by RAY FLEMING “ALTER ego” or “eminence grise” or both - Karl Rove has been George W Bush's chief political adviser during the years before the 2000 election and since. Now he is leaving, following the departures of Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton. Of those only Colin Powell can be said to have departed with his reputation intact. In Mr Rove's case the political vultures have been circling for some time and his recent refusal to appear before a Senate committee looking into political influence in the dismissal of several US prosecutors may have been the deciding factor in his decision. The only question now remaining over Mr Bush's closest staff is how long Attorney General Alberto Gonzales can hold on to his job. Karl Rove has had a profound influence on the way American elections are fought by building strong networks of supporters which can be mobilised to vote in an intense last minute 72-hour turnout drive. At the same time he has encouraged deep research into opponents' records and exploitation of their vulnerabilities; this technique was used to blunt John Kerry's 2004 campaign, even though many of the accusations against him were unfounded. These methods have been widely spread through the Republican party and will be used in 2008 even without Mr Rove's presence.

In his resignation statement yesterday Mr Rove predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic presidential choice next year and described her as “a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate”. She has been warned.


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