WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump intensified his war with the Republican establishment on Thursday by attacking Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist who criticized Trump’s first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision.
“He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda,” Trump complained in a statement issued by his office in Palm Beach, Florida.
Rove, the architect of Republican George W. Bush’s presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Trump’s speech last Sunday to the Conservative Political Action Conference was wanting.
Rove noted that in a straw poll of CPAC participants, only 68% wanted Trump to run for president again in 2024, while 32% did not want him to run or had no opinion.
Trump’s CPAC speech was noteworthy for rehashing his unfounded claims of election fraud in his November loss to Democrat Joe Biden, despite advice from his team not to do so.
Rove wrote of the 90-minute speech: “There was no forward-looking agenda, simply a recitation of his greatest hits. People like fresh material. Repetition is useful to a point, but it grows stale.”
The spat was the latest round in the civil war that has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, like Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump base.
But Trump retains strong influence within the party. McConnell, for instance, voted to acquit Trump on impeachment charges, then turned around and called Trump “practically and morally responsible” for his supporters’ deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last month, only to then say he would vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee in 2024.
Trump called Rove — a familiar figure on the Fox News Channel who writes his points on an erasable whiteboard — a “RINO,” or Republican In Name Only, and said Rove had lobbied him in support of 5G telecommunications.
“Karl Rove has been losing for years, except for himself. He’s a RINO of the highest order, who came to the Oval Office lobbying for 5G for him and a group,” Trump said.
Trump said Rove had called him on the night of the Nov. 3 election to congratulate him on a “great victory,” which was before Biden was declared the winner.
Rove, in a statement to Reuters, dismissed Trump’s criticism.
“I’ve been called a lot of things in my career, but never a RINO. I’ve voted for every Republican presidential candidate since I turned 18 and have labored only for GOP (Republican) candidates since then,” said the 70-year-old Rove. “I have a different recollection of Mr. Trump’s views on 5G and our conversation election night. I’ll continue to use my whiteboard and voice to call balls and strikes.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)