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The living room of Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, is a place for thinking. There are big windows with long views, a wall of books and on one side a table that is usually freckled with jigsaw pieces. It was a few days after New Year's in 2003. The President had been out clearing cedar, and Laura Bush was lying on a sofa reading, or at least pretending to. That Christmas holiday was a deep breath between the 2002 midterm elections and the walk-up to the war in Iraq. Karl Rove, chief strategist for the Bush re-election campaign, arrived at the house with his faded blue canvas briefcase in hand. He had come to help put together a different kind of puzzle.
On his laptop was a PowerPoint pitch titled POTUS Presentation to project on the beige walls. It was no secret what the first piece of Bush's re-election strategy would be: to reach out to the base and make sure the Evangelicals, who Rove believed stayed home in 2000, came out this time. But appealing just to one part of one party would never produce 270 electoral votes, so Rove had prepared a series of slides, each with a great big goal in tall letters: BROADEN, PERSUADE, GROW. These were designed to show how Bush could assemble a winning majority by inspiring his party's most ardent supporters while also drawing in more typically Democratic voters, like Hispanics, Catholics and suburban moderates, among others.
But before Rove could begin his song and dance, Bush cut in. "You're not the only smart guy that's been thinking about it," he said. "So before we get going, let me tell you what I've been thinking about." Bush had learned something from the midterm elections, in which he had gambled his popularity by swooping into tight races. Although the President's party usually loses ground in midseason, with his help the Republicans had made historic gains. That fueled Bush's faith in what could happen when a President resists the temptation to sit tight and instead is willing to spend political capital. For the 2004 campaign, Bush told Rove, he wanted to spend again to further expand his party's majority in Congress. Bush intended to keep doing risky and not necessarily popular things; to lead a revolution, he would need more troops.
As for his re-election campaign, Bush told Rove, it would be all too easy to focus on just three things: "raising the money, running the television ads and moving around the country in the big blue bird." But Bush had no interest in a classic corporate Republican operation that had a lot of money and not much passion. The Democrats are supposed to be the party with the deep grass roots and the ardent volunteers, but in 2000 Bush had managed to draft an army that saw itself as a band of outsiders storming the gates. "It gave people a lot of energy and enthusiasm," he said. "We can't lose that. I want to leave it so that some number of years from now, people look back and say, 'You know, I really wasn't involved much in politics until the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign asked me to get involved.'"
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