Karl Rove, boy genius?

I was explaining about electoral college strategy in my campaigns and elections class today and I told the story of how Rove sent Bush into California the weekend before the 2000 election in a supposed show of confidence and strength.  Bush, of course, lost Florida handily– had the ultimate result turned out differently, Rove's “genius” surely would have been called into question over this maneuver.  How nice, then, to return from class, check in at Talking Points Memo and see that one of my blogging role models, Josh Marshall, has addressed this very point in a post today:

It was about a stunt Rove pulled that almost lost Bush the presidency in 2000.

Going into the big day the polls all showed a very, very close race,
with perhaps ever so slight an edge for Bush. Conventional logic would
have dictated sending Bush to swing states like Florida. But that's not
what Rove did. He chose instead to send Bush to California and New
Jersey — states Bush could only have any hope of winning in a
blow-out. The reasoning was simple. Rove figured that he could
accomplish more through convincing mainly the press, but also activists
and even highly-plugged voters, that Bush was going to win big than he
would by sending his guy into a state like Florida for some last minute
retail politicking.

It's the bandwagon effect. Psyche out the other side. Act like
you're winning and you'll charge up your activists/voters and
demoralize the folks on the other side. Mainly, get the press to
believe your hype and they'll do the charging up and demoralizing for
you. As it happened, it was a really dumb decision in 2000. If not for
faulty ballots and election stealing, Bush would have lost Florida and
the presidency. And given the margin, at least conceivable that Bush
could have won fair and square had he spent the last few days on the ground in Florida.

This is part of a larger post about how both Democrats and Republicans remain convinced that Rove has some trick up his sleeve to save this election for the Republicans.  I'm definitely with Marshall that Rove is basically just trying to bluff.  Karl Rove may be super-evil (just kidding), but he's not super-human. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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