The Man Who Would Be Kingmaker

Karl Rove has masterminded all of Bush's political victories. Now he faces his toughest challenge: convincing you that the presidential front-runner owns his own soul.

In the most recent statewide election, Bush told Rove to stay out of contested primaries. "I've become an adjunct of him," Rove says, rationalizing the edict.

The consultant nonetheless played a significant, albeit unpaid, role in several races. New Attorney General Cornyn, who entered the race to compete with former state Republican Party chairman Tom Pauken -- an archenemy of Rove's -- told the San Antonio Express-News that Rove had encouraged him to run.

Pauken remains convinced that Rove worked behind the scenes, with Bush's nod of approval, and engineered his defeat. Pauken claims that Rove had Barry Williamson, a former Rove client and railroad commissioner, launch an exhaustive negative television ad campaign at the end of the race to make sure Pauken failed. (Rove and Pauken's feud has its origins in 1994, when Rove recruited Joe Barton, now a congressman, to run against Pauken in the election for state party chairman. As soon as he won, Pauken terminated Rove's direct-mail contract with the Texas Republican Party.)

On the governor's order, Rove recently sold Rove & Co. to Ted Delisi and Todd Olsen, two young political operatives who have worked on campaigns of some other Rove candidates. Rove helped finance the sale.

Reba Hammond says her family was surprised that Bush made Rove give up the company he had founded. "We all kind of thought it was odd," she says. "Why didn't he just take a sabbatical? And he told us he didn't sell it for quite the price he wanted."

A few weeks before Rove moved to the exploratory-committee offices, former secretary of state George Schultz dropped by the consultant's cramped quarters. He'd just come from a bull session with Bush.

With Schultz peeking in his office door, Rove for a moment seemed uncharacteristically flustered -- maybe a little like the kid who ran after the Minnesota governor's autograph so many years ago.

"I'm going to need to get your signature," he told the onetime Reagan Administration official. Rove had hanging in his office a collection of different historical documents signed by other secretaries of state, including James Madison and Elihu Root. He showed them to Schultz.

"These are valuable," Schultz said, inspecting the glass-framed records.
"Not that valuable," Rove replied.
Schultz examined the documents a while longer, then walked down the hall with Rove.

"You know," he said, as if talking to a peer, "the governor is a bright guy."

Rove was beaming.

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