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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 November, 2004, 18:15 GMT
Drawing up blueprints for Bush victory
By Rachel Clarke
BBC News, Washington

US President George W Bush, addressing his party faithful in the hours after winning re-election, praised Karl Rove simply as "the architect" of victory.

Karl Rove
Karl Rove told President Bush to appeal to traditional Republicans
It was an outcome that had been in the planning even before Mr Rove stepped into the White House with the new president in January 2001.

The chief strategist, often referred to as "Bush's brain", believed that the key to a clear and outright win to give legitimacy to the controversial and narrow success of 2000 lay not in reaching out to the middle ground, but in solidifying and energising the base of the Republican party.

By 2 November 2004, he had 1.2 million volunteers doing just that - going out on election day, targeting 18 million supporters and getting them to the polls.

While that was the culmination of the campaign, the seeds of success were sown much earlier.

The Bush re-election came not just from pushing and cajoling people to go to the polls, but making them believe they were voting for someone who agreed with their values and would protect them.

Mr Rove thought four million evangelical Christians - probable Bush supporters - stayed at home in the 2000 election. If they had cast ballots, he reckoned, the president might have carried an extra state, or at least won the popular vote that would have given his first term more legitimacy.

A new plan

The closeness of the 2000 result showed both sides they had to do more to win the presidency in future.

But Mr Rove went against the conventional wisdom of appealing to the "Reagan Democrats", who ignored party affiliations to support a second term for the popular president, and targeted the base - traditional Republicans who were simply not voting.

Karl Rove with then Texas Governor George W Bush
Mr Rove charted gubernatorial and presidential successes for Mr Bush
It was an area he knew well, having worked in Texas to get Mr Bush elected and re-elected as governor.

For all the talk early in his presidency of Mr Bush being a uniter not a divider, that was not important to Mr Rove.

Instead, when very divisive issues of abortion and gay marriage came on to the agenda, Mr Rove set out a political message that would appeal to voters in the Bible Belt and then kept Mr Bush on that message.

He also played his own part, reaching out to evangelical leaders and other "people of faith" and attending to them personally.

Establishing differences

Observers say a constitutional amendment limiting "marriage" to a union between one man and one woman is unlikely to pass and the process would begin with the states or Congress, not the president.

But following Mr Rove's playbook, President Bush made repeated statements against same-sex unions and called for a constitutional amendment to be passed.

While challenger John Kerry said he also believed marriage should be between a man and a woman, no Democrat could denounce same-sex civil unions without the fear of alienating their core supporters.

Mr Bush had established a clear difference between himself and his rival.

Karl Rove makes a W sign behind the head of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Determined and dedicated, Mr Rove also has a playful side
Pundits may have thought that the Iraq conflict, terrorism and the economy were the key issues, but voters decided they were more concerned by moral values.

As the Washington Post noted, the Rove-led Bush campaign "super-charged the 'moral minority'".

Exit polls showed 21% of voters said moral values were the most important issue for them and 78% of them voted for Bush. That equates to 19 million people, or almost a third of Mr Bush's supporters in the voting booth.

Kerry voters may have been motivated by the war or the economy, but it seems that in this election, not enough of them felt strongly enough to go and stand in line to vote. By contrast, Mr Rove was right to believe that Southern evangelicals would go to the polls in their millions for the Republicans, if given the right reasons.

It may also have helped that various states - including the one that became vital in the presidential race, Ohio - asked residents to vote on banning gay marriage while they were at the polls. Many may well have turned out to show their opposition to that in particular, and then cast their vote in the presidential ballot as well.

At the same time as setting his own candidate on a winning course, Mr Rove led a team analysing the weakness of Mr Bush's opponents.

He was said to have been giddy at the thought of going up against the anti-war former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who at one time looked as though he would be the Democrat candidate.

Mr Kerry posed a different challenge, but the Rove team managed to label him a flip-flopping liberal with some success.

Pressure and pranks

By the time election night came around, Mr Rove was in the White House, where, unusually for a political adviser, he has an office.

He set up computers in the Old Family Dining Room and started tabulating results. He had set up a massive network of contacts, not just in state capitals, but individual districts and precincts to monitor turnout and support.

Reporters surround Karl Rove
Mr Rove may spin the news, but the media still wants to hear him
Early exit polls quoted by media seemed to give Mr Kerry the edge, but colleagues said Mr Rove indicated right away that they did not tally with his information.

He used his own data to put Ohio and Florida in the Bush column - bringing cheers from the president and his family when he went into the Roosevelt Room and told them.

And when the TV networks gave either Ohio or Nevada to Mr Bush but not both - which would have led him to be declared as the winner - Mr Rove was one of the president's aides who got on the phone to news chiefs to try to pressure them to change their minds.

But he is far more than the bully or evil genius as he is often portrayed.

Mr Rove is also the prankster-in-chief, darting back to the press cabin on Air Force One to make jokes and interrupting a live broadcast on CNN shortly before the president's post-election news conference, when the correspondent was talking about his role.

Those jokes may be at the expense of a hapless reporter or a political opponent or even a colleague, but it is part of his job and aim to charm the media. And while journalists may be sceptical of his spin, they still want to hear what he has to say.

The 2004 presidential election was the last political campaign for Mr Bush. But for the architect of the success - who saw his president elected by the most people ever and with increased Republican majorities in House and Senate - who knows.

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