Karl Rove Discusses the Republican Primary Before the Primary

Karl Rove went "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren to discuss the Republican Presidential Primary. He explains that there is going to be a primary before the primary, wherein Mitt Romney is the frontrunner and the rest of the candidates are vying to be the non-Romney candidate. Currently Michele Bachmann is the frontrunner among non-Romney candidates, but Rove explained that if Rick Perry gets in the race, he could take the lead.

See the video clip and transcript below:

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the so-called Bachmann surge? At least that's what people are calling it. She's moving up in the polls.

ROVE: Yes, look, there are three things to say about this. First of all, she is in second place and it's a pretty dramatic move over the last month. Second of all, the story we don't pay attention to is, is that Mitt Romney continues to A, remain in the lead, and B, continues to widen his lead.

There's a primary going on before the primary. The primary is who's going to be the not Mitt Romney candidate? You have Mitt Romney as the front-runner, though, not out in front by the margin that historically we've seen in this process. And we have several other candidates -- Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich -- all of whom are vying to be the not Romney candidate.

So that when we get down to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, you'll have Mitt in front and a principal challenger. And she right now is running -- is in front on that. And as a result, she's going to get more attention, more scrutiny. And when Perry gets in, she's going to have a competitor who might jump ahead of her in the polls because these -- look, these numbers are loosey-goosey and they don't mean a lot.

I would remind you, at this point in 1999, George W. Bush was way ahead. But behind him were Elizabeth Dole, Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle. And guess what? John McCain was, like, 3 percentage points at this time in the summer of 1999. And yet because of this patient groundwork that he laid during the fall -- summer and fall of 1999, he became Bush's principal competitor in early 2000. So the same thing could happen this time around and is likely to happen. Somebody who's doing their homework and building the organization necessary to compete in these early primaries, developing a message that allows them to flower in the late part of year or early next is going to be the person who ends up being the not Romney candidate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you give me an estimate of when the door closes, when it becomes too late to get into the race because there are some sort of hovering around, at least, we suspect are hovering around, trying to make that decision.

ROVE: Yes. You know, look, unless you have been a -- you know, unless you're the governor of a big state like Texas or you've been the vice presidential running mate four years ago, I think the door is already closed. And it's closing fast for people like Governor Palin and Governor Perry. That's why, you know, Perry's doing this stuff underneath the radar scope, but getting himself ready. And it's because he understands he's got to get in this thing, if he's going to get into it, soon. And he's doing the things necessary to allow himself to get into this thing in two or three or four weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, there seems to be sort of a set pattern of how you run for president. But everyone -- you hear people say that the rules are different with Governor Palin. Is that true? I mean, can she operate a campaign different from the conventional one?

ROVE: Well, that's going to be the big test. I mean, clearly, she thinks so and her people think so. They've talked with people about it whom I've talked to, and they've been very explicit it, that she doesn't need to go to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and press the flesh and go to all these local events in order to cultivate the local leadership, she can talk to people over that.

She doesn't need to cultivate the fund-raisers and the bundlers because her mere presence in the race will generate the cash needed for a campaign. She doesn't need to do the things in a normal way to lay out a message. She can do it on Facebook. She can do it by having a friendly producer release a movie that's seen in theaters.

So that's going to be the interesting thing. I frankly think that, particularly in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, there are some of the niceties which you ignore at your own peril. There is a reason why -- these people take it these early states very seriously, and they expect to see you, to be able to hear you up close, to be able to ask you questions, to be able to see you multiple times before they make a commitment.

And you know, we'll see if that old rule remains the same. But she's clearly -- if she gets into this race, she will get into having said, I can write my own set of rules. And it'll be interesting to see if she can. VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, thank you. Always nice to see you.

ROVE: Thanks, Greta. Thanks for having me.

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