Steamboat Springs Republican strategist Karl Rove told a sold-out crowd that things are looking very good for conservatives in what could be a “monumental election” in November.
Rove, speaking Friday evening to 307 people as part of The Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference at the top of the gondola in Steamboat Springs, said some predictions call for historic changes for conservatives. He said according to one prediction, Democrats could lose 70 seats in the midterm election.
“You would have to go back to the Great Depression, the collapse of the Republican Party in the 1930s, to see a loss like that,” he said.
He said he doesn’t expect the Democrats to actually lose that many seats, but he does think Democrats likely will lose a number of seats.
Even so, Rove said the Republican Party has not picked up on all of that momentum.
“It’s not all good news for conservatives and Republicans,” he said. “We have not had a corresponding improvement of attitudes for the GOP, but we shouldn’t expect it.”
He said that President Barack Obama’s popularity is dipping and some of his key policies are proving unpopular but that there is no national-level Republican to bring that support back to the party.
“There’s no single national (figure). No vivid personality. No dynamic personality that’s captured the imagination of the American people,” he said.
That’s fine for now and for the midterm elections, he said.
“We don’t need to be yet in a place where we have repaired the damage of the public image. It’s sufficiency and adequacy” that will keep Republicans going, he said. “We will have a very good election just by surfing the wave of discontent with Obama,” he said.
He said many conservatives who are stepping into politics — especially into the tea party — are doing so for the first time. He said their convictions are strong but that they are “rough” and in some cases want change more quickly than the Constitution is built for.
Rove’s speech was more than an hour long. He held a Q-and-A session after his remarks, which was “off the record” for the media. According to organizers, national TV media was excluded once Rove began speaking and could not televise the speech.
Conference volunteer and Steamboat resident Kay Makens called Rove impressive after his speech.
“He was very quick on his feet and very funny,” she said.
Rove, the man behind the George W. Bush presidential campaigns and many of his policies in office, quickly recalled facts and figures as he spoke without notes, often rattling off several specific poll numbers in a row.
“I thought Karl was right on form,” Steamboat resident Dick Mills said. “He was terrific.”
His wife, Paula Mills, said Rove was “super generous with his time and comments,” after Rove answered several questions from the audience.
Rove also signed copies of his book, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” before and after the speech. Off the Beaten Path Bookstore owners Ron and Sue Krall said they brought 125 copies of the book to the speech and expected to sell out by the end of the night.
The Freedom Conference will continue today at The Steamboat Grand.
Organizer Rick Akin said 205 attendees are registered for the full conference. The conference is organized by The Steamboat Institute, headed by Jennifer Schubert-Akin. The group calls itself a nonpartisan organization that is guided by a conservative set of principles.
Rick Akin said the increase in popularity of the tea party has not changed the types of speakers the conference hosts, but it has increased the visibility of the movement — to the point that some speakers have limited availability.
Despite that, the conference landed several big-name speakers.
On Friday, Ginny Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and founder of a political action committee supporting Sarah Palin, was one of the first speakers at the event in the afternoon. After asking the audience to join her in retaking the government, she answered questions from the audience filling two ballrooms at the Grand. No, she said, career politicians aren’t the problem in Washington, and no, an audience member should not throw out a tenant because she’s far-left-leaning, she answered to a round of laughter.
She also spoke about a desire to do a “constitutional audit” and told the audience, “We will not have a conservative majority in House and Senate after the election, I hate to tell you.”
She ended by saying, “We’ve got to stop what’s going on. Won’t you help me?”
Sharron Angle, the Republican opponent of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, told the audience that although she will be elected in Nevada, she sees herself as a representative for everyone in the conservative movement.
During her speech, she reiterated her view that the Department of Education should be eliminated. She said she tried to home-school her son after he failed kindergarten but that a judge did not allow it, prompting her entry into politics.
“Government came between me and my family,” she said.
Speakers today include Jason Mattera, editor of “Human Events” and author of “Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation,” a health care panel, and a session about “2010 — The Year of the Conservative Woman” with Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the polling company Woman Trend.