Rove: 2012 Will Be One of Most Interesting Presidential Contests in a Long Time

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 12, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TUCKER CARLSON, GUEST HOST: The mid-term election is behind us and President Obama's approval rating crumbling and it's electoral map narrowing, rumors already are swirling over who the Republicans will nominate in 2012.

Good evening, I'm Tucker Carlson sitting in tonight for Sean Hannity. One thing we learned on Election Day is that come 2012, the Republican Party will be ready to put up a fight in key swing states like Ohio and Florida.

The GOP was able to sweep the gubernatorial and Senate races in those states last Tuesday with Rob Portman and John Kasich winning in Ohio. And in Florida where Marco Rubio and Rick Scott were also victorious.

So, now the question is, who's going to step up and take on a weakened Barack Obama? The president's faced wide spread repudiation in the midterm elections, his poll numbers had been in the freefall from the moment he was sworn in.

And now possible republican contenders are starting to make waves, from Palin, to Pawlenty from Mitt to Newt, the rumor mill is churning in the field that got even more crowded in coming months.

With us tonight to top analyze the GOP's chances and the challenges facing President Barack Obama. The author of "Courage and Consequence" which is now available in paperback, in includes a brand new chapter. He is Fox News contributor. Karl Rove. Karl, welcome.


CARLSON: I couldn't be better. Before we get to the field and your analysis of it. Very striking this week, that the President's senior adviser David Axelrod gave indications that the president would be willing to keep the Bush tax cuts in place. The president came out and seemed to contradict what his senior advisor had told the press. Who is in charge? What is this mean? Is there some grand strategy or is it chaos?

ROVE: Well, I think they do have a strategy. And I think their strategy is try to say to the Congress, make permanent to tax cuts for those who makes less than $250,000 a year. And make those for the top two percent in which includes a lot of small businesses. Make those temporary. You can give them a year or two more. I don't think that's going to be an acceptable deal. And I don't think they can pass it unless the Republicans cave.

CARLSON: But is it -- your impression, was it a coordinated message that Axelrod meant to say what he said and the president didn't walk it back? Because it seemed like there was confusion.

ROVE: Yes. Look, there is always confusion when you have the president senior aides in Washington and the president on the other side of the world. But if you take a look at the president's radio address on Saturday, and Axelrod's comments, they're directionally pointed to the same direction which is we want to make permanent tax cut for people at the bottom, $250,000 or less. And we realize we'll going to have to cut a deal on the top two brackets. So, you know, we'll see how that all works out. But I think all along, they've been trying to put themselves in a place where they say, $250,000 or less permanent.

Above that temporary, can we make a deal? And look, they've got Democrats and the Congress saying, 31 of them signed a letter. Six more associated themselves with them in the House. Say, make all the tax cuts, you know, continue all the tax cuts, keep them all in place. So, it's going to be hard for them to do, you know, I think to do permanency on one and temporary on the other. I think, it's going to be all permanent or all temporary. I don't think they're likely to split it in a half.

CARLSON: That's sounds right. So, the last midterms exposed weaknesses I think a lot of us weren't aware the president had. States in which he did really well in the '08 presidential election. His party had a very tough time, in Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, et cetera, et cetera. Is that, are we seeing real weakness in the president's approval?

ROVE: We are. Yes. We are. There's a very interesting article about Jonathan Martin today. I've tried to summarize it. The president got 365 electoral votes, now right off the bat, if the Republican candidate only carries states the McCain did, the Republican picks up six electoral votes. Obama loses electoral votes because we re-apportion from blue states to red states. But Jonathan Martin pointed out that Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia slammed back into the Republican column pretty strongly and Democrats on those states are saying, they don't have much of a chance in 2012 if things look sort of like they look today.

That takes off 39 electoral votes. And then, as you say, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin all moved dramatically to the Republican column. All of mid-western battleground states, all now have Republican governors and Republican legislators. And that would be an additional 70 electoral votes off of its total if he loses those.

I have another category, we have in Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa, the Republican governors in battleground states. If that's an indication 2012, that's another 18 electoral votes. And then, as you said in the beginning, Florida which elected the Republican senator or Republican governor and picks up two Electoral College votes, that would be 29 more off of its total. If he were to lose all these states, he would be at 203 which is 67 below what he needs in order to remain in the White House.


ROVE: So, he's got a lot of targets here that as results of this election are showing some really, you know, systemic weakness for Democrats.

CARLSON: So, who is the nominee going to be on the Republican side?

ROVE: You know, that's going to be interesting. I've got ten. I'm going to try and say them in alphabetical order -- Barbour, Daniels, Gingrich, Huckabee, Jindal, Palin, Pawlenty, Pence, Romney, Thune. All of whom we've been talking about, I am sure they're going to be others.

The interesting thing this time around to talk is, there is no clear front runner. In '08, it was, you know, look, McCain came in second. Republicans genetically like to give their next guy, you know, the guy who came in second a chance, you know, in 2000, Bush had the brand. Governor of the big state, we liked his dad. Front runner, '96. Bob Dole, he came in second to old 41 in '88, he deserved a shot, '88 it was George Bush, he was Reagan's loyal vice president. There is going to be no similar front runner. I don't think Romney who was the biggest group of delegates after McCain. Huckabee who came in strong at the end. Palin who was VP, I don't think there's going to be presumptive frontrunner that cause everybody to be in the second --

CARLSON: But wait. By the analysis you just gave, that the Republicans typically nominate the guy who came in second last time, why wouldn't it be Romney? Is it the Massachusetts health care plan that you think might disqualify him or not?

ROVE: Well, look, I think, we are in a different place. I think Republicans have sort of lost that, you know, sort of genetic predisposition. Every one of the candidates I mentioned is going to have strengths, everyone of them has going to have challenges. The interesting thing to me is they're all going to come out of the blocks in the same way. There's not going to be one group up here and one group back here. There are going to come all out of the blocks at the same time in the same sort of way. And they each face the same set of challenges. What is your narrative? Why shouldn't it be Obama and why should it be you and what kind of vision do you have for the future of the country?

Second of all, do you show us directly, explicitly or indirectly and implicitly that you got the decision-making ability, the strength of leadership, the presence to be, you know, so, I wake up some morning saying, I'm comfortable seeing you in Oval Office?

And finally, do they give us a sense that they can unite the party? And I think every candidate faces those three challenges plus the necessity to magnify their strengths and overcome their challenges. And as a result, I think, it's going to be one of the most interesting presidential contests we've had in a long time, and the more the merrier. The more robust it is, the more likely is Republicans are going to have a shot in 2012.

CARLSON: I know this is its own show but just in about a minute, Governor Palin had impressively strong showing in a poll out, in a number of different states including Texas, West Virginia States that are of some consequence. How strong is she as a potential candidate and do you think she's going to run?

ROVE: I don't know whether she's going to run or not. I thought she gave a very impressive speech this week in Arizona attacking the Fed's decision to pump $600 billion into the economy. I think she made a very convincing case that this raises the spectrum of inflation. That there was no guarantee, that this would stimulate the economy. That this was going damage us internationally, that was going to raise prices of food and fuel for American families. That's the challenge that everybody is going to have. And I think the interesting thing is, all of these polls, we're going to see some good polls for various candidates but I think it's going to be an 11 or 12-month slog with people making up their mind. Late in 2011, much as they made up their mind late in 2007.


ROVE: ... to sort of settle the contest around Hillary or Barack as the same thing it's going to happen on our side and I don't have any idea know how's it's going to play out.

CARLSON: The drama, it's going to be a great story. Karl Rove, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

ROVE: You bet, Tucker. You bet.

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