Karl Rove analyzes potential GOP field for 2016

A look ahead to the presidential election


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: So all eyes are on 2016 and the emerging GOP field. New reports indicate that former Governor Mitt Romney is moving full steam ahead with a potential third run for the White House after his former running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, announced he is definitely not throwing his hat in the ring. Plus, Senator Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio -- they're also making some headlines. Listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: There are a lot of folks in Washington who argue that the way Republicans should win is that we should nominate a candidate from the mushy middle, someone who is right in the middle, who is near the Democrats, so there's not much distinction. And if you look at it, we've tried that. I mean, look, it's a theory. But we keep trying the theory, and it keeps not working.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: The two most important questions are, what impact will it have on your family, and that's first and foremost.  And we've talked through that. I think the second one is the more important question at this stage, and that is where's the best place for me to achieve this agenda of restoring the American dream. 

When you decide that the best place for you to serve your country is to run for president of the United States, I think that's a decision you make irrespective of who else might be in the race.


HANNITY: All right, here now with reaction, Fox News contributor, "The Architect," Karl Rove. 

Here's what I'm looking for. I'm a conservative. I want the most conservative candidate with the most inspiring vision, very specific things that will solve the country's problems, that can win. That's what I'm looking for, Karl. What do you see in the field?

KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SR. ADVISER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I think we're right here at the beginning. And let's not kid ourselves.  There's a long way to go before we have a good sense of how these people are going to look and be in 2016, and particularly in the context of a general election.

We think we know a lot about them from their past experience, from either Ted Cruz in 2010 or what Scott Walker's been doing in Wisconsin, or what Jeb Bush did as governor, or what Mitt Romney did last time around.  

But the contest this time around is going to be so different and the dynamics are going to be so different than they were in the past that it's going to take us awhile before these candidates begin to sort of gel in the mold, in the model, in the form that they're going to take for 2016.

And as a result, it's going to be exciting to watch. And I'm with you, we want the most conservative candidate with and optimistic forward-looking vision who can win.

HANNITY: All right, let's go through the governors that may run. We got Governor Perry, OK, former governor, he's going to get in the race.  Scott Walker -- I think he's contemplating a run. Maybe John Kasich will run. Maybe Bobby Jindal? What other governors? Christie?

ROVE: Well, we have former -- we have Governor Christie. We have former governor Romney, apparently now, and former governor Bush, and we might have Governor Snyder of Michigan who's also mentioned. Let me correct you on one thing. Governor Perry is still governor until the 20th of January.


ROVE: So you better be careful if you come to Texas before the 20th of January and disrespect our governor!

HANNITY: No, I'm friends with Governor Perry. I'm an honorary Texan.  So don't worry. We're all good there. 

All right, so -- then we got senators. We got Rand Paul. We got Ted Cruz. We got Marco Rubio, maybe a dark horse, John Thune maybe? Who might get in?

ROVE: Well, first of all, you put your finger on an interesting thing. Traditionally, we've had more senators running than governors. And this time around, we've already got more governors being mentioned than we do have senators. We've got one other governor we didn't talk about -- or actually, two more governors. Governor Pataki of New York is -- former governor is talking about running, and so's former Governor Bob Ehrlich of Maryland. 

So to -- so for the political junkies, one of the interesting things is that ratio is completely reversed. Typically, more senators than governors. This time around, a lot more governors.


ROVE: ... Santorum...

HANNITY: Senator Rick Santorum. I think he's going to run.

ROVE: Right. And you have former Governor Huckabee, as well.


ROVE: So we've got at least five senators, and I think the number is 11 governors, current or past.

HANNITY: Let me go to the comment that Ted Cruz made about the mushy middle. I mean, I know there's always this battle, Tea Party conservatives, more establishment candidates. The argument would be, OK, Bob Dole was more establishment, middle of the road. Same with Senator John McCain. They didn't win. And conservatives are saying maybe we need a guy like Reagan, who challenged the establishment in 1976 when he took on a sitting president, Gerald Ford. 

Is that case -- can that case be made? Do you think there'll be a struggle? Do you think it'll be an intramural war, a battle? Is it going to be ugly?

ROVE: Well, I hope it's not ugly. I'd say two things. One is, remember, Reagan '76 lost. It was the optimistic Reagan who was the unifier in 1980 who won. And I think there -- that's a -- there's an important...

HANNITY: Well, Reagan got close in '76, much closer than people anticipated.


ROVE: Well, he got close, but he ended up losing the nomination and we lost the general election. 

But here's my point. Reagan won in 1980, even though it was four years later and he still had some antagonisms left over from '76. And he did so by focusing those wonderful years between '77 and '79, when he does those radios. There's a wonderful book by Marty Anderson (ph), who just passed, who was Reagan's domestic policy adviser, who found the original scripts.

And what you see there is a very active mind who was focused on trying to define a positive image and a positive agenda for the future. What does he want to do when he runs for president a second time? Or actually, in this case, a third time. He was briefly a candidate in 1968. And you see the mind of Reagan as he explores...

HANNITY: It's Reagan...

ROVE: ... these questions in his own handwriting.

HANNITY: Yes, Reagan in his own handwriting. I mean, I think it's the best book about Reagan you can ever read because...

ROVE: Written in his own words. It is fabulous!


HANNITY: You can see him crossing out things and putting in and...

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: It's really good. 

All right, let's talk on the Democratic side.

ROVE: Well, but let me -- let me -- let me make this -- let me finish this point, though. The point is this, Reagan -- I thought Ted Cruz hit it on the nose the other day in his (INAUDIBLE) speech, when he said, "Here's what we ought to be about. And it's always easier in politics to say what you're against. It's harder to say what you're for."

And that's what Reagan was involved in in those important years, was figuring out, "When I run again, how can I express myself in a way where I am for things, and where I paint a vision of the shining hill -- the shining city on a hill -- how can I paint that vision with clarity and power and passion?" And he did so. And I think it's a lesson for every candidate running this year.

HANNITY: Do you think it's a fait accompli? Is it over? Is it Hillary on the Democratic side?

ROVE: Well, you know, I -- I -- I believe she's going to be a candidate now. I must admit, I thought -- I still think it's a more complicated decision for her than people give it credit to be. But on the other hand, the energy inside the Democratic Party -- they have no bench, and there's almost a desperation about she has to be the candidate.

But -- but could she be taken out? Yes, she was taken out in 2008 by Barack Obama. Could Elizabeth Warren take her out? Potentially. I don't see Elizabeth Warren doing it this time because, look, let's be honest. In 2016, it's going to be tough for the Democrats. Who would want to follow Barack Obama? It's hard for any major political party in the modern era to get a third term. George H.W. Bush got did it with Ronald Reagan, got the third term for Reagan. But other than that, we've not had a, quote, "third term" -- that is to say, two terms of a party followed by a third term by the same party -- since FDR and Truman. And those were extraordinarily different circumstances.

HANNITY: All right, Karl Rove, appreciate it. And thanks for being with us.

ROVE: Thank you.

Content and Programming Copyright 2015 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.