Karl Rove gives history lesson, insights on upcoming election

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Updated Apr 18, 2024
Karl Rove speaks at TRALA Annual Meeting
Karl Rove speaks during the general assembly at the 2024 Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) Annual Meeting Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Karl Rove wants you to remember it could be worse. It has been worse; much worse. So, so many times.

Speaking Tuesday at the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., Rove said attendees are right to be dissatisfied with their options in the upcoming presidential election. He said that sentiment tracks with more than 70% of Americans.

But in a rousing history lesson in which Rove detailed scores of instances of congressional gridlock and fights, stolen elections, riots, civil unrest and assassinations in America’s past, he says what the nation faces this November is actually somewhat tame. America might not want to re-elect Joe Biden or Donald Trump, but at least the country isn’t seeing violence and hostility that threatens the nation and puts everyone at risk.

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Rove said America wants a leader to step up and bring the nation forward, and believes the candidate who can best project that leadership between now and November will ultimately be victorious when all the votes are counted.

Today, Rove gives Trump the edge. The former president leads in many battleground states that have swung the last two elections. “If the election were today, Trump would win,” he said. “He’s ahead. And he’s ahead nationally.”

But the race is tightening. Rove said Biden is making gains, and in a race that appears this close, “this election is going to play out where every day is going to matter.”

Incumbency generally is an advantage in presidential elections and Rove said Biden does have the opportunity to showcase his leadership in the months ahead. But Rove also said the president has made mistakes in the Middle East, making public statements to Iran and Israel for domestic reasons rather than decisively leading negotiations for peace.

Rove mentioned Biden’s demand that Iran not attack Israel, which the former ignored, as a particularly embarrassing incident.

“People will take the strong leader over the weak leader almost every time they can,” he said.

Rove said that’s an area where Trump has an advantage. He said the former president carries himself and speaks from a position of power. Trump also can lean on his successes during his prior term as a way to frame his candidacy as a better alternative to Biden’s leadership.

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But Trump’s faults can be overlooked either.

Rove said 16% of Republicans believe Trump’s four ongoing legal cases are all justified, and he says if the former president loses those voters he won’t be able to win in November. Rove did note, among the four, he thinks the current case regarding Trump’s affair with an adult film star is least notable and will have the smallest impact on voter choices. Conversely, Rove said Trump is fortunate his classified document case is unlikely to reach court before November and expressed confusion as to what Trump was thinking when he departed the White House with so much classified information.

“If I walked out of there with those documents, let alone thousands of those documents, you’d be seeing me in the visitors room at Fort Leavenworth federal prison,” he joked.

Rove also touched briefly on the candidates ages, noting three quarters of Americans think Biden is too old. “Guess what, they’re right,” he said. But also noted on Trump, a 77 year old driven by rage and anger is “a heart attack waiting to happen.”

Rove said those traits could make the duo’s vice president selections somewhat impactful. Rove doesn’t think Biden can replace Harris and risk losing support from black women, historically one of the Democratic party’s most loyal segments, but believes she’s been “a disaster.”

On the Republican side, Rove doesn’t know if Trump will choose a sycophant who will cheerlead for him, or look for a candidate who could tactically strengthen his overall ticket. Rove said South Carolina Senator Tim Scott or Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin could fill the latter; he said Trump’s primary challengers Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis won’t be considered. 

Rove also briefly commented on the trucking industry, offering skepticism about electric vehicles and their impact on reducing global emissions. He said the United States has done more to reduce its carbon footprint over the last 25 years than any other developed nation in the world. Electrification of the trucking fleet would further that, but wouldn't mean much on a global level if the world's top emitting countries, China and India, continue at their current pace. 

“If the rest of the world was doing what we were doing we wouldn’t be talking about this,” he said. Rove also added if U.S. trucking companies do eventually start buying electric trucks, it should be because they want them not because theyve been forced to adopt the technology.

“We are most efficient when we use market forces,” he said.

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