Rove sees 'ugly year' ahead for Dems
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Karl Rove, the national Republican strategist, last night predicted significant Republican gains in Congress in November but said the GOP must offer a positive and optimistic agenda for the nation and not just challenge President Obama.
Rove, who was a senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, said there has been a "sea change" in politics over the past year exemplified by Scott Brown's U.S. Senate special-election victory last month in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts.
Concern about rising federal spending, growing national debt, an expanding federal government, and a foreign policy Rove believes has been defined by weakness could help Republicans, including Ho-no-lulu City Councilman Charles Djou, who is running in a special election in May to fill out the remainder of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie's term.
Rove said electing Djou would send a message nationally about what is possible for Republicans this year. He said Brown represented the deciding vote against Obama's health care reform in the Senate and that Djou could be the vote to kill the reform plan in the House.
"This is going to be an ugly year for Democrats," Rove told reporters before speaking at the state GOP's Lincoln Day dinner last night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Obama, he said, could be a drag on Democratic candidates nationally because he campaigned as a "relentless centrist" but has governed as a "relentless liberal."
But Rove said Republicans must offer an alternative to Obama, not just criticize the Hawai'i-born president.
"They can't simply be content to surf on dissatisfaction with President Obama and congressional Democrats. They've got to offer a positive and optimistic agenda for the future of the country," he said. "And then they've got to do the grassroots kind of activity that involves neighbor talking to neighbor, friend talking to friend, to identify and get out the vote."
Some local Democrats have questioned why the state GOP invited Rove to speak, because he is a polarizing figure among many liberals and moderates and may turn off independent voters to local Republican candidates.
A small group of protesters showed displeasure with Rove outside the Waikīkī resort.
Earlier yesterday, Dante Carpenter, interim chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said he doubts Rove's politics reflect those of most Island voters.
"My gut feeling says, 'I don't think so,' " Carpenter said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Djou's decision to appear at the same dinner as Rove shows "he's a firm believer in the national Republican policies that are disastrous for Hawai'i families and pushed us into this economic mess in the first place."
Former congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa are the Democrats in the special election with Djou in urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District. Abercrombie is resigning to campaign full time in the Democratic primary for governor.