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The legacy of Rove

Karl Rove won't be the last person in politics to suffer from an excess of hubris, and the Bush Jr. years seem likely to do little to fuilfil his vision of "a permanent Republican majority."

So how will history remember Rove?

Writing today in the New York Times, Adam Nagourney takes a crack at this question.

A look at the roster of every Republican presidential candidate finds people who have worked with him, and they have brought some of his methods to this race.

But Mr. Rove leaves the White House anything but victorious. His legendary reputation, forged by steering George W. Bush to two arguably unlikely victories, was seriously diminished by the Republican defeats of 2006. He is blamed in Republican circles for many of the political problems President Bush has suffered in a difficult second term — problems that occurred as Mr. Rove expanded his writ and tried his hand at policy.

Those setbacks have contributed to a partywide sense of foreboding about keeping the White House in Republican hands.

“He gets more credit and more blame than he deserves,” said John Weaver, a former senior adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has had a long history of fighting with and working with Mr. Rove. “At the end of the day, he was the head coach of the political team that won the equivalent of the Super Bowl two times in a row. But other things he did are more subjective: the kind of campaigns that were run and their impact on governing.”

Certainly, Mr. Rove has to a considerable extent changed the way presidential politics are played. Modeled on his example, campaigns have become more disciplined in driving simple, often negative messages. They begin in trying to identify the vulnerabilities of potential opponents, and they do extensive negative research as they prepare to exploit those vulnerabilities early and often.

They seek to work out long-term, month-by-month game plans and stick with them, even in difficult times. And they methodically use marketing and other data to identify potential supporters and get them to the polls with an efficiency that had never been seen before, something Mr. Rove pushed along with his close ally, Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman.

“The Rove model was so impressive that the front-runner for the nomination is following the blueprint,” said Mark McKinnon, who worked with Mr. Rove in 2004 and is now advising Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign. “It is almost the Powell doctrine of politics: you just hit them with everything you got, everywhere and at the same time.” The front-runner he was referring to, Mr. McKinnon said, is a Democrat, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But whether Mr. Rove would be welcome to join any of the Republican presidential campaigns was a question met with silence when it was posed to campaign aides on Monday.

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