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Rove to Former Ohio Gov. Strickland: Joe the Plumber Was Your Bridge-gate

Image: Rove to Former Ohio Gov. Strickland: Joe the Plumber Was Your Bridge-gate Ted Strickland, left, and Karl Rove

By Greg Richter   |   Sunday, 16 Feb 2014 10:40 AM

Things got testy between Republican strategist Karl Rove and former Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Sunday as the two debated early attacks in the 2016 presidential elections.

Strickland has been a critic of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the clear frontrunner among GOP candidates until news of his Bridge-gate scandal emerged early this year. Strickland has suggested Christie either knew of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that have been blamed on political retaliation – or he was incompetent for not realizing what his staff was up to.

On "Fox News Sunday," Rove told host Chris Wallace that Strickland is hardly the person Democrats should be sending out to attack Christie. After all, it was one of Strickland's own appointees who dug up private information on "Joe the Plumber" during the 2008 presidential election after the private citizen challenged then-candidate Barack Obama about his plans to redistribute wealth.

"Now, is Gov. Strickland, to adopt his standard, either incompetent or lying, simply because it was his appointee who did these things?" Rove asked.

An inspector general's report found that Ohio Department of Job & Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelly didn't have a legitimate reason to search the records of Joseph Wurzelbacher, popularly known as "Joe the Plumber." The governor suspended her for other reasons before she ultimately resigned.

Strickland, who was appearing on "Fox News Sunday" with Rove, denied any similarity in the cases. He said that although Christie's former aide Bridget Anne Kelly had been fired, questions remain as to who ordered her to close the lanes that clogged traffic in Fort Lee in September.

"Who told your employment commissioner to do what she did?" Rove shot back. Strickland denied Rove's claim that Jones-Kelly leaked private information on "Joe the Plumber" to the press, but Rove suggested he go back and "look at the record."

As for Republicans who have their eyes on expected Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Rove suggested they stick to the positive.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been criticized by Rove for dredging up former President Bill Clinton's old sexual dalliances. Rove said GOP hopefuls should follow the example of his old boss, former President George W. Bush, who skipped that tactic himself when running for president in 2000 as the Clinton presidency came to a close.

"Instead of being against something, [Bush] said, 'I will restore dignity and honor to the White House,'" Rove said.

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