He was in town having lunch with a friend and I had the opportunity to visit with him. He said that he expected to finish his book on the Bush Administration in the next week or so, and it would be on the spring list. He was very interested in the Texas Tribune and was on the skeptical side about its prospects, comparing it to Politico, which he believes is losing money — but all startups lose money. He asked some questions about the governor’s race and expressed some opinions about the slow start of the Hutchison campaign. The entire tenor of that part of the conversation conversation sure didn’t sound as if he is the grand strategic poobah for the campaign. I asked if he were going to be doing any political consulting work and his response was, “You can’t go back.” He says he is purely a pundit now. The visit occurred as Obama was planning to make his speech on health care. At the time, Obama had not decided whether to give the speech from the White House or before Congress, and Rove believed, as I do, that going before Congress would be a mistake, because the president will have no control over how his critics in the Republican party behave. Each of us believes that Obama should say something like, “We have listened to the American people and we are going to start over again.” We discussed the upcoming congressional elections. He thinks Chet Edwards might be vulnerable if a strong opponent were to surface, which has not happened yet. I mentioned that Edwards had told me in an interview in June that there are 49 Democrats in the House who represent districts that Obama did not carry. Rove said that there are another 13 D’s in districts that Obama barely carried, making 62 Democrats at risk. The rest of the conversation was largely about quail, which Karl and our host ordered. The major thing that I took away from the conversation was that Rove was not as closely associated with the Hutchison campaign as had once been thought. I didn’t get the sense that he was distancing himself from it, just that he had a lot of irons in the fire (including potential federal and congressional investigations to worry about), and while he is clearly for Hutchison, he is not going “all in.”
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