Transcript: Karl Rove on 'FOX News Sunday'

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Sunday," April 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE: For a closer look at what to expect in Pennsylvania and the general election, we turn to the architect of two presidential election victories and now FOX News analyst Karl Rove.

And, Karl, welcome back.


WALLACE: Two days out from the Pennsylvania primary, how do you see things going Tuesday night both in terms of the geography of the state and the demographics?

ROVE: Yes. Well, James Carville famously once said Pennsylvania consisted of Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in between. This is the so-called "T." It doesn't look like a "T," but that green area is called "The T" in Pennsylvania.

There'll be 3.8 million, 3.9 million registered Democrats. Only registered Democrats can participate in the primary, so we're likely to have half or more of those people turn out to vote.

About one-fifth of them are down in Philadelphia, 750,000 Democrats. Philadelphia itself is roughly equal African American and white population. This is going to be a strength area for Obama. How big and how well he does among African Americans on Tuesday night we ought to watch.

About 14 percent of the voters are in Allegheny County, which is Pittsburgh. They're blue-collar Democrats, much smaller African American percentage. About 27 percent of the citizens of Pittsburgh are African American.

Then you have the Philadelphia suburbs, which are these four counties outside of Philadelphia, and they are socially liberal Democrats, about 600,000 of them.

You have almost a million in cities around the state like Erie, and Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg, industrial towns by and large. And then finally, what's interesting is you have over a million registered Democrats in small-town Pennsylvania, in 50 counties. These are culturally conservative people who live in rural and small- town Pennsylvania that were the -- I guess sort of the focal point of Obama's comments.

WALLACE: Well, and let me ask you about that, because some liberal commentators say that Clinton has been using the Rove play book going after Obama on values like guns and religion. Does what you've have heard from her the last week sound familiar?

ROVE: Well, it's not exactly what I would have done, but, I mean -- and look. There are Democrats who are troubled by some of the things that Obama says. And why she has not made this an issue earlier, particularly framing it up as an issue that would be raised in the general election and what's his answer now, has eluded me.

For example, he very early on made the comment about true patriotism consists not on wearing a flag lapel pin but speaking out on issues. You can be a true patriot and speak out on issues and wear a flag lapel pin.

He was sort of questioning the patriotism of people who might put on a flag lapel pin but disagree with his opinions.

WALLACE: Now, Obama -- and we saw this in the debate and we've seen it ever since -- has gone back to playing the new politics card and saying that all of this are the political distractions, the game playing, of the old Washington.

Does that work? Is that effective?

ROVE: I think it would work more effectively if he were not himself reflective of the old Washington politics. We've seen him go after both Senator McCain and Senator Clinton in ways that even the media have come to say was fundamentally unfair.

I think if you step back for a minute, the narrative that's happened over the last four months since his win in Iowa to today is that he's become more of an ordinary politician, more of an ordinary Washington politician, a member of the United States Senate, not this aspirational and inspiring figure that he was during that period in November, December and January.

WALLACE: And can he recapture that brand as he's trying to do right now?

ROVE: Well, I don't think he can recapture it between now and the end of the primary season, because he is in a battle and it's sort of hard to get out of that particular battle.

But can he reposition himself for the general election? Yes. Let's see how well he does when he tries.

WALLACE: All right. Let me play the margin game with you I was trying to play with the two senators. How well does Clinton have to do? Is it enough for her to win, or given that unforgiving delegate map does she have to win by a certain margin to establish at least some momentum?

ROVE: Well, Senator Durbin was correct. From here on out, she needs to win just about 59.8 percent of the delegates -- of the 898 delegates who have yet to be elected. She has to win just under 60 percent of them in order to secure the nomination.

So she's got a stiff -- you know, a really steep hill to climb, yes.

WALLACE: Well, OK. But she doesn't need -- she's not going to get 60 percent of the vote.

ROVE: Oh, no, she's not going to get 60 percent. The polls are pointing to a -- right today, roughly would point to a six-point victory for her, which would mean that she would win 84 delegates to the 74 delegates of Obama and have roughly -- pick up about 10 delegates.

WALLACE: Is that enough for her?

ROVE: You know, it's better than nothing, but again, you've got to be winning 60 percent someplace in order to get there, either 60 percent in these primaries or more than 60 percent among the superdelegates who have yet to express an opinion.

WALLACE: All right. One of the big issues in the Democratic race is electability. And we're fortunate here at Fox News. You've been putting together these electoral maps. And let's put one of them up on the screen.

These are recent public state polls, state by state, and then you then assign states, red obviously being Republican, blue being Democrat.

This is Obama versus McCain, and you have McCain at 261 electoral votes there, which is just nine short of the majority he needs to get elected president. This, of course, is a snapshot in time. But that's up 20 for McCain from three weeks ago.

ROVE: Right. Look, if you take a look at all the -- either the individual state polls or the Gallup tracking poll, the last month or five -- you know, five weeks have been good for Senator McCain.

And look. We are several geological ages away from the fall election, so nobody should take this as determinative of how the election's going to turn out. But this race is far more competitive at this point than I suspect either the Democrats are comfortable with or that McCain would expect it to be.

He should be way behind at this point. He secured the nomination, dropped off the front page with two very, you know, strong Democrat candidates who are emphasizing, both of them in their own way, change, both of them willing to say Bush-McCain in the same sentence a lot of times, and yet McCain is hanging in there with both of them in the polls.

WALLACE: You say that it's been good for McCain, but let's take a look at the Clinton-McCain map, which is different. You now have McCain at 214 electoral votes against her. That's down 48 for McCain from three weeks ago.

ROVE: Right.

WALLACE: You have some states, toss-up states like Washington and Oregon there I see in the northwest, that were for McCain and now you have them -- yes, they were for McCain and against Clinton, and now you have them as toss-ups.

ROVE: Right. Yes, that's interesting. But even more important than that is the industrial Midwest. For example, McCain carries Ohio against Obama, but not against Clinton.

Clinton is able to keep together blue collar Democrats who, if she's not the nominee, defect to McCain. And so she, in an odd way, is sort of firming up the Democrat base, making her more comfortable in states like Ohio.

Obama is able to contest states like New Mexico and Colorado. He's in better shape in those states than Clinton is.

WALLACE: Looking at that poll and everything else -- her high unfavorabilities, his agent of change but also he's made some gaffs -- right now -- and I understand it's -- as you say, it's a long time till November -- who do you think is the stronger Democratic candidate, Obama or Clinton?

ROVE: You know, I've tried to avoid answering that question, because it focuses your mind on the wrong thing, which is which one do you beat. But I do think that each one of them has their strength and weakness.

She is a more durable candidate who's better known and tougher to move. On the other hand, Obama is the untested candidate and can either perform extremely well as he did in Iowa, or extremely badly as he did in the debate last week.

I would have to say that I think that on points, I'd give it to Clinton, but not by much.

WALLACE: OK. Let's turn to another issue, the vice president, because people are -- perhaps because there isn't much going on on the Republican side, starting to talk about possible running mates for John McCain.

We asked you. You came up with these four, and let's take a look at them. There they are. That's Mitt Romney, Governors Pawlenty of Minnesota and Charlie Crist of Florida, and former congressman and Bush budget director Rob Portman of Ohio.

How do you handicap that race right now? ROVE: Well, first of all, this is a big presidential decision. It's the first presidential decision that any candidate, Democrat or Republican, makes, even before they get elected president. So they need to make it seriously.

I picked those four as sort of representatives of the kinds of areas that McCain has got to be looking at. Romney represents the people who ran in the primary. And he is probably, of the people who ran in the primary, the most plausible.

Pawlenty represents sort of -- you know, sort of more experienced people who have been around. He's a two-term governor of Minnesota.

Crist represents sort of newer faces. He's been governor for only two years, but he's a big battleground state.

And then sort of an out-of-the-box choice, you know, Rob Portman represents a battleground state, Ohio, with a varied record, respected member of Congress, very strong on economic matters, very strong on trade, for example, which is going to be a flashpoint in the general election.

WALLACE: Now, I notice you didn't mention another name that's getting a lot of attention, Condoleezza rice. Do you think it would be a mistake for McCain to name somebody who is so closely tied to the Bush administration?

ROVE: Well, I don't think that question even needs to be asked. I had dinner with Condi, who is a close friend. And I said to her during the course of dinner -- I said, "I've got some friends in Congress who want to go out there and boost your name for vice president, and I've been holding them back and discouraging them from doing so," and she said, "Tell them no."

I mean, look. She has no interest in elective office. She wants to return to Stanford. She's got a couple interesting careers. And the only election that Condi Rice would like to participate in is the election for NFL commissioner, and that's not available.

WALLACE: Finally, should McCain name his running mate sooner or later?

ROVE: He needs to keep a little bit of -- first of all, this will take some time. If you do it right, it takes a lot of time, because you have to vet these people. You have to go into every nook and cranny of their life.

I mean, you know, this is the YouTube era, and it's the culture of the visual, and it's the Google era. And everything that they have done will come out. So you need to very carefully vet it and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the record.

The second thing is you need to keep something exciting for a time when nothing else -- nobody else will be wanting to pay attention to you. So it strikes me that you either make this decision and announce it in late July or early August, at a time when we are going to be looking for ways to draw attention to you, or you save it for the convention.

The Republican convention, our convention, is the first week of September, so that's awful late. That's eight or nine weeks before the election. My gut tells me they'll probably end up doing something in late July or early August.

WALLACE: Karl, thank you. We're going to leave it there, but we'll be back together on Tuesday night to cover the Pennsylvania primary.

ROVE: Looking forward to it. The "T."

WALLACE: Me, too, the "T," the Pennsylvania "T." Thank you, sir.

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