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Published: Sunday, 3/12/2006

Rove thanks Ohio but is mum on party woes

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Karl Rove thanks the crowd for the warm welcome at the Republican dinner in Bowling Green. Karl Rove thanks the crowd for the warm welcome at the Republican dinner in Bowling Green.
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BOWLING GREEN - Karl Rove, the President's top political adviser and a strategist widely regarded as a campaign magician, came to Bowling Green State University last night to say thank you to the state's Republican Party workers for 59,000 votes that did not go the other way.

President Bush won the White House with Ohio's 20 electoral votes last election by 118,000 votes, giving him another four years. If half of the winning margin plus one vote had gone for Democrat John Kerry, Mr. Bush would have lost.

"I confess, my fondness for Ohio deepened on, let's say, the first Tuesday of November, 2004," he told a crowd of 700 at the 5th Congressional District Lincoln-Hayes Banquet, hosted by U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor.

He was not debating anyone, it was a night to address the troops.

He did not mention scandals that have rocked Ohio's Republican party the last year, Hurricane Katrina, or the Dubai ports controversy.

He defended the war in Iraq and the President's secret wiretapping program that has come under fire. He praised the confirmations of U.S. Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito and said the economy was on a record job creation pace.

He called Republican U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine an ally of the President. U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D., Avon) is challenging the incumbent for his Senate seat.

Mr. Rove throughout the quips of his speech stressed that ultimately ideology requires pragmatism and said that the political party in control must always guard against passivity and an "entitlement mentality."

"It's not enough to believe the right thing," he said of the Republican Party platform. "You have to win elections."

Mr. DeWine toured several cities yesterday with Mr. Rove. They started in Cleveland and ended last night on the Bowling Green campus.

Mr. DeWine said he has not shied away from Mr. Rove or the lame-duck President, whose poll numbers are among the worst of his presidency.

"I traveled with [Mr. Rove] all day. He came in early to do some grass-roots work," he said. "In the end, the people are going to make a decision. The polls are going to be up and down. In the end, the voters are going to choose someone."

It was a friendly crowd, many from the Henry County Republican Party, which charged $25 a plate for the dinner.

Politicians old and young, long-retired or just starting out, attended. Several gubernatorial candidates were there, But Republican Attorney General Jim Petro, also seeking the governor's job, was not.

Republican Bob Cook, 84 years old and the Hicksville mayor from 1980-1984, said he stands by the President and his party, even though the state GOP has suffered some embarrassing scandals lately, he said.

"That's a sad situation for the governor of Ohio to get into a mess like that," he said of the rare-coin scandal that resulted in Gov. Bob Taft pleading to an ethics violation last year in open court. "The President's had a little problem with the security at the docks, but I agreed with him on that one."

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com or 419-724-6077.



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