In a new National Journal article (not available online), writer Peter Stone dives deep into the conservative establishment and gets campaign staffers, movement operatives, and the ubiquitous “strategists” and “consultants” to talk about Karl Rove’s current role in presidential politics. The takeaway? Rove is back. In fact, he probably never left. The campaign that is trying to prove it’s not a second coming of George W. Bush is using the President’s former chief strategist on a regular basis.
Stone says not to be fooled by Rove’s hesitance to be identified with John McCain publicly.
…away from the spotlight, Rove has been busy pitching in by giving informal advice to McCain’s team and spending a considerable amount of time as an outside adviser to Freedom’s Watch, the conservative political group that is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to help elect House GOP candidates. William Weidner, a Freedom’s Watch board member, recently told National Journal that Rove has offered strategic advice to both the group and its major financial backer, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. Weidner, president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which Adelson chairs, called Rove “an invaluable
asset” to the group….
While the top of McCain’s campaign won’t admit to extensive conversations with Rove, fearing that Rove is too closely associated with the Bush Administration and its worst scandals, some folks are willing to spill the beans off the record.
“Generally speaking, Rove’s advice is action-oriented and useful,” said another senior consultant to the McCain camp. “It’s always well received.” This McCain adviser noted that Rove talks periodically to Black and a few other top campaign aides on several key matters. “It can be policy ideas, messaging ideas, fundraising prospects, or people who need calls from someone in the campaign.” Rove is “part of the information network that the campaign has,” this adviser said, adding that Rove talks fairly regularly to such key people as Wayne Berman, a major fundraiser for McCain; Nicolle Wallace, a communications adviser;
and Steve Schmidt, a senior aide.
And Rove is even more deeply involved with Freedom’s Watch, the internally troubled right wing group that seeks to make trouble for Democrats throughout the campaign season.
[William] Weidner [a Freedom’s Watch board member] stressed that Rove has been “very generous with his time and ideas. He gives up his time for those things he believes in.”
Two GOP strategists said they have heard that Rove has worked out a private
consulting deal with Adelson; this arrangement, one strategist reported, pays Rove in the mid-six figures for giving speeches and providing assistance to Freedom’s Watch on labor union issues, a top priority of the group.