TAMPA — Karl Rove has made the transition from Republican operative to political analyst, but his biting humor and sharp-elbows style haven't gone anywhere. Weighing in on the 2012 presidential race Monday morning, he had high praise for Republican nominee Mitt Romney and criticized President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Rove said Obama's approach leaves him "completely mystified" and that the president has allowed the campaign to dominate too much of his time.
"This has not been a campaign in which it has been, 'Look at my record, I'm proud of my record and here is my vision for a second term,' " Rove told a capacity crowd at the launch of the POLITICO/Tampa Bay Times Playbook Breakfast Convention series.
But Rove has also been "mystified" by Romney's response to questions about whether he pays his fair share of taxes. Romney can choose not to release additional tax returns, Rove said, but he should paint Obama's attacks as about politics and not transparency.
Generally speaking, however, Rove praised Romney's efforts and predicted he was headed to the White House. The Republican National Convention will help him win over voters, Rove said. "The key thing for Mitt Romney is, at the end of this convention, the people say I know something about him personally that I didn't know about him beforehand."
The hourlong question-and-answer session moderated by POLITICO chief White House correspondent Mike Allen covered lots of ground and allowed Rove to show off his historical and political knowledge. Here are some highlights:
• The tea party: Focus should be on the sentiment that gave rise to the movement.
• The Hispanic vote: Republicans can't afford to lose such an important constituency.
• Romney's pick of running mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan: bold and unconventional.
• Rove's American Crossroads super PAC: "I got sick and tired of fighting with one hand behind my back."
• The timing of the veep pick: just right and it got the Medicare debate out of the way prior to the convention.
• Congressman and Senate hopeful Todd Akin: "What he said was indefensible, and the manner in which he handled it made it worse."
Rove also broke down Romney's path to winning the White House, saying he should carry all the states John McCain did four years ago and is on tap to cover a few more. Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio are all in play, he said.
Rove also left the audience wanting more, teasing several times to an upcoming Wall Street Journal column that follows up on his popular essay channeling Obama adviser David Axelrod. This time, Rove says, he will take on the persona of a different insider, David Plouffe.
Tia Mitchell can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.