Former top Bush administration adviser Karl Rove says the Obama administration fears that sending more troops to Afghanistan before the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey would outrage the left, damaging Democrats' chances of winning those bellwether elections – as well as Obama's legislative agenda.
Appearing Thursday night on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Rove told host Bill O'Reilly: "Bill, I got to tell you, I think this has to do with politics. They are scared to death of making what they know is the right decision to agree with General (Stanley) McChrystal's assessment and make that announcement before the November elections.
"They're afraid it will depress Democratic turnout in Virginia and New Jersey, and that they'll suffer electoral defeats," Rove added, referring to the Nov. 3 gubernatorial elections in those states.
Rove said the liberal backlash to sending more troops also could make congressional Democrats reluctant to cooperate with the administration on healthcare reform and other proposals.
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"They think it will also have a negative impact on the support from the Democratic left, particularly in the House, on their healthcare reform bills," Rove said. "And I think this is all about politics, and not about what's right for America's security."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Friday morning that the president will announce his decision on troop strength "in a couple weeks."
Beltway insiders tell Newsmax that Democratic losses in Virginia and New Jersey could seriously damage the president's chances of enacting his ambitious legislative agenda.
Obama has campaigned for Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey and for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in Virginia.
In New Jersey, the latest Rasmussen poll shows Republican challenger Chris Christie leading Corzine 41 percent to 39 percent, with Independent candidate Chris Daggett at 11 percent.
Rasmussen's Virginia poll shows Republican Bob McDonnell opening a 7-point lead over Deeds, 50 percent to 43 percent. Obama is scheduled to appear with Deeds at a rally Tuesday at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
In recent days, Obama staffers have openly criticized the Deeds campaign, apparently to distance Obama from the Democratic candidate if the Republican prevails.
A Democratic defeat in those elections, both of which are in states Obama carried one year ago, could be seen as a bellwether response to the administration's policies.
Moderate Democrats might well respond to the setbacks by distancing themselves from the president's policies, further complicating efforts to enact his agenda.
Rove's comments Thursday evening followed criticism by former Vice President Dick Cheney that the administration is "dithering" in its protracted review of Gen. David McChrystal's troop request. McChrystal has warned that the United States only has about a year to reverse the Taliban's resurgence, after which it may be impossible to do so.
Rove also echoed Cheney's assertion that the Bush administration conducted a top-to-bottom review of the war in Afghanistan, but was asked by the Obama transition team to keep the findings confidential.
Rove said that review recommended the beefed-up counterinsurgency strategy that President Obama rolled out in March. That is the policy now undergoing further review.
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