Post-Rove GOP Needs New Direction

Consultants from an earlier era provide a lesson for party sustainability.

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As Karl Rove leaves town with a questionable legacy and a Republican Party in search of a new leader, a new direction may be in order.

Meet the late Bob Teeter and John Deardourff.

The GOP will not appreciate a suggestion from a registered Democrat. But as a political reporter, proud of his centrality as such before retiring, I believe the Republicans could use a dose of the Teeter-Deardourff brand of politics.

This consulting team was at full speed for the party for several years at the presidential- and Senate-race level. They teamed up for Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, along with a large number of Senate and gubernatorial contests.

Teeter and Deardourff wanted to win, no question. But they eschewed cutthroat tactics (read Karl Rove) and used campaign ads that were more positive than negative.

Conservatives of the bare-knuckle variety like Rove would probably say they were too nice. They would be wrong.

Teeter and Deardourff knew how to deal with the press, too. Consultants of both parties today are happy to return calls from reporters when things are rosy but are nowhere to be found when things are going south. This pair knew the press had a job and were willing to confront a problem rather than run from it.

Teeter was a gifted pollster who told his clients the bad news as well as the good even if it hurt. Deardourff was a happy warrior in victory as well as defeat. Both recognized there would be another day even if they lost one fight.

Today, most consultants seem bent on the politics of destruction. In his master plan to gain a permanent GOP majority, Rove went after the throats of his opponents. Playing hardball may have its place but when overdone, it is ruinous.

Bob Teeter and John Deardourff died far too early in their lives. Any reporter who covered the races they were involved in will speak highly of their integrity.

Now, that is a true legacy in politics.