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Rove 'dukes it out' with NPR host over polling data

Ron Brynaert
Published: Wednesday October 25, 2006

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During a National Public Radio interview, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove "duked it out" with the host over polling data, RAW STORY has learned.

The exchange took place yesterday during the White House's scheduled "Radio Day."

After midterm election interviewer Robert Siegel stated that "many might consider you on the optimistic end of realism" regarding Republican hopes to retain both Houses in November, Rove suggested that the NPR host was biased.

"Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that," Rove said. "You're just making a comment."

"I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day," Seigel responded

"No you're not!" Rove exclaimed.

Rove said that he was reviewing 68 polls a week, and that "unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races," as opposed to public polls reported in the media.

"You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally, but that do not impact the outcome," Rove said.

Rove claimed that the polls "add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House."

"You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math," Rove said. "I'm entitled to 'the' math."

Full transcript of interview which can be heard at NPR:

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MR. SIEGEL: According to Karl Rove, Nancy Pelosi isn't about to become speaker of the House, nor is any other Democrat. And President Bush's top political strategist says the Democrats hopes of taking control of the Senate will end once the votes are counted in two weeks' time.

He spoke with us at Radio Day, a talk-show interview fest held under a large tent on the north lawn of the White House.

MR. ROVE: I see several things. First of all, unlike the general public, I'm allowed to the see the polls on the individual races. And after all, this does come down to individual contests between individual candidates.

And second of all, I see the individual spending reports and contribution reports. For example, at the end of August in 30 of the most competitive races in the country -- the House races -- the Republicans had $33 million cash on hand and the Democrats had just over 14 million (dollars).

MR. SIEGEL: And all of that money, I assume, would put a lot of television advertising out there.

MR. ROVE: Well, a lot of -- and a lot of organized volunteer activity. You need to have, you know, you need to have the staff and the infrastructure and the materials to give to your last -- your large army of volunteers to get out to vote.

MR. SIEGEL: And what do you tell all those people? You say, "We have to keep a majority on Capitol Hill because dot, dot, dot?" "We have to re-elect your guy, regardless of what party he's with."

MR. ROVE: Well, I think what you need to do is you need to make it a choice between two candidates so that you've got a choice between candidate A and candidate B. And on the big issues, candidate A represents the values of his or her district or state and candidate B doesn't.

MR. SIEGEL: What are the values? What are they?

MR. ROVE: Well, for example, look, one -- the war on terror. Do you support in a time of war reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the terrorist surveillance program? There's a vote in the House; 88 percent of the Democrats in the House voted against giving additional authority to a program to listen in on suspected al Qaeda figures calling or trying to contact people inside the United States. The vote on the CIA interrogation bill -- where, again, over 80 percent of the Democrats in the House and Senate voted against a program of the CIA interrogating high-value targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11.

MR. SIEGEL: You're saying, in fact, the top three issues for the GOP this fall are the war on terror, the war on terror and the war on terror?

MR. ROVE: No, no. I gave you three examples of the war on terror. We can talk about taxes where 85 percent of Democrats in the Congress voted against cutting taxes on income, cutting taxes on families with children, cutting taxes on married couples at work. So my point is, make it a choice between two different candidates.

MR. SIEGEL: We're in the home stretch, though. And many might consider you on the optimistic end of realism about --

MR. ROVE: Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that. You're just making a comment.

MR. SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day.

MR. ROVE: No you're not. No you're not!

MR. SIEGEL: No, I'm not --

MR. ROVE: I'm looking at 68 polls a week. You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally, but that do not impact the outcome --

MR. SIEGEL: -- name races between -- certainly Senate race

MR. ROVE: Well, like the polls today showing that Corker's ahead in Tennessee; or the race -- polls showing that Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.

MR. SIEGEL: Leading Webb in Virginia. Yes.

MR. ROVE: Yeah, exactly.

MR. SIEGEL: Have you seen the DeWine race and the Santorum race and -- I don't want to --

MR. ROVE: Yeah. Look, I'm looking at all these Robert and adding them up. And I add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math. I'm entitled to "the" math.

MR. SIEGEL: I don't know if you're entitled to a different math, but you're certainly entitled to --

MR. ROVE: I said you were entitled to yours.

MR. SIEGEL: There are also a lot of stories about people being very disturbed about the course of the war in Iraq and about people who feel that this is not the way it was supposed to happen.

MR. ROVE: No war ever happens the way it was supposed to happen. I'd love for somebody to show me a war that rolled out exactly the way that it did. I do know this, though: The people, as they get close to the voting decision, focus on the issue of what -- the consequences of winning and the consequences of losing. And I think we saw this earlier this year in a blue state among blue voters and that's the Connecticut senatorial primary. There was only one issue: Iraq. Thirty-four of the states voters are Democrats eligible to participate in the primary. Forty percent of them turned out. Just over 7 percent of them voted to get out now, in a blue state.

Lieberman went from being way behind to being narrowly behind on Election Day, because as the election got closer, people had to think about the consequences to America of winning or losing.

MR. SIEGEL: How then do you read -- or how then do you look ahead to the election in terms of Iraq policy? If the Republicans maintain majorities on the Hill it's a ratification of the Iraq policy?

MR. ROVE: Well, I think Iraq and the economy play a role in virtually every race, but there are also local considerations in the local contests between two individuals that at the end of the day matters for a great deal of the contest.

It's not a -- and there's a natural human desire to simplify everything to one big thing. You know, Curley's (sp) line from the movie, "One thing." But that's not the way politics really is. Politics is a complex equation which voters are going to be examining a variety of issues and a variety of characteristics as they arrive at their decision.

MR. SIEGEL: Karl Rove, thank you very much for talking with us.

MR. ROVE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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