I had the unexpected surprise yesterday of lunching with Karl Rove, known as the architect of President George W. Bush’s election campaigns.
Rove was among the many Republican luminaries attending a tax policy conference sponsored by the Bush Institute on Tuesday. The former President himself was at the conference, along with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Maine Governor Paul LePage, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty, Forbes editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, CNBC reporters Maria Bartiromo and Larry Kudlow, and John Stossel of Fox News.
With all those celebrities around, I don’t think Rove had any particular plan to join me at the table, and I have to admit that I didn’t really tell him I’m a journalist as I barely had the chance to give him my name when I introduced myself. Still, it’s tempting to share a few tidbits, hopefully without going too far in disclosing a private conversation. As a Fox News analyst, I’m sure he’s used to be being around journalists anyway, and we generally can't keep information to ourselves.
The ostensible reason why he dropped by was to ask two of the other people at my table to make a contribution to fund Mitt Romney in the campaign to defeat President Obama. He used somewhat stronger language than “defeat.” It’s well known that Rove is out to raise $300 million for the campaign through fundraising groups like American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which he and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie co-founded. Rove told the folks at my table that so far they have raised $250 million, which is certainly an impressive amount, and he is sure to get that extra $50 million before long. He contrasted that with the $3 donations that the Obama campaign is apparently soliciting from donors via email to send to the President’s re-election campaign.
Rove also shared some unfavorable opinions about a Republican lawmaker who was forced to run in a new district this year, but it wouldn’t be fair to say who or what he said. He also talked about why the donors at the table were always getting blitzed by emails and letters from particular candidates who had their names spelled wrong. He noted that this was a problem with the merge purge address validation software used to maintain mailing lists, and added that he had a lot of experience in that business. He topped it off by posing for photos with my table companions.
Alas, I didn’t ask for a photo, though I have to admit it would have been a good souvenir.