Person of the Week: Karl Rove

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Karl Rove talks with supporters after a campaign rally in Dallas

George W. Bush doesn't like to travel, and, by all accounts, he doesn't particularly like giving campaign speeches. But he did both until his throat was raw and his nerves frayed in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's elections. He did it because Karl Rove told him it was a good idea. And Tuesday night, voters across the country told the President that Rove was right.

Rove, the President's most trusted political strategist and arguably one of the shrewdest man in Washington, won't publicly acknowledge the outcome of the midterms as any kind of personal affirmation. He'll attribute the Republican gains in the House and Senate to the intelligence of the voters or the general mood of the country. Or, more likely, he'll point to the President's appeal — Rove has no time for basking in past successes. This self-described "very competitive guy" is already moving on to the next big thing (which in this case may be the debate over war with Iraq).

For months before the midterm elections, the White House worried about the outcome of certain key races, calculating the chances that Republicans would maintain control of the House of Representatives (pretty good) and take back the Senate (not so good.) Rove, who has been called a "control freak" by more than one colleague, decided the White House would do very little good standing around worrying about the close races, but could do a great deal of good by actually getting involved — even if it meant tying the President's reputation to the races he was supporting.

And so the President's whirlwind stump schedule was born. Senate races in New Hampshire, Georgia, South Dakota and Minnesota were shaping up to be nail-biters, and so Bush was dispatched to fundraisers, get-out-the-vote events and rallies, touting the experience and political wisdom of John Sununu, Saxby Chambliss and Norm Coleman. The President also spent time in Florida, speaking on behalf of his brother Jeb, whose incumbency to the governor's mansion was under siege. Every one of those campaigns took home a victory Tuesday night. And while it's hard to measure precisely the influence the President had on voters, it's downright impossible to discount that influence completely.

That kind of success is pretty much par for the course for Rove since he joined the Bush campaign in 2000. Rove is considered by both Democrats and Republicans to have one of the country's sharpest and most instinctive political minds. He has made plenty of enemies along his road to success; some say his personality, which is jovial at times, can turn nasty when he (or his candidate) is in trouble. Others say he'll do just about anything to win.

Rove, 48, never graduated from college, leaving the University of Utah in 1971 to become executive director of the College Republicans. He began working for the former President Bush during a stint at the Republican National Committee in 1973, then moved to Texas to join the elder Bush's political action committee. He stayed in Austin for years, divorced his first wife and remarried, working as a consultant and running a mail order business until 1999, when George W. Bush persuaded Rove to come work on his campaign. Two years later, Rove was ensconced in the White House, launching his current career as presidential travel agent.