August 4, 2000
GWEN IFILL: Karl Rove, welcome.
KARL ROVE: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: So now that the convention is over, can you tell us, was this the convention you wanted?
KARL ROVE: Absolutely. This is a fabulous convention. The party leaves here energized and enthusiastic, and they're ready to face the remaining 96 days of the campaign.
GWEN IFILL: Now comes the hard part: How do you build on this?
KARL ROVE: Well, by getting out there and campaigning enthusiastically around the country, with a message that's positive and optimistic. Governor Bush and Dick Cheney will hit the road on Friday-- they've hit the road on Friday. And they will be campaigning across the Midwest and then the West Coast. And they will be talking about reforming education, reforming Social Security, cutting taxes, strengthening defenses, and helping faith and community- based organizations confront the suffering that remains in America. It's a great agenda, it's one that will win in the fall elections, and it's one the American people will applaud and enjoy.
GWEN IFILL: Okay, let's talk turkey-- strategy. What kind of a bounce can you count on coming out of this convention?
KARL ROVE: Well, probably five or six points onto the five or six points that we led by. So we won't know until early next week what the bounce is. But bounces tend to dissipate, so we're going to go up and then we're going to come up down as the Democrats go up. And then we'll probably find ourselves in a very close tight race as of Labor Bay.
GWEN IFILL: So let's talk about how that race shapes up. What states do you have to try to get in November?
KARL ROVE: Well, the great thing for us is that there are a lot of states where Governor Bush is looking terrific today, that we've not won since 1984, 1988. Washington state, Oregon, California, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan-- we're looking great in these states, leading the polls. We're very close in the case of California, and yet we haven't won these states for a long time. There's a new poll out in West Virginia, where we are ahead. Every poll this year has had Governor Bush ahead in West Virginia. This is the state that the Republicans last carried in an open race in 1928. So for us, the map is complicated, because the map has so many possibilities.
We're ahead in states in New England, we're competitive in states in the mid-Atlantic, we're ahead in Delaware. The South is largely in our camp. The Rocky Mountain and plains states are fabulous for us. But it's going to be an interesting contest, because so much of the country that hasn't voted Republican in the recent elections is available for Governor Bush, and he's leading in most of those states today.
GWEN IFILL: Now so many of... So much of a conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats are about to go negative. Let's talk about the debates for a minute. How do you use that as a way to...
KARL ROVE: Well, let me correct it. They aren't about to, they have gone negative; they have they have bought $24 million worth of advertising, the last two weeks of which have been virtually all negative. They have run this week five negative television ads in 17 states, roughly 72 media markets around the country. They've already gone negative. President Clinton, Vice President Gore are already in full negative mode on Governor Bush and Dick Cheney. So they've already gone negative. They'll keep going negative because that's... they've got an incumbent Vice President, an administration during a time of prosperity. In the 220-some-odd polls that have been conducted since January of 1999, he's never cracked 50% in a single poll.
GWEN IFILL: Do you plan to debate Vice President Gore?
KARL ROVE: I'm confident there will be debates. Obviously, he's hoping for debates. He's a very good debater. He eviscerated Bill Bradley in the primaries. In 1988, when he ran for president, he proved himself to be... Al Gore proved himself to be a tough, competitive debater. So we know that they're risks, but we'll be in debates.
GWEN IFILL: Two debates, three debates, four debates?
KARL ROVE: No decision yet.
GWEN IFILL: So the conventional wisdom also has it that you lifted several pages from the Bill Clinton play book at the convention this week.
KARL ROVE: We think we wrote our own.
GWEN IFILL: "It's time for them to go"?
KARL ROVE: Well, it was a nice line, and we thought it had such resonance. My favorite line of the speech, however, was "they came in together, now we will see them out together."
GWEN IFILL: And how will you go about doing that really?
KARL ROVE: Well, we're going to have to run a campaign that's based upon the issues. We're going to have to lay out a bold agenda to the American people, which we have been doing. I mean, every delegate is leaving here tonight with a 476- page book of the governor's policy speeches and white papers. We're going to run a campaign on the issues, these five big issues that we talked about a moment ago: Education, Social Security, Medicare, defense, poverty, and tax cuts. And we're going to be talking about that endlessly for the next 12 weeks.
GWEN IFILL: Are you going to have some fences to mend with in your own party? There are some disgruntled conservatives at this convention. I even hear, however, that the governor is going to the ranch with John McCain after this convention.
KARL ROVE: Look, we enter the general election in an enviable position. We have the Republican Party strongly united behind Governor Bush. And you may find the people who are not happy with their seat assignments here, but the party as a whole is enthusiastic and united in a way that the Democrats are envious, and we're sort of surprised. It's been great.
GWEN IFILL: What about the role of Laura Bush? Has she become the anti-Hillary or is that dangerous?
KARL ROVE: Well, she becomes Laura Bush. She's not anti-anybody; she's Laura Bush. She's a unique person. You saw the speech on Monday night, it was magnificent, and that's only the second time that she's every addressed a large crowd like this. This woman in 1993 and 1994 never gave a single political speech. So for her to burst on the scene like she did on Monday was great and a terrific asset for us. But she'll make a great First Lady for America; she's a teacher, she's a librarian. Her focus will be on reading and the campaign and on education-- and that will be her focus if her husband is elected President.
GWEN IFILL: So coming out of Philadelphia, you only have a few more months to make your point. You've got some key debates, you have some key points that you have to... What, in a nutshell, do you have to do in these next few months?
KARL ROVE: Reassure people that Governor Bush understands the need to change the tone in Washington. That he is a person who is what they think he is-- a strong leader who's a different kind of Republican, who will move America in the direction that they'd like to see.
GWEN IFILL: Karl Rove, thank you very much.
KARL ROVE: Thanks, Gwen.