Karl Rove on tonight’s RNC debut: ‘It’s not so much the line-up as it is the execution’

Republican strategist Karl Rove (left) and someone who's only slightly less bald. Kevin Riley, kriley@ajc.com

Republican strategist Karl Rove (left) and someone who’s only slightly less bald. Kevin Riley, kriley@ajc.com

CLEVELAND – The most interesting people at stroll by at a political convention. This morning it was Karl Rove, the man behind President George W. Bush and – until recently – a dedicated foe of Donald J. Trump as a Republican presidential candidate. They supposedly made peace earlier this summer.

So I asked Rove, who’s had a hand in several conventions, what he thought of tonight’s line-up for the evening debut of the Republican National Convention. The line-up is eclectic and unusual – two Marines who were in Libya, activists in the anti-illegal immigration movement, and a sheriff from Wisconsin. The highlight will be a speech by Melania Trump, wife of the Republican presumptive.

Rove was more than kind in his evaluation:

“It’s not so much the line-up as it is the execution, and we won’t know until we know. Every convention, to some degree, is a high-wire act – because you don’t know how people are going to perform.

“In 1988, Democrats said, ‘We’ve got that smart governor of Arkansas who’s a centrist. He’ll give a helluva speech.’”

For the uninitiated, the speech by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton broke all records – for length. “In conclusion” was one of the speech’s most popular phrases. But we’ll let Rove continue:

“Tonight – I thought it was interesting that the wife was going to speak on the first night. I think that’s a smart recognition that people really do need to get to know him a little better. Some of the best testimonials could come from family members.

“The most powerful voices tonight – and we don’t know how they’re going to perform – Pat Smith, Mark Geist and John Teigen (who were at Benghazi) and Karen Vaughn (mother of a Navy Seal who died in action). I’ve seen her Navy Seal Foundation thing. It strikes me that she could be a powerful presence.”


Starting in Iowa and New Hampshire, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has brought you every key moment in the 2016 presidential race, and our in-depth coverage will continue at the political conventions. Our team of seasoned political reporters will be on the ground in Cleveland and Philadelphia to bring you every development from these pivotal campaign events. An expanded editorial team in the Atlanta newsroom will round out coverage of both conventions.

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