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Buddy Roemer spotted Karl Rove wandering around the pavilion of the Science Center looking lost. Karl was hard to miss. He was the only person wearing a trench coat and carrying a battered leather briefcase. Roemer smiled. Rove, with his somewhat shabby raincoat and briefcase, reminded him of Columbo, the TV detective. Rove didn’t have Columbo’s funky charm, but he was shrewd as hell and as TV criminals had learned with Columbo, it was foolish to underestimate him.
Rove spotted Roemer standing by the entrance to an exhibit bordered by photos of New Hampshire autumns. A sign over the entrance said, ‘Seasons of Change.’ Rove changed the hand in which he carried his briefcase and reached out and shook Roemer’s hand. “Hey, Buddy. How’r ya doing?”
“Karl, it’s awfully nice to see you. How are you?" And what's so damned urgent? Roemer wondered. "Happy Thanksgiving.”
“I’m hitting my stride, Buddy. Hitting my stride.” Rove put his hand on Roemer’s back. “Where can we sit down and talk? I’ve gotta get some input from you on the--.”
“Walk with me, Karl. I want to show you something. Then we can talk. You’ve got a little time, don’t you?”
Rove looked at his watch, and then wished he hadn’t. He wanted Roemer to feel as though he had his undivided attention. “You bet, Buddy. Let’s git’r done!”
The next half hour was agony for Rove. Roemer led him through the Seasons of Change exhibit supplementing the posters with a running commentary on how global warming was going to impact New England. What the fuck!
Karl forced himself to appear interested as Roemer explained that New England’s fall foliage would be less brilliant. “Maple, beech, and birch trees can’t abide the warmer temperatures and will move north, you see,” Roemer said, pointing a collage of brilliant fall foliage.
Rove’s smile made him look slightly bilious. “Hmm,” he murmured.
“You know what fall tourism contributes to the New England economy, Karl?” Roemer asked.
Rove recognized a rhetorical question when he heard one and just raised his eyebrows in response.
“Tourism employs 250,000 New Englanders and another 106,000 upstate New Yorkers, paying total wages of greater than $6 billion,” Roemer said.
Rove wanted to kill himself. Maybe this had been a mistake.
“As our fall foliage retreats, tourism is expected to decline. The economic impact will be felt, Karl. And in more ways than one.”
Rove felt helpless as Roemer went on with evangelical zeal to cover the effects of climate change on cranberries, blueberries, and native Concord grapes; described how invasive pests and plants threatened to destroy wildlife habitats and take over cropland; and how maple sugar and paper industry jobs would be lost as maple trees and spruce and fir forests moved out of New England.
Finally, Rove couldn’t stand it and, taking Roemer by the elbow, said, “This is fascinating Buddy, but truth is, I’ve gotta catch a plane. I really want to run something by you that I think you’ll find pretty damned interesting, too.”
Roemer finally shut up and led Rove to a small, sparsely populated snack bar in an alcove of the Science Center, where they got a piece of pie and a cup of coffee, and found a booth near the back.
Rove launched right into his pitch before Roemer had a chance to lecture him on the environmental impacts of acid rain, or some damned nonsense. “Buddy, what I’m about to tell you is extremely sensitive and strictly confidential. There are only three people who know about this, and I’m one of ‘em.”
Roemer took a bite of his pie and studied Rove. What has he got up his sleeve?
“I don’t have to tell you that we have a hard row to hoe in the 2012 presidential election,” Rove said. We don’t have our candidate yet, but whoever it is will face an uphill battle against an incumbent president. Always the case.” Rove said, as he took a bite of his pie.
“Not for Clinton in ’92,” Roemer said, just to irritate Rove, who pretended to ignore the comment.
“We’re going to have to work hard to get a Republican elected, Buddy, and hard work alone may not be enough.” Rove winked at Roemer. “We can hope that the Democrats shoot themselves in the foot the way did in 2000, but I don’t see that happening on its own.”
“On its own?” Roemer said.
“I’m thinking we encourage a third party candidate, Buddy.
“Hell no!” Rove said. “He pulled in less than a million votes in ’08.” Rove pushed his empty pie plate off to the side. “We need somebody who’ll take a significant block of votes away from Obama.”
“There isn’t a viable third party candidate that can do that, Karl,” Roemer said.
“There’s one in gestation,” Rove said, studying Roemer to see if he’d figure it out.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.