ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
According to Karl Rove, Nancy Pelosi isn't about to become Speaker of the House, nor is any other Democrat, and President Bush's top political strategist says the Democrats' hopes of taking control of the Senate will end once the votes are counted in two weeks time.
He spoke with us at Radio Day, a talk show interview fest held under a large tent on the north lawn of the White House.
Mr. KARL ROVE (Political Strategist, White House): I see several things. First, unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races and after all, this does come to individual contests between individual candidates.
And second of all, I see the individual spending reports and contribution reports. For example, at the end of August in 30 of the most competitive races in the country, the House races, the Republicans had $33 million cash on hand and the Democrats had just over $14 million.
SIEGEL: And all of that money, I assume, would put a lot of television advertising out there.
Mr. ROVE: Well, on a lot ground and a lot of organized volunteer activity. You need to have, you know, you need to have the staff and the infrastructure and the materials to give to your last, to your large army of volunteers to get out the vote.
SIEGEL: And what do you tell all those people? You say, we have to keep a majority on Capitol Hill because dot, dot, dot? We have to reelect your guy regardless of what party he's with?
Mr. ROVE: Well, I think what you need to do is you need to make it a choice between two candidates so that you've got a choice between Candidate A and Candidate B, and on the big issues Candidate A represents the values of his or her district or state and Candidate B doesn't.
SIEGEL: What are the values?
Mr. ROVE: Well for example, look. One, the war on terror. Do you support in a time of war reauthorization of the Patriot Act? Terrorist surveillance program? There's a vote in the House, 88 percent of the Democrats in the House voted against giving additional authority to a program to listen in on al-Qaida, suspected al-Qaida figures, calling or trying to contact people inside the United States.
The vote on the CIA interrogation bill, where again over 80 percent of the Democrats in the House and Senate voted against a program of the CIA interrogating high value targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.
SIEGEL: You're saying in effect the top three issues for the GOP this fall are the war on terror, the war on terror and the war on terror?
Mr. ROVE: No, no. I gave you three examples of the war on terror. We can talk about taxes, where 85 percent of Democrats in the Congress voted against cutting taxes on income, cutting taxes on families with children, cutting taxes on married couples who work. So my point is, make it a choice between two different candidates.
SIEGEL: We're in the home stretch, though, and many would consider you on the optimistic end of realism about -
Mr. ROVE: Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or a (unintelligible). I like that. You're just making a comment.
SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day.
Mr. ROVE: No, you're not. No, you're not.
SIEGEL: No, I'm not.
Mr. ROVE: No, you're not. You're not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week. You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally but that do not impact the outcome of -
SIEGEL: I'm looking at main races between - certainly Senate races.
Mr. ROVE: Well, like the poll today showing that Corker's ahead in Tennessee, or the poll showing that Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.
SIEGEL: Leading Webb in Virginia, yeah.
Mr. ROVE: Exactly.
SIEGEL: But you've seen the DeWine race and the Santorum race - I don't want to have you call races.
Mr. ROVE: Yeah, I'm looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math, I'm entitled to the math.
SIEGEL: Well, I don't know if we're entitled to our different math, but you're certainly -
Mr. ROVE: I said the math. I said you're entitled to yours.
SIEGEL: There are also a lot of stories about people being very disturbed about the course of the war in Iraq and about people who feel that this is not the way it was supposed to happen over the past -
Mr. ROVE: No war ever happens the way it was supposed to happen. I'd love for somebody to show me a war that rolled out exactly the way that it did. I do know this, though, that people, as they get close to the voting decision, focus on the issue of what are the consequences of winning and the consequences of losing. And I think we saw this earlier this year in a blue state among blue voters, and that's the Connecticut senatorial primary. There was only one issue. Iraq. Thirty-four percent of the states voters are Democrats eligible to participate in the primary. Forty percent of them turned out. Just over seven percent of them voted to get out now, in a blue state. Lieberman went from being way behind to being narrowly behind on election day because as the election got closer, people had to think about the consequence to America of winning or losing.
SIEGEL: How, then, do you read this - how do you look ahead to the election in terms of Iraq policy. If the Republicans maintain the majorities on the Hill, it's a ratification of the Iraq policy?
Mr. ROVE: Well, I think Iraq and the economy play a role in virtually every race, but there are also local considerations in the local contest between two individuals that at the end of the day matters for a great deal of the contest.
It's not a - there's a natural human desire to simplify everything to one big thing. What is Curley's line from the movie, you know, one thing? But that's not the way politics really is. Politics is a, you know, complex equation in which voters are going to be examining a variety of issues and a variety of characteristics as they arrive at their decision.
SIEGEL: Karl Rover, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. ROVE: Thank you, appreciate it.
SIEGEL: Karl Rove is deputy chief of staff to President Bush, and you can hear more of my interview on our Web site, NPR.org.
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