Chapter 21: Religious Liberty Should Count for Something
Karl Rove struggled against the wind, rain stinging his face. Hunching down and pulling his trench coat collar up he hurried across Wisconsin Avenue from the Georgetown parking garage to Filomina’s Italian Restaurant.
He was meeting with Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, the Executive Director at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund’s offices had been closed due to the storm, but Rove was just as happy to meet at the restaurant, as he found the offices of the Becket Fund sterile and its reception staff somehow off-putting. Maybe it was their unrelenting cheerfulness.
Rove wanted to check with Arriaga on the Becket Fund’s latest lawsuits addressing what their constituencies considered infringements of religious liberty on such things as mandated contraception coverage for employees of organizations whose owners claimed exemptions based on their beliefs.
Hobby Lobby was one of the organizations whose owners had claimed an exemption to the new health care law’s requirement that their employee health insurance cover the morning-after birth control pill. They considered it akin to abortion. Rove himself could give a shit about Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs. After one-too-many swallows from a flask he’d been offered, he told a decidedly anti-religious hunting friend that, “If the owner of a fucking Seven-Eleven is a Christian Scientist he could claim his employees health coverage should be limited to prayer!” They’d both laughed, and then sprayed the sky with buckshot.
But whether he agreed with them or not, Rove wanted to make sure that the Becket Fund’s cases were being pursued in swing states to the maximum extent possible, and he offered Arriaga funding from his American Crossroads PAC to help in pursuing the cases and in advertising the suits. Keep the base stirred up.
Rove struggled out of his trench coat and handed it to the coatroom attendant. He started toward the maître d' when he remembered his smart phone and went back and retrieved it. He was shown to a table he had requested; one in the back with some privacy. Arriaga hadn’t arrived yet, and Rove took a seat facing into the restaurant so he could watch the entrance. He ordered a San Pellegrino and starting surfing tweets on his phone.
Rove had another reason for meeting with Arriaga, instead of the Becket Fund’s president, Bill Mumma. Rove wanted Arriaga to go to Florida to energize the Cuban-American vote for Romney, and to serve as the Republican Party’s lead lawyer on the ground during voting and the vote count. Arriaga was a Cuban-American herself, was smart as a whip, attractive, and a tiger. If he could convince her to go down there, all expenses paid, and then some, the GOP might pull off another win like the Bush win in 2000.
Rove went to the address book on his phone and started down the contacts list for Ohio Republican Party chairpersons. His first call was to Matt Borges in Ohio. Borges was the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Ohio. Borges picked up on the first ring.
“Yeah, Matt. Karl Rove. How’re you doing, buddy?”
“Good, good, Karl. Working hard, knocking heads, you know the drill,” Borges said.
“I do, I do. That’s a fact,” Rove said. “Listen, I need to know the latest numbers. You know, how we’re polling in the counties. You have that, or do I need to call each county chair?”
“I was just about to get updates. Let me call you back on that,” Borges said.
“Well, how’s it looking?” Rove said.
“Good, good. I think we’ve got a shot at winning the state,” Borges said. “You know Husted has really tried to limit early-voting. The sites are only gonna be open on weekdays, so a lot of Obama supporters are gonna find it hard to vote early. If we’re lucky, maybe they won’t vote at all.” Borges laughed.
Rove took a drink of his water. “We need Ohio, Matt,” Rove said.
“Don’t I know it, Karl.” Borges said. “We’ve been averaging more than one hundred and fifty thousand doors knocked on every week. Last week we got to two hundred and fifty thousand. You know, we’re speaking to as many, everyday people as possible. Regular people, who don’t want another four years of Obama,” Borges said.
“What’s Gary Johnson polling?” Rove asked. He was still concerned that the third party candidate might draw enough votes away from Romney to swing the election to Obama.
“Not enough to worry about,” Borges said. “Romney is polling at about 95% of registered Republicans.” That was a bit of an exaggeration, but Borges liked round figures.
“How about likely voters, irrespective of party?” Rove asked.
“Uh, not sure on that Karl. We’ll get you the figures. But I’m sure it’s good. All the polls are running our way,” Borges said.
“Matt, let’s tie things down here. We need to firm up our figures. Okay.” Rove ended the call before Borges had a chance to respond.
After talking with Borges, Rove called Brad Courtney, the Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. While Courtney’s phone rang, Rove checked his watch. Arriaga was late. Rove’s call was transferred to Courtney’s voice mail and Rove ended the call. He was about to call Brian Schimming, Courtney’s Vice Chair, when he got a call. It was Arriaga. She wasn’t coming. She had family on the East Coast and was trying to stay in touch with their situation. Rove tried to keep Arriaga on the phone. Maybe he could still convince her to go to Florida. But it was no good. Rove ended the call in disgust.
Rove noticed the waiter hovering and motioned him over. He ordered the red house wine, a cheese steak panini, and a small salad. When his lunch came he ate while he scanned the major news outlets on his smart phone, and texted people in the campaign offices. He was being told that crowds at Romney events were enthusiastic. A number of people inside the campaign were predicting a big Romney win.
Rove downloaded a memo from GOP staffers titled, “Path to Victory.” It said that Romney was even or ahead of Obama in key battleground state polls, and concluded that, The Republican ground game is going to push us over the top.”
Rove called the waiter over and ordered an espresso and New York style cheese cake. He was starting to feel pretty good about the election.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.