The White House senior advisor and deputy chief of staff won thunderous applause and standing ovations with a short appearance at the April 28 convention off the 11th District Republican Party.
The GOP's district party chairman David Sawyer told the crowd that all he had to do was ask for Rove to visit, and the man sometimes known as "Bush's Brain" responded with a "yes."
But the appearance also signals an increased focus by national-level Republicans on the district, which combines parts of 15 counties, including Buncombe, Henderson and Madison, in the wake of Rep. Heath Shuler's 2006 election. "I think there is interest at the White House in this district," Sawyer said. "This is still a majority Democrat-registered district," he allowed, before asserting that "it is a Republican district."
Rove spoke to hot-button issues like taxation and the move to withdraw troops from Iraq. Regarding the war, Rove said Democrats are "mandating failure rather than giving this a chance to work."
Other points Rove made seemed cribbed from the official Republican playbook on national affairs, such as: "We have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them again here," and "[The troops] don't need General Pelosi telling them how to win the war."
As for the move by Congressional Democrats to submit a timeline for leaving Iraq, Rove reiterated what President Bush has said: "He's got a veto pen," Rove said. "It's dead on arrival as long as George W. Bush is in the White House."
Rove finished with a call for more volunteers in North Carolina to buck up the efforts to regain congressional seats. "I'm here today for a reason," he said. "I want to see a Republican House of Representatives."
Regarding Shuler's seat, Rove mourned the ousting of former Rep. Charles Taylor and said that Shuler's first 100 days "feels more like 100 years."
All in all, it was typical of the kind of speech a high-ranking politician makes to his base, confirming party-line beliefs and reinforcing the confidence of GOP voters.
When an Xpress photographer laid his cameras on the concrete for a once-over by a Secret Service dog, he asked what the canine was sniffing for. "Democrats!" replied a passing woman before she and her friend broke into laughter and walked away.