• With: Karl Rove

    This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And tonight: Karl Rove says Mr. Herman Cain just got a gift, and now Mr. Cain is leapfrogging past Governor Mitt Romney. So what is Mr. Cain going to do with that gift?

    Here's former adviser to President Bush, Karl Rove.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, nice to see you.

    KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER BUSH SENIOR ADVISER: Great to see you.

    VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you're still doing your notes...

    (CROSSTALK)

    VAN SUSTEREN: Still working on this. OK. All right. I realize it's only a poll, it's very early and it's a national poll, it's not Iowa, it's not New Hampshire. But tell me, Mr. Herman Cain leading at 27 percent.

    ROVE: Yes. First of all, I think -- I like the RealClearPolitics idea of averaging together the recent polls because it gives you a better sense of what is actually happening and sort of gets rid of the outliers, people who are either -- you know, polls that either overemphasizing or underemphasizing a candidate.

    If you look at their average, it's Mitt Romney at 23, Cain at 20, Perry at 14, Gingrich and Paul at 8. As Perry declines, Cain rises. And it begins in Florida with the -- after the poor debate performance by Perry and the -- and Cain wins the straw poll, and it's continued since then.

    Now, whether or not it's going continue to continue, we don't know. Herman Cain needs to get his campaign focused on the campaign and not book sales.

    VAN SUSTEREN: But he's getting -- but his book -- I thought -- the way I interpreted his book sales is that it was part of his campaign strategy. I forgot the subtitle of the book...

    ROVE: Well, but...

    VAN SUSTEREN: ... but that seemed like a way to get the word out.

    ROVE: Well, fine...

    VAN SUSTEREN: This is who I am, and this is...

    ROVE: Fine, but look, he spent -- with all due respect. he had four stops in Texas. I don't think that's -- you know, it's not an early primary, March 8th. He -- why did he spend a full day in Texas?

    Today he was in western Tennessee, which doesn't vote until at least March. He needs to get his bus to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. If he doesn't break through there -- and to break through there, you've got to show up, particularly in the first three. They have a very keen sense of their role in this, and they expect you to show up. And if you're not campaigning actively in those states one on one now, it's going to be a problem for you.

    VAN SUSTEREN: You know, that seems to make an abundant amount of sense. The only thing that's sort of curious about it is the fact that he is improving. Whatever his strategy is, his numbers are improving. I realize this is national and I realize that there's...

    (CROSSTALK)

    ROVE: Remember -- remember, though, four years ago at this very day, it was Rudy Giuliani at 30, Fred Thompson at 20, John McCain at 13, Mitt Romney at 11 and Mike Huckabee at 6. Huckabee was camped out in Iowa, and as a result, won Iowa and vaulted onto the national stage. And by the time we got around to voting, the two front-runners, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani, were nowhere to be seen.

    And so that's a cautionary lesson for Herman Cain. Look, he's got -- he has been given a gift, and the question is whether he's going to take that gift and transmute it into something more durable. And being on a bus tour in west Tennessee is not the way to go about doing it.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Does that suggest, then, that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who's been sort of a sleeper in the past few weeks in terms getting attention from the media, but she spent a lot of time in Iowa. I mean, that's her strategy. Does that put her in a more viable position?

    ROVE: She may be more viable position than the national polls give her credit for being because, look, my experience with Iowa is each one of these, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire, they have a different sort of tone to each one of them. In Iowa, they're slow to commit, but once they commit, they stay with you through thick or thin. It's sort of that Midwestern sensibility.

    In New Hampshire, they're slow to fall in love with you, but once they fall in love with you, they'll fall out of love with you, they'll fall in love with you, they'll fall out of love with you. And you hope that they're falling back in love with you about the time they go to vote.

    But she went to Iowa early. She's got -- she's from Waterloo originally, grew up there, represents the adjoining state in Congress. And she's got -- you know, she's got an organization in place. In a caucus, organization matters.

    And we need only look at four years ago on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton was the leader in the early polls and yet got crushed in the caucus states because she hadn't bothered to organize most of them -- Idaho, for example. And as a result, the guy who had organized them swiped a bunch of delegates, and those were his early victories, not the primaries, they were in the caucus states.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Governor Romney for years ago -- I remember his son -- and many of his sons, and he, too, was doing -- was driving around the state, hitting every single county in Iowa. Is he doing that kind of emphasis now in Iowa, or has he sort of ceded Iowa to others and focusing on other states?

    ROVE: I don't think he's made a decision because, look...

    VAN SUSTEREN: Too late?

    ROVE: No. He's got an organization in the state. He's got the advantage of having a list of people who supported him four years ago, augmented by the intelligence that his organization has been able to gather thus far. But I don't think he's made a decision whether or not to commit.

    VAN SUSTEREN: But isn't that like Mr. Herman Cain? Mr. Herman Cain...

    ROVE: Well, he's...

    VAN SUSTEREN: ... hasn't committed in Iowa, either!

    ROVE: Well, he's been going in and out, in and out. But he has an advantage that Herman Cain doesn't have, which is he's got a bunch of people in all the counties who know him and know him well enough to have signed up and said, I'm the Romney county chairman here in Cherokee County.

    Herman Cain needs to get that kind of apparatus in place if he's going to -- if he's going to shake Iowa. You've got to, if you're a challenger like Herman Cain, who has -- who's -- you know, look, he would be the first presidential candidate of a major political party since 1920 not to have held elective office and won the nomination. If elected president, he'd be the first president in history who never held elective office.

    So if you're -- if you're running uphill, you better seize the opportunities that are given to you, and this is an opportunity which wandering around western Tennessee on a bus is not exploiting.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Is that, though -- I mean -- I mean, the fact that he hasn't held an office, I actually think in this climate, inures to his benefit. You've got the Tea Party, who's so sick of Congress, and they predominantly -- we expect that they're going to vote Republican -- I mean, if anything I think it hurts more to have a background...