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Karl Rove Leaves, Romney Wins Iowa Straw Poll

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

He was the man who got much of the credit for the rise of George W. Bush. More than that, Karl Rove was credited with managing the Republican Party takeover of Texas and with holding steady through two bitterly fought presidential elections. He spoke of building a permanent Republican majority. He was also accused of dirty politics and ultimately questioned by a special prosecutor. And now, Karl Rove is leaving the White House. He told The Wall Street Journal he's resigning effective August 31st.

We're getting at some analysis this morning from NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What does Rove's departure mean?

ROBERTS: Well, it means something we all know, which is that George Bush's political life is over. Karl Rove has been there from the beginning, and the president is in the last days of a second term and he doesn't really need his political guru anymore. And Karl Rove told The Wall Street Journal that he had to do it for his family, which is what people normally say.

But he did say that the White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten had said if anybody stayed past Labor Day of this year, that they would have to stay until the end of the term, that it would be - I assume that means there will be just too little time between now and the end of the term to do anything else.

And Rove realized that this was his time to go. He said he didn't want to do it after the 2006 election, that that would have been a sour note. Then there was the immigration debate. And as you just alluded to, he wanted to build the Republican Party. He saw reaching out to Hispanics as a way to do that.

He didn't say this to The Wall Street journal, but obviously he had survived the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's name. And he did tell Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal that he knew people would say that now he was leaving to avoid congressional scrutiny. But he said, quote, "I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob." And there will still be congressional subpoenas. Congress will still be after him.

INSKEEP: Well now you mentioned the president's political life can be seen as over. But he's still president, still got some time left, so who replaces his political adviser there in the White House?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, nobody can replace Karl Rove. I mean, he is essentially sui generis. He - you know, there has been a book written called, "Bush's Brain." I mean, he is the chief person behind George Bush, and the Democrats, of course, have demonized him as some sort of devil behind George Bush. But at the end of a presidential term, often you get a young person coming into the White House that you don't know, and that person starts a political career. Think Dick Cheney at the end of the Ford administration or Jim Jones who went on to Congress from Oklahoma at the end of the Johnson administration. So we'll see who that is and then look to that person's future.

INSKEEP: Well now Karl Rove is letting people know about his resignation just shortly after there was an actual vote in the race to replace President Bush.

ROBERTS: An actual vote, the Iowa straw poll. And now the Republicans are down one candidate. Mitt Romney won that straw poll. And now Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, has gotten out of the race. He said he had to come in first or second; he didn't come anywhere near it. And it's interesting, Steve, because, you know, Tommy Thompson's the kind of candidate who on paper looks just right: a successful governor of a Midwestern state, Wisconsin, enacted welfare reform in a way that was highly regarded, came to the cabinet in health care, a subject that people care a great deal about. But just never energized anybody in a political campaign, and so now he's out.

INSKEEP: And Mitt Romney is in. He was the winner of the straw poll over the weekend.

ROBERTS: He was, and he went on Fox News yesterday, the favorite venue of Republican candidates, and really sort of made a point of taking off after Barack Obama. It's interesting, Steve. I think these Republicans all have their campaign plans against Hillary Clinton, whom Karl Rove, by the way, said he thought would be the Democratic nominee. They don't quite know what to do about Barack Obama and they seem to be going after him big time.

INSKEEP: Hmm, okay. Cokie, thanks very much. That's analysis, as we get every Monday morning, from NPR's Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.