Not long ago, Karl Rove seemed toxic: the brains of a disastrous presidency, tarred by scandal. Today, as the mastermind of a billion-dollar war chest—and with surrogates in place in the Romney campaign—he’s the de facto leader of the Republican Party. But in Rove’s long game, 2012 may be just the beginning.
by CRAIG UNGER, Vanity Fair | Illustration by André Carrilho.
On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, about two dozen Republican power brokers gathered at Karl Rove’s Federal-style town house on Weaver Terrace in northwest Washington, D.C., to strategize about the fall midterm elections.
Rove, then 59, had hosted this kind of event many times before. Six years earlier, he’d held weekly breakfasts for high-level G.O.P. operatives to plan for the 2004 fall elections. Back then, as senior adviser to President George W. Bush, Rove oversaw Bush’s re-election campaign. More important, he was attempting to implement a master plan to build a permanent majority through which Republicans would maintain a stranglehold on all three branches of government for the foreseeable future. This was not simply about winning elections. It represented a far more grandiose vision—the forging of a historic re-alignment of America’s political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state.
But now Rove was no longer in the White House. He had been one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States, but, to many Republicans, his greatest achievement—engineering the presidency of George W. Bush—had become an ugly stain on the party’s reputation. [MORE]