Ten years ago, Karl Rove was being celebrated as — was celebrating himself as — the architect of what he called a permanent Republican majority.
Today, not so much.
In the 2012 cycle, Rove spent some $300 million of other people’s money and accomplished not a damn thing with it. These are not people who appreciate spending a lot of money and getting nothing in return. They were led to believe that their money would purchase politicians who would return their phone calls immediately. Even more important, they wanted their investment to instill a good healthy fear in those in Washington who otherwise might cross them.
Instead, they got U.S. Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren.
Of course, the real Wizard of Oz moment came Election Night on Fox, when Rove performed his epic meltdown over the numbers coming out of Ohio. If that did not permanently damage his reputation more than the losses themselves, it certainly cemented it.
You see, a good political strategist has to be willing to listen dispassionately to what the data tell him. He does not yell angrily at that data, like a distraught husband refusing to believe that his wife just left him. In that moment, Rove exposed himself as the petty figure that he is.
As Dorothy Gale, D-Kansas, famously put it, “Why, you’re not a wizard at all, you’re just a man! And you’re a very bad man for pretending to be a wizard.”
And after that, as I recall, the defrocked wizard floated away in a balloon, unable to steer a new direction because “I don’t know how it works!”
– Jay Bookman