In a Fox News appearance, Rove went all John Madden on Cain, pulling out a whiteboard to break down (check out the 1:00 mark in the video below) all of Cain’s problems. The former George W. Bush political brain enumerated six altogether, with abortion rights topping the list, as well as Cain’s “apples and oranges” answer on his 999 plan in last Tuesday’s GOP debate.

“The whole effect of this is not to create an image of him... being a flip flopper,” Rove said Monday. “I think it is to create an image of him as not being up to the task. That’s really deadly as a presidential candidate.”

But Cain, who will appear at a Tea Party rally in Texas on Tuesday night, said he is among the favorite in polls and that Rove is trying to trip him up in favor of Mitt Romney.

“It’s a good thing the voters are not looking at Karl Rove’s little whiteboard. I believe it is a deliberate attempt to damage me because I am not, quote unquote, the establishment choice. But why not go with the choice that the people seem to like?” Cain said in an interview with Byron York of the Washington Times.

“If I become the nominee, he has given Democrats talking points for a commercial to attack me. It makes no sense unless it’s a deliberate attempt on his part to try to push me down so that the candidate he wants rises to the top.”

Cain is right.

Rove is very much the voice of the GOP establishment. His tiffs with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sarah Palin only served to bolster their outsider cred.

But more importantly, Rove will have millions of dollars to pour into the 2012 campaign through American Crossroads, an outside super PAC that will be a major source of GOP cash, so when he speaks, in some ways, he is doing it as an investor. Rove is sizing up the field, assessing where those millions will have the biggest return.

In short, it’s probably better for a GOP candidate to have Rove following this simple rule: If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

More on Election 2012

Perry announces his flat-tax plan

Cain’s on abortion: Flip-flop-flip?

Perry and the birthers: ‘Good issue to keep alive’