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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Karl Rove lauds conservatives' rise during Ohio speech

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

ASHLAND, Ohio - The man credited with devising and executing the re-election plan of President Bush last year told an audience here that the American conservative movement is on the rise because of the power of Republican ideas.

He said the last four decades have seen a dramatic turnaround in national politics.

"Forty years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson won the presidency in a landslide. [Democrats] held 68 Senate seats, 295 House seats, and 33 governorships. In 2004, George W. Bush, a Republican, a Texan, and a proud conservative, won the presidency," Mr. Rove said. "Republicans now have won seven of the last 10 presidential elections. They hold 55 Senate seats, 232 House seats, and 28 governorships. It's a sign of what our conservative movement has been able to achieve."

Speaking to more than 600 people at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, he said Democrats are struggling because holding public office became "an end in and of itself."

He said Republicans need to work harder to recruit minorities, pointing to last year's campaign as an example.

In 2000, Mr. Bush won just 9 percent of the African-American vote in Ohio. Last year, he won 16 percent, largely because they asked for the support.

"You're not going to get it unless you make the pitch," he said.

He was critical of Senate Democrats who have stalled the confirmation process of federal judges nominated by President Bush.

"What Democrats have done to these judges is a travesty," he said.

Mr. Rove began his political career with the College Republicans, and founded a direct-mail consulting firm. He helped on the 1980 campaign of Vice President George H.W. Bush, and sold his consulting business in 1999 to work full-time on the President's first White House campaign.

Mr. Rove spoke to several hundred gathered for the annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner here. The dinner has hosted such national figures as President Reagan during his first term, Vice President Bush, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Recalling a meeting once with Mr. Ashbrook, Mr. Rove called him "a man of great principle. He was an admirable public official" and "a founder of the modern conservative movement."

Mr. Ashbrook died in 1982. The center, which teaches a conservative course of study, was founded the next year in his honor.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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