Karl Rove: Obama's 'passive indifference' on Louisiana

Former Bush adviser contrasts president's flood disaster response to Hurricane Sandy


Every week, Fox News contributor Karl Rove wraps up the last week in politics and offers an inside look at the week ahead.

Management Changes: After a string of bad weeks, Donald Trump finally had a good one that started with a shakeup of his campaign.

By week’s end, “out” was campaign chairman Paul Manafort, shown the door over revelations about his ties to Russian oligarchs and Putin’s Ukrainian political allies.  “In” was a new campaign style as Trump read from prepared texts, offered several appeals to African-American voters to consider supporting him, and made an adroit, low-key visit to flooded Louisiana while President Obama was preoccupied with his vacation.

Before his departure, Manafort appeared to advocate for this more restrained, focused approach. In her Sunday talk show appearances this past weekend, Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, appears to also be pressing this strategy. 

It will be interesting to see if Trump continues along these lines, especially given the appointment of campaign CEO Steven Bannon, the firebrand behind the primary challenge to Speaker Paul Ryan, outspoken critic of Fox News, and advocate of blowing up the GOP. 

Apparently, Mr. Obama was not going to allow the Louisiana flooding to interfere with at least eight rounds of golf, a day of swimming at a private beach, a Clinton fundraiser, and four nights in a row out on the town in tony Martha’s Vineyard.

Shifting Foundations: Hillary Clinton, by contrast, had a not-so-good week as more questions emerged about the Clinton Foundation and pay-to-play while she was Secretary of State.  The Clinton campaign moved to end the controversy by pledging that the Foundation would not accept contributions from foreign individuals or companies if she were elected president. Is that enough? I doubt it.  Stayed tuned.

Obama’s Prescient Attack:  In September 2005, then-Senator Obama attacked President George W. Bush’s handling of Katrina by accusing him of “passive indifference.”  This ignored the fact Bush was personally pressuring state and local officials to execute their disaster emergencies plans days, starting days before Katrina’s landfall, cancelling his vacation and returning to Washington after the hurricane hit.  Mr. Bush mobilized all the resources of the federal government, was in constant, close communication with disaster officials, and visited New Orleans within days.

For more than 10 days after this latest Louisiana flooding began, with at least 13 dead, tens of thousands displaced, and 60,700 homes damaged or destroyed, Mr. Obama did not issue a statement or otherwise interrupt his vacation. He will finally make a trip to Louisiana on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama’s 2005 description was not an accurate description of President Bush but it is an apt self-portrait in 2016.  Apparently, Mr. Obama was not going to allow the Louisiana flooding to interfere with at least eight rounds of golf, a day of swimming at a private beach, a Clinton fundraiser, and four nights in a row out on the town in tony Martha’s Vineyard.

Big Change ­– Really?  There’s been a lot of interest in recent polls but it’s important to remember that the RealClearPolitics average had the race on July 1 at 44.6 percent for Clinton to 39.8 percent for Trump. On Monday, August 22, that same average was 47.0 percent to 41.5 percent. This shows a 2.4-point bump for Clinton and a 1.7-point bump for Trump, for a net increase in Clinton’s margin is 0.7 percent. 

Perhaps more important than ballot changes are the candidate’s favorables/unfavorables.  On July 1 in the RealClearPolitics average, Clinton was 39.6 percent favorable/55.6 percent unfavorable while Trump was 33.6 percent favorable/61.1 percent unfavorable. 

On Monday, August 11 in in the RealClearPolitics average, Clinton was 43 percent favorable/53.5 percent unfavorable while Trump was 33.6 percent favorable/62.7 percent unfavorable. 

That’s an improvement in Clinton’s favorables of 3.4-points and a decline in her unfavorable of 2.1-points while Trump’s favorables stayed flat and his unfavorable grew 1.6-points. 

Generally an increase in a candidate’s favorables presages an improvement in the ballot. The question is whether Trump can drive her negatives back up again.

Spot TV: One reason Trump appears to be doing less well in most battleground states than his national numbers suggest he should be is the disparity in spot TV purchases. The Clinton campaign has aired or reserved $150 million in ad spending while her supporting Priorities USA Super PAC started running more than $40 million in ads on May 18.  By contrast, the Trump campaign has just started airing $5 million in ads, leaving Team Clinton with a 40:1 advantage in ad dollars spent or placed so far. 

Karl Rove joined Fox News Channel as a political contributor in February 2008. He also currently serves as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads. His latest book is "The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters" (Simon & Schuster, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @KarlRove.