A few weeks after the Republicans were routed in the November 2006 elections, a longtime Bush Republican from Texas told me that it was time for Karl Rove to go. That comment spoke volumes, for it came from someone who had worked closely with Rove ever since his early days as a political consultant in the campaigns of Texas Gov. Bill Clements.
Given the November election losses suffered by Republicans across the country and the waning influence of a lame-duck President, all of a sudden the man hailed as the “political genius” of the Republican Party does not look quite so smart. That “permanent” Republican majority Rove said he was building crashed and burned in the November debacle.
Yet Rove, intent on salvaging his political legacy as “the grand Republican strategist of our times,” has a hard time letting go. To that end, he has maintained his control over the Republican National Committee (RNC) by naming Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as general chairman of the party and Kentucky’s Mike Duncan, longtime member of the Republican National Committee, as head of the RNC’s day-to-day operations. Both men are known Rove loyalists. They replace former Rove political deputy Ken Mehlman, who chaired the RNC the last two years.
Rove’s selection of Martinez to be the public face of the GOP is an attempt to woo two groups who deserted...