Karl Rove on Jeb Bush exploring 2016 presidential run

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 16, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome to "Hannity." And this is a Fox News Alert. The race for the White House is officially on. Jeb Bush announced today via social media that he's planning to explore a run for the presidency in 2016.

Now, the Twitter and Facebook posts reads, in part, quote, "I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States in January. I also plan to establish a leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. Now, the PAC's purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans."

Here now with breaking news and response to the breaking news, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, FOX News contributor Karl Rove.  How are you?


HANNITY: It seems like a lot of people are going to get in.

ROVE: Yes. I suspect that's accurate. In fact, let's not make too much of this Facebook post because Paul Ryan has a leadership PAC, Marco Rubio has a leadership PAC, Rand Paul has a leadership PAC, Ted Cruz has a leadership PAC. Rick Perry is meeting this week virtually every night with bundlers in Houston -- or excuse me, in Austin, where he's having them in for dinner. I mean, we have Santorum exploring, Huckabee exploring. There are 22 people whose names are mentioned...

HANNITY: Is that the actual number?

ROVE: It was 23 until Rob Portman said, I'm not going to run. But there are 22 who are talking about it. And virtually every one of them is taking steps that would indicate that they're seriously contemplating it and doing things -- maybe haven't made the final decision, but are doing things to allow them to run, if they do decide to do it.

HANNITY: Because you are, obviously, so closely aligned with the Bush family and you served President George W. Bush, are you supporting Jeb Bush?

ROVE: I'm sitting on the sidelines and I'm watching. I do know this, though, from my association with the Bushes. I saw this with his dad in 1977 and '78. He said, I'm not going to make a decision -- I was the -- at the beginning, the one employee of the Bush pre-presidential campaign, a thing called the Fund for Limited Government. Our chairman was James A. Baker III, a young Houston attorney. But the senior Bush said, I'm not going to make a decision until after the 1978 election, and he didn't.

And then George W. Bush said, I'm not going to make a decision until after the 1998 election, and it wasn't until Christmas and New Year's, the time between Christmas and New Year's in '98, that he went away and made the decision.

So if Jeb Bush says, I'm not going to make a decision until after the first of the year, we're not going to have a final decision until after the first of the year, regardless of whether or not he did a leadership PAC today.

HANNITY: All right, let's go to Jeb Bush in an interview with a local station in Miami. And this is what he had to say, that he won't change his views if he's going to run for the primary.


JEB BUSH, R-FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If I was to run, I would try to persuade people. I'm not going to change what I believe. And my beliefs, I think, are good, solid, mainstream conservative thought. Winning with purpose, winning with meaning, winning with your integrity is what I'm trying to talk about.


HANNITY: Rush Limbaugh said today -- he said that he's being looked at as a savior for the big money donor class, consultant class establishment of the party to head off the Tea Party. Reaction.

ROVE: That's Rush's opinion. I -- let's wait and see what Jeb Bush says. I think he's absolutely right. And I think every candidate ought to follow that same advice, which is be in the primary who you are and be that same person in the general election.

Richard Nixon convinced the Republican Party for a period of time that they needed to be one thing in the primary and somebody else in the election. He said, If you're a Democrat, run to the left in the primary and get back to the center in the general election. If you're a Republican, run to the right in the primary and come back. That my have worked at some point. I don't think so, but it may have.

But today, that eats away at your authenticity. People are paying attention to this process, particularly on the Republican side. These candidates will be subjected to a lot of scrutiny, and by the 201016 general election, if you're one place in the primary and someplace else in the general election, the independent and swing voters whom we need to win the election will say, You know what? Can I really trust you?

Haven't we already seen this from a guy who said one thing in the general election and governed as a different kind of person? I want authenticity and continuity. What you said in the primary, I want to hear it in the general election, as well.

HANNITY: How does he deal -- I was reading a lot of social media today, and a lot of conservatives, big part of the Republican base, don't like his position on Common Core, don't like his position on immigration.  A lot of references were made to an article that came out this week that he was consulting with John McCain, who's viewed as very establishment, on how to deal with the conservative wing of the party.

ROVE: Yes. Well, look, this again goes back to the nature of any candidate's message. The question is going to be for every single candidate, What do you say, and are you persuading people to be with you?  Because look, there are a diversity of opinions inside the Republican Party on a whole range of issues. There are going to be things that each and every candidate is going to say that are going to offend this element of the party or that element of the party.

And the clarity of a candidate in describing who they are and what they're about, and more importantly, to describe what they want to do is what's going to allow them to unify enough of the Republican primary in order to win the general election.

We saw that this year in the primaries. Take, for example, in North Carolina. There was a self-described Tea Party candidate. There was a self-described social conservative. There was the so-called establishment Republican who ran on the message of, Here's what I believe, and he got enough of the Tea Party vote and enough of the social conservative vote to win the nomination, and Thom Tillis is now going to be the United States senator.

HANNITY: I think this is going to be interesting from my perspective because conservative governors have great track records to run on.

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: They had high unemployment when they took over their states, high deficits, debt, and they lowered the unemployment rate dramatically.  That would be Scott Walker, maybe Rick Perry, Kasich...

ROVE: Look...

HANNITY: ... Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley.

ROVE: ... almost every governor has got that -- I mean, Mike Huckabee can point to that record, Rick Perry can, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Rick Snyder, John Kasich, Jeb Bush -- they're all...

HANNITY: How does Hillary do that?

ROVE: Well, look, I wrote my column about this last week. What is the Hillary Clinton message? And more importantly, is she a better candidate today than she was...

HANNITY: I don't think so.

ROVE: ... in 2008? In fact, I was talking today to a guy today who said, You know what? She was the best candidate in 2000 when she ran for the Senate here in New York, and she's gotten worse in each -- each -- each time she's gone out before -- after that.

HANNITY: All right, Karl Rove, good to see you. Thank you.

ROVE: Nice to be here.

HANNITY: We'll be watching.

ROVE: Merry Christmas, incidentally.

HANNITY: Merry Christmas, sir. You're allowed to say that on this network. That's allowed!

ROVE: I say it everywhere.

HANNITY: I say it everywhere, too!

ROVE: It's close to my birthday.

HANNITY: It is your birthday today?

ROVE: No, December 25th.

HANNITY: Is it? Well, I'm December 30th.

ROVE: Well, I expect to see...

HANNITY: Two Capricorns.

ROVE: Come to my birthday party on December 25th.

HANNITY: I'm there!

ROVE: I'll be at yours on the 30th.

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