Conservative political mastermind Karl Rove will speak this afternoon at a fundraiser for three Colorado Republicans challenging incumbent Democrats. The Paepcke Auditorium event is open to the public at $75 a head but closed to the press.
Proceeds go to the campaigns of Republicans Scott Tipton, who is attempting to unseat Congressman John Salazar, along with Cory Gardner and Ryan Frazier. All three are expected to make brief remarks before Rove’s keynote.
Bob Rankin, the Aspen Republican challenging incumbent state Sen. Gail Schwartz, said he’ll be a paying attendee, and that he’s looking to Rove for advice and encouragement for advancing what he sees as a state and nationwide movement of insurgent conservatives.
“You pick up things like tips on what to say and what points to make from somebody like Karl Rove,” Rankin said, comparing the fundraiser to another closed-door Tipton event in Aspen earlier this summer featuring Fox News contributor Dick Morris. “This is a big movement and it’s a little more than the Tea Party. It’s hardcore conservatives talking about basic values. And we’re getting a lot of support in Aspen and Pitkin County. It’s surprising ... The fiscal conservatives come out.”
For a Republican to take the state senate or U.S. Congress seat including the liberal bastion of Aspen — where President Obama won nearly 75 percent of voters in 2008 — in the upcoming mid-term elections would undoubtedly be a feather in the cap of the state and national party.
Known as “The Architect” for coordinating the political rise of President George W. Bush, Rove’s address will be on the mid-terms’ importance to Republicans, according to Pitkin County Republican Party chair Frieda Wallison.
Wallison arranged the fundraiser. She said she’s been trying to get Rove to do a GOP event here for several years, without success. Rove contacted her recently, she said, as he was coming to Aspen on other business.
“He said he would be here and wanted to help out,” she said.
While she said she doesn’t expect to turn Aspen or Pitkin County red, Wallison said she’s seeing higher than usual interest in Republican candidates here this fall, from independents and the registered party faithful alike.
“There’s a high degree of enthusiasm for conservative candidates,” she said. “People are very concerned about the economy, healthcare legislation and spending. And I believe that if we continue to have a Democratic Congress that the policies will just continue and we won’t be able to pull ourselves out of the hole that we’re in.”
Wallison said she hopes to bring in a crowd of up to 200 to the Rove event.
“There are a whole lot of residents and second homeowners he can attract,” Rankin said.
Following his 3:30 p.m. speech, Rove will sign copies of his memoir, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.”
The Aspen Institute rented out the auditorium for the fundraiser, but is not sponsoring it or involved in the event. Rove did speak at an official Institute event in July 2007, while he was serving as President Bush’s deputy chief of staff and policy advisor.
It’s relatively standard for both major parties to shut the press out of fundraising events.
“People need to be able to talk frankly in there and have a real honest discussion,” Rankin said. “It’s just different when you have the [party] faithful all together.”