Rove serves up red meat for hungry Republicans
Karl Rove, a ex-top adviser to former President George W. Bush, chats Thursday before speaking to a group at a GOP fundraiser in the Briar Ridge subdivision in Schererville. Kyle Telechan | The Times

SCHERERVILLE | Karl Rove came to Lake County on Thursday with a message of hope for downtrodden Republicans.

Rove, a top political adviser who helped orchestrate former President George W. Bush's White House victories, said this county's GOP can improve its dismal standing in this Democratic stronghold. He said President Barack Obama can be beaten in 2012, and Gov. Mitch Daniels ranks among the most respected Republican governors in the country who might take on the president.

"We will have a good year," Rove said at the Briar Ridge home of former state Rep. Dan Dumezich, who was hosting an intimate $1,000-per-person fundraiser, also attended by Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Munster native. Rove also was warming up for at $100-per-person event later Thursday at Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville.

He said the Lake County Republican Party, which hasn't elected a candidate to countywide office since the 1950s, can get off the mat.

"When you are in a minority situation, you need better candidates and support them. They can be the party of reform. It's clear that the Lake County Democratic establishment is out of keeping with, not only the conservative philosophy, but the philosophy of a lot of people who aren't particularly conservative, but like clean, reform government."

He said he likes Daniels for pursuing "an agenda driven by principle and a bold vision." He said Daniels "is not a guy who has run out of ideas. He is particularly keen on education reform, which should matter in this county a lot.

"I think he is viewed by his fellow governors as one of their natural leaders," Rove said.

Is Daniels presidential material as some have suggested?

"If he decides he wants to do it, he will be a big player. There are a number of our governors: he, (Minnesota Gov. Tim) Pawlenty, (Louisiana Gov. Bobby) Jindal and (Mississippi Gov. Haley) Barbour, all of whom have been talked about for good reason because all of them have been successful governors," Rove said.

He said Republicans should win seven or eight seats in the U.S. Senate and at least 37 in the House.

"It could be as many as 55. There is a better than 60-40 chance we will take the House," Rove said.

Obama took Lake County and Indiana by storm in 2008, but Rove said the economy's failure to relaunch under the president's expensive stimulus plan and "Obamacare" health care reforms have soured the public.

"This is supposed to be the summer of recovery," Rove said.

Rove said the economy may grow by 2012 but not enough to satisfy voters. He is optimistic the GOP can decide on a candidate who can "lay out a compelling and confident agenda for the nation's future and to meticulously and directly and respectfully show their sharp disagreement with (Obama's) agenda."

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