Karl Rove on 2008 Race

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: For this big day for the Republican party, we begin with the newest Fox News contributor, well, the president calls him the architect, Karl Rove is with us. Karl, welcome aboard.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. Glad to be with you. Thanks, Sean.

HANNITY: We appreciate you being here. Let me start. For me, it was somewhat surreal. I want to get your general thoughts of the day, Karl. The idea usually when someone secures the nomination, they move to the middle. In this case, Senator McCain is reaching out to his base. Your thoughts?

ROVE: Well, Senator McCain wants to go into the general election with a united Republican party. He is smart enough to recognize that the party is not fully united. He is going to spend some time, and he has plenty of time to do it, to bring the party together.

HANNITY: In your mind, that was the right thing to do today?

ROVE: Absolutely. Look, he is winning the nomination. He is winning the delegates, the delegate race. He has 707 delegates out of the 1191 that he needs to win. He has won those by not blowing away the competition, but by steadily beating them in these contests. He recognizes that he won Missouri with 33 percent of the vote. That means he has a lot of work to do. And he recognizes that to bring the people together and unite them behind a common message.

I thought the speech today went a long way to doing that. You saw him set the tone. And you saw him reach out to conservatives. And he made it clear that on the big issues of the global war on terror, on tax cuts, on judges, on life, that the party can remain united and that he will be a standard bearer for conservative principles.

HANNITY: Let me ask you, he did acknowledge and pointed out a number of times during the speech the divide that he has had with conservatives. We have seen this in the exit poll data, Karl. He also highlighted where he thinks there is deep agreement within the Republican movement. And there are a number of issues, and I thought he made a strong case for that. He acknowledged where he would be different than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

But, let me ask you this question: He talks about the Straight Talk Express. I, for example — I have been on radio. I have begun my 20th year on radio. On not just a couple of issues, I have substance disagreements with him, immigration, free speech, ANWR, the death tax. He says he will now extend the Bush tax cuts. He voted against them. Gitmo, interrogations, those are substantive differences. How does he bridge the gap further with conservatives like myself that want to hear more than a speech?

ROVE: Yes. Well, look, remember this, a lot of grass roots conservatives had another candidate, but they think highly of him. That's why, in national polls, McCain is beating Obama and beating Clinton. It's because he is able to unite the Republican party and grab a bunch of independents and discerning Democrats enough that he is leading both of them in the national polls.

That is to say, let's be careful about overstating conservative disenchantment with McCain. Lots of conservatives have specific disagreements with him on issues. True. But at the end of the day, those — in polls, when asked, are you for McCain or Clinton, or Obama or Clinton, they come — or Obama or McCain, the Republicans unite. Conservatives say, we are for McCain. As a result he leads in the polls.

As I go around the country, I run into people who say, look, I disagree with McCain on this or that. I'm for this candidate or that candidate. But, you know what? I admire him and I could vote for him. I think that's what we are going to see in the weeks ahead, particularly if McCain builds on what he did today.

HANNITY: I think the most effective part of his speech, I would concur with you, was when he was highlighting the differences between an Clinton and Obama administration and a McCain administration. I think those are all things. And Karl, let not your heart be troubled, there is no way Sean Hannity is ever going to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, which is probably not a shock to our audience.

But, I understand.

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: You have actually broken down delegates. And I understand you have your own version of sort of where the campaign is going?

ROVE: Yes, well, look, there is still some doubt out there. I mean, with all due respect to Governor Huckabee, I'm going to press on, he said. That simply isn't going to work. I had a little white board issue I wanted to show you.

HANNITY: That's like a Tim Russert thing.

ROVE: I was doing white boards while that boy was still shoveling sidewalks in Buffalo. Come on.

HANNITY: All right, go, I want to see this, go ahead.

ROVE: To win the nomination, the Republican nominee needs 1,191 delegates. Huckabee, according to the Associated Press today, has 192 delegates. So he needs 999 more delegates in order to win the nomination. There are 1,199 delegates who have yet to be voted upon in primaries and caucuses. So, for Huckabee to win the nomination, he would have to take 83.3 percent of the people who are yet up for grabs. That's just impossible. It's not going to happen. The math works tremendously against him.

On the other hand, take Senator McCain. He has, according to the AP tonight, 707, which means that he needs — I'm drawing backwards here — 484. So, instead of 83 percent, he has only got to win 40 percent of the people that are left out for grabs. So, I look at this and say it just simply doesn't work for Huckabee. And it is clear — I mean, no candidate at this late stage of the game is going to win 83 percent of the delegates, particularly since he has won just a fraction, just about 12 or 13 percent of the delegates elected thus far.

So the contest is over. And it will probably go on through next Tuesday. Governor Huckabee has every right to stay in the race as long as he and his donors allow. But the contest is over and it's impossible for him to secure the nomination.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Karl, it's Alan Colmes. I know you are here because of me.

ROVE: I am. Thank you, Alan. I'm deeply grateful for you.

COLMES: How do you like being a TV star?

ROVE: It's a little nerve-wracking. How have you done it this many years, Alan?

COLMES: I haven't. I don't fit in that category. That's Hannity you are talking about. But let me ask you this. Are you surprised by what Mitt Romney did today? The word is that some of his staffs didn't even know that he was going to use the CPAC speech to pull out.

ROVE: Well, look, having made the decision — my understanding is yesterday they met with the kitchen cabinet of the campaign and discussed this. Governor Romney went home last night and wrote his speech and came to the decision that the math was going to work against him. I mean, look, he would have to win 60 percent of the delegates who are yet up for grabs if he stayed in the contest and hoped to win the nomination. That's not going to happen either. He knows his math.

I'm confident that these calculations — he went through these calculations himself. I was, frankly, surprised that he did it as CPAC. I would have thought that he would have gone to CPAC, made his case and then picked another moment to withdraw. But it was a dramatic moment. And I thought probably the best single speech he has given of the campaign.

COLMES: We're going to get into that later. I personally didn't like his speech. As a liberal, I thought he took a lot of shots at my side. He could have been more inclusive. Speaking of not being inclusive, are conservatives — have conservative talk show hosts, et cetera, who have attacked John McCain

HANNITY: Anybody in particular?

COLMES: Nobody I'm thinking of in particular here — but have they made a mistake by being as hard-hitting against McCain as they have been. and are they dividing the party?

ROVE: Look, they are entitled to their opinion. And they have been a part of why the Republican coalition has grown over the last 20 years and has won the majority — won seven of the last — I think five of the last seven presidential elections. They are entitled to their opinion.

Now, do I agree with some of what they said? No. But they are entitled to their opinion. The question is, going forward here, now that the party has settled on its nominee, how will they conduct themselves? Will they continue to find ways to respectfully disagree with Senator McCain when they do? I bet that happens. Will he continue to reach out to them? I bet he does.

I would suspect, particularly as we get more clarity about who the Democrat is, that the Republicans are going to get more united and conservatives are going to see the importance of going to this contest with a very strong united front.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) GOV. OF MASSACHUSETTS: Now, if I fight on in my campaign all the way to convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign. And, frankly, I would be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part aiding a surrender to terror.

CHRIS BEARDMORE, COLLEGE REPUBLICANS NATL CMTE: We, right now, don't have a candidate to support. We are still hesitant to support Huckabee. McCain is inevitable. Our guy, we campaigned for Romney in New Hampshire and Iowa. We are really disappointed and hopefully McCain can at least — we want to think that Romney influenced McCain in a certain way to become more of a centrist, more of a conservative.


COLMES: We now continue with Karl Rove. Karl, we kind of know what's happening with the Republicans, but the Democrats are a big question mark. How do you see it going on from here and, of course, the delegate count is what it's all about. We're going to bring you — I guess you got the blackboard there with the Democrats on it.

ROVE: I do. This is really complicated. First of all, the Democrats are very — the Associated Press says Hillary has 832 delegates, and Obama has 821. Now, they need 2025 to nominate. They are both a long way from it. But closely — you know, closely bunched up there. This week, there are 182 delegates yet to be chosen in caucuses and primaries on Friday — or excuse me on Saturday and Sunday.

COLMES: Right.

ROVE: Louisiana, Washington State and Nebraska vote on Saturday and on Sunday is Maine with a caucus. These should advantage Obama because there are three caucuses. And as you recall, on Tuesday night he did really well in the caucus states. And then, of course, Louisiana has a substantial African-American population. Washington State does not, but it is a caucus state. Nebraska is a primary and then Maine is a caucus.

Then, next Tuesday, we have the so-called Potomac or Chesapeake Primary with 168 delegates. Senator Clinton should do well in Virginia. It should be offset by roughly equal performance in Maryland by Senator Obama and then District of Columbia, which should go to Obama. But again, 168 delegates, but because of the proportional rules, this really means that one candidate or the other will literally gain 5 or 10 delegates on the opposition.

Then, later in the month we have Wisconsin, which is likely to be good Obama territory, and Puerto Rico, which is likely to be good for Senator Clinton. But the big one is March 4th, where we have Texas with 193 delegates, Ohio with 141. Both of those should be good for Clinton. And Vermont with 15, which should be good for Senator Obama. But 349 delegates and winning it by the margin that I think Senator Clinton is likely to get means that she is going to pick up more territory here on the 4th than Obama is going to pick up here earlier in February.

COLMES: At this point Karl — this is risky territory, but could you predict who the nominee will be for the Democrats based on what you know?

ROVE: I think it's going to be Senator Clinton because I think Senator Obama's best shots are largely behind him. That is to say, between what has been voted on through Tuesday night and what comes in February, he has had more caucus states where he does well and he has had most of the states that have substantial African-American populations, where he has done extremely well.

But, look, it's going to be a very close contest. And I suspect that it's ultimately going — the margin of victory is going to be decided by how the Super Delegates split. That is to say, the delegates that are actually elected in caucuses and primaries will be closely divided, probably with a small advantage to Senator Clinton, maybe with a small advantage to Senator Obama. But I think ultimately what happens among those Super Delegates will provide the margin of victory and give a little bit of acceleration to the winner by giving him or her a slightly larger margin.

HANNITY: Karl, I've got to tell you, I like that blackboard here. Honestly, that's a fascinating analysis.

COLMES: Very high-tech.

HANNITY: Super Tuesday, Obama wins 13 states, she wins eight states. The news was that night that she won the delegate count. Turns out that Barack Obama won the delegate count. Then we hear issues of financial woes that she's having. So my question is one of momentum. Did Barack Obama, as evidenced by the money that is coming into his campaign and her money — financial — struggles, is that going to factor in, that is he gaining here?

ROVE: Well, she is going to be outspent. She was outspent on Tuesday night. But, look, if he brings in 7.2 million dollars and she brings in 6.4 million dollars on the Internet within a 48 hour period, that's roughly equal. I mean, we are talking about who got their email message out first and, you know, I suspect he will continue to out raise her. But it's not going to be by a margin enough to guarantee him victory.

And she has some intangible assets in the form of the nature of the contests that are yet to come. You mention he won more state. Think about the states that he won. He won Idaho. Does anybody realistically think that Idaho is going to be won by the Democrats in the fall? And it was a caucus with literally with a handful of people voting. North Dakota, there were — what — 17,000 people in North Dakota voted in the Democratic caucuses or 18,000. That is a small fraction of the state's Democrats who are an embattled minority.

HANNITY: Go ahead.

ROVE: The caucuses gave him a big advantage. Without the caucuses, if those had been primaries — take a look at Idaho and Utah, I mean, you know, Clinton did a lot better in a primary state in Utah than she did in a caucus state just to the north that shares a lot of characteristics.

HANNITY: Karl, am I right in my thinking that if I'm John McCain, I would rather go up against Hillary than Barack Obama? We're short on time.

ROVE: Yes, absolutely. Everybody knows who she is and has strong opinions about her.

HANNITY: Alright. Now, we expect the blackboard on every appearance. But in all sincerity, Karl Rove, the architect, welcome to the Fox News Channel.

ROVE: It will be back.

HANNITY: I hope it will be.

ROVE: Thank you.

COLMES: That's tax deductible, by the way, that blackboard. Business expense.

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