Karl Rove on calls to change the Electoral College

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 15, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know what we lose sight of, though, is that if you had a race based on who had the most votes, period, they would be running a different race. So, there’s no way to say that this is the result you would get in a popular vote race.

Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff, great historian of all things politics as well, with us right now.

Karl, Donald Trump does raise a good point, that if he wanted to target and run the kind of race that would have garnered the most votes, then sort of you sit in the most populous areas and you run with it. Don’t you?


Well, first of all, he is the fifth American president. John Quincy Adams is the first. He was missing from that list.

But, yes, look, if this were a -- there would be two results if this were a popular vote majority country. We would no longer -- we wouldn’t be in Iowa. People would be campaigning in the big -- Republicans would go to Tarrant County, Texas, Fort Worth, and the suburbs of Houston, and Orange County, California. Democrats would go to San Francisco and New York.

And a big part of the country would be overlooked. But here’s an even more pernicious problem. We would then have a multiplicity of parties, because if it is first -- if it is the popular vote, we have 14 presidents who have been elected with plurality of the vote. That is to say, they didn’t get 50 percent.

If we were to go popular vote only, how long would it be before we would have runoffs? Bill Clinton was elected twice, never got 50 percent of the vote. Woodrow Wilson elected twice, never got 50 percent of the vote.  Abraham Lincoln got elected with 40-some-odd percent of the vote, less than Michael Dukakis got in being defeated in 1988.

So, the two-party system, which has given the American democracy a stability and a continuity that makes us the longest living democracy in the world, would be sorely undermined by a move away from the Electoral College.

CAVUTO: Though I wonder why the measure, coming in, as it does, in a week we have had all these protests, I don’t think that’s just coincidental, obviously, given these protests and largely by high schoolers in the latest round.

You have to wonder, who is putting whom up to what and to what end? To delegitimize Donald Trump before he even takes office?

ROVE: Yes, absolutely.

This happened in 2000. I was on a program last night in Houston with Paul Begala, who to this day doesn’t believe that George W. Bush was a legitimately elected president of the United States. I called him a dead- ender on "Fox News Sunday," which amused Chris Wallace.

But, yes, there was a concerted effort after the 2000 election to say Bush’s loss in the popular vote caused him to be an illegitimate president.  And it has happened virtually every instance. This was the argument raised against Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison in the 1870s and 1880s.

CAVUTO: When I’m looking at high schoolers, though, Karl, if you want to skip class, that’s one thing and all, but obviously they’re being encouraged. Go ahead, leave class, leave the school, go out there, chant, make your views known, if it is about sanctuary cities, it’s about protecting illegals, whatever. We’re not going to stop you.

But I’m thinking they’re going one step further. This is all being choreographed.

ROVE: Yes. Well, it may be at a local level, because -- but we may or may not ever know who is behind it.

But look at those signs. Talk about illiteracy. Silence equals violence?  No, no, no, violence equals violence. You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re right. Maybe this is a -- a better use of their time would be to have an organized discussion in which all viewpoints are represented in their school if they want to talk about this topic, rather than just simply being allowed to flow out into the streets and show up in front of Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and shout a lot of ugly slogans and wave around a bunch of stupid signs.

CAVUTO: I just wonder, if it was reversed, Karl -- I know you have I have chatted about this -- if it was Hillary Clinton won the election and a lot of angry Trump voters, they would have been anarchists. Reading the press as I have on these kids and others, they’re exercising free speech.

ROVE: Sure.

Yes, look, one would be a group of domestic terrorists and the other are idealistic young people out exercising their free speech rights, which in a way they are. But you’re right. Children from high schools being allowed to go out and take a day off from school, this is not a snow day.

And my suspicion is that D.C. school authorities are not going to be too emphatic about making sure that they make up these days.

CAVUTO: But, you know, I’m wondering what the fallout is from all of this.  If it gets all of the media attention and it gets -- well, we’re covering it now. It takes the attention off what a president-elect Trump is trying to do.

You still have to make note of it, though, because to me it just looks like a lot of sore losers.

ROVE: Yes, look, we have to cover it. It’s a news story. People are out in the streets and so forth.

But you know what it means with regard to the incoming president? Zero.  We had in 2001 at the inauguration threats of demonstrators who wanted to break up the inaugural parade and storm the inaugural ceremony on Capitol Hill, and lots of press attention, lots of people screaming.

I remember riding down Pennsylvania Avenue and having protesters screaming and yelling. But you know what? Didn’t stop President George W. Bush from being president.

These kind of things are interesting news, but they’re the background noise and they’re not going to stop Donald Trump from taking office on January 20. He is 100 percent the president of the United States, just as the four people who were elected before him under our constitutionally sanctioned system with a minority of the popular vote and an Electoral College majority have been.

CAVUTO: And to give President Obama due credit and Hillary Clinton, they were both stressing just that. They were duly elected, and fair and square he won.

But in the meantime, we have Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate. I don’t even know what he’s saying. I know that he says the most outlandish stuff.

And I understand, Karl, that you could say any outlandish thing you want on the Senate floor and not be held accountable for it.

ROVE: Well, among the many things Harry Reid has said on the floor is that Mitt Romney paid no income taxes.

CAVUTO: I remember that well.

ROVE: Look, Harry -- one of the best things about this election is, this is the last time we will see Harry Reid in public office.

He has proven himself to be a despicable human being in his personal conduct in the political arena. Republicans should be grateful to him, though, because his stewardship of the Senate leadership, taking in to himself the power to decide what amendments would be offered in bills, ruining the tradition of 200 years that the Senate would be untrampled democracy, open debate, and unlimited amendments, and deciding that he alone was in charge of deciding what amendments would be considered and voted upon, this is what caused Senate Democrats to lose their majority in 2014.

He is -- it is a good thing for American democracy that this man is retiring to Searchlight, Nevada. It’s not too soon for me. January 4 can’t arrive too early for Harry Reid to hit the road and go home.

CAVUTO: To that point, he is saying that the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan, is celebrating this election. Where does responsibility end here?

ROVE: He served for many years in close concert with Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who was a Ku Klux Klan member, even while he had been in his early days in the Congress.

So, Harry Reid is a demagogue. We are spending way -- we spend too much time on those high school students. I would rather, though, go back and talk about them than to talk about this human being. This is a man -- I was sitting in the White House, and the Democrats were blocking five appellate nominees to the United States Courts of Appeals.

And Harry Reid called me and said, you know what, every one of these five people is unfit for office, morally unfit for office, but we will give you two of them. You withdraw three names, and we will approve two of your names.

I said, really, really, Senator, if they’re morally unfit, shouldn’t you be under a moral obligation not to allow any of them to serve? And said, not only that, but do you know these people?

And one of them was Charles Pickering of Mississippi. I said, do you know what he did as a young district attorney in Laurel, Mississippi? He took on the Ku Klux Klan in the middle of the 1960s and got tossed out at the next election. And you’re attacking this guy as a racist. This is a man who together with leaders in the black community and a Democratic governor worked together to reconcile the races in Mississippi by bringing people together behind the scenes to talk about their grievances and a way forward.

And this is a man you are attacking as a bigot. And I said, every one of the other four nominees are people of exemplary quality and character and you’re trashing them and saying they’re morally unfit, but you’re willing to let us have two of the morally unfit people. This is the kind of guy he is.

CAVUTO: I didn’t even know that.

Karl Rove, thank you very, very much.

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