There are few people in politics with more explaining to do right now than Karl Rove. The one-time "architect" of George W. Bush's electoral victories spent the past two years extracting many hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy and angry conservatives for his super PAC American Crossroads, promising the money would be put to good use: ending the presidency of Barack Obama and winning seats in Congress for Republicans. Two days out from Election Day, with President Obama sitting comfortably atop a pile of 303 electoral votes (perhaps more) and Democrats having added seats in the Senate, Rove is looking for someone or something to blame, arguing that the president got "lucky" with a little help from Hurricane Sandy.
His November 8 Wall Street Journal column is a mish-mash of electoral data and stale anti-Obama invective that gives some credit for Obama's reelection to the president's campaign, but also lays heaps of responsibility on exogenous factors:
The president was also lucky. This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney's momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan.
Then there was the anonymous New York Times headline writer who affixed "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" to Mr. Romney's November 2008 op-ed on reorganizing the auto companies, which the Obama campaign brought up again and again in the industrial Midwest. The president made it appear that Mr. Romney favored liquidation of the companies (which he did not), instead of an orderly reorganization (which he did).
That wasn't all. A hotel employee with a cellphone camera taped Mr. Romney talking at a May fundraiser about the "47%" of the population that do not have any federal income-tax liability. When released in September, the video added to public doubts about Mr. Romney's wealth and character.
Rove's ex-post facto analysis of the election is interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, Rove's column immediately preceding the election insisted that "It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney." Now he's throwing those once-predictive numbers out the window and arguing that it really came down to the president's campaign strategy (which he spent all year insisting would not work and would actually redound to Romney's benefit) and a healthy dose of deus ex machina.
Second, of the many high-profile conservatives who confidently predicted a comfortable Romney victory, Rove is virtually alone in refusing to acknowledge that his analysis was completely wrong. Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner (who predicted Romney would win 315 electoral votes) wrote yesterday: "The results are in and I was wrong." Even Dick Morris offered a mea culpa for his outlandish assurances of a Romney landslide.
Instead, Rove is insisting that the pre-election arrival of Hurricane Sandy means President Obama was "lucky." Meanwhile, Rove has hundreds of millions in spending to answer for. So if people do really come to believe that President Obama was reelected because of hurricane damage in New York and New Jersey, and not in spite of the millions of dollars spent fruitlessly on Crossroads ads in Ohio and Florida, then it's actually Rove himself who should feel "lucky."