Rove Looks To New York To Ensure Bush Victory In 2004 - May Help Calderon Goals

August 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

. .. Rove Looks To New York To Ensure Bush Victory In 2004 - May Help Calderon Goals

President Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, thinks New York may be the key to President Bush’s re-election in 2004. This new – and surprising – Bush strategy has major implications for Puerto Rico because of the number of New Yorkers of Puerto Rican origin.

It makes Puerto Rico issues even more important than when Rove was more focused on Florida as being a key to a Bush victory in 2004 (as it was in 2000). Florida also has a substantial number of residents of Puerto Rican origin.

Florida came into more immediate focus than New York because of the closeness of the 2000 results and the gubernatorial re-election test that President Bush’s brother Jeb faces there this year. The ‘Puerto Rican’ vote was recognized as important because of Democratic candidate Gore’s strength in the Orlando area in 2000. It was largely attributable to Puerto Ricans who the Bush campaign mistakenly assumed would vote Republican, confusing them with voters of Cuban origin.

According to one of the nation’s top political reporters, David Broder, New York has become a primary Rove goal to provide a safety net in case Bush loses any of the States that he won in 2000. While New York has been very liberal and Democratic in recent presidential elections, Bush’s chances in the other States that could make a difference are worse.

Broder says this is because of poor Republican prospects in gubernatorial elections. Governors have the political organizations that could be a major factor in a presidential election. New Jersey’s governor’s office changed to Democratic hands last November. Republicans look like they will lose governorships in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan this November.

The two big States where Republicans are in good shape are Ohio, which Bush won in 2000, and New York. Gore trounced Bush in New York in 2000, but this year, Governor George Pataki has a strong lead for re-election.

Support from Puerto Ricans is central to Pataki’s re-election plan. He has appealed to Puerto Rican voters and a prominent Democrat by strongly opposing Navy training on Vieques and by close contacts with Puerto Rico Governor Sila Calderon ("commonwealth" party/no national political party).

The Democrat is Dennis Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist who heads one of New York City’s largest labor unions. Rivera sees Calderon as a way to block Puerto Rico’s movement towards United States statehood.

Calderon, meanwhile, is doing everything she can to curry favor with Rove. Most importantly, she is registering residents of the States of Puerto Rican origin to vote in the States. New York and Florida are primary targets of the effort. She also virtually reversed her position on the Vieques issue to accept Bush’s, lavishly praises the president, and relates to the White House through million dollar a year lobbyist Charlie Black, a Bush and Rove intimate.

Calderon hopes that these efforts and the importance of the Puerto Rican vote will aid her federal goals. The goals include a new tax exemption for U.S. companies manufacturing in Puerto Rico, recognition of the non-existent status of "commonwealth" as a status option for the islands, greater autonomy for the territory through exemptions from federal regulations and international trade authority, and ending the Navy’s involvement with Vieques next year.


Republican political operatives are concerned that corporate scandals and the recent precipitous decline in stock values may enable Democrats to pick up the seven seats that they need to gain control of the 435-seat House of Representatives. The economic news has also dashed the little hope that the GOP had of gaining the one seat it needs to become the majority in the 100 member Senate.

The concern is fueled by Republican as well as other polls. The surveys report a dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who think that the country is on the ‘wrong track’ and dramatic decreases in consumer confidence. Campaign experts think that these numbers are the best indicators at this early stage of a political campaign of the likely outcome.

Losing total control of the Congress could create major problems for President Bush as he faces re-election. Some Republicans hope, however, that it would present a new political opportunity for Bush to contrast himself with and run against a Democratic Congress.

Democratic control would be great news for Governor Calderon’s proposal to permanently exempt 90% of the profits that companies based in the States ‘repatriate’ from manufacturing subsidiaries in Puerto Rico. A major House supporter of the proposal, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) is in line to become chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee of the House. While Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is cool to the Calderon proposal, Rangel is hotter for it than Baucus is cool.


The Democratic National Committee devoted the first day of its summer meeting to its effort to attract more Hispanic voters. Television news network CNN called the effort "one of the worst-kept secrets in its strategy to win control of Congress this fall."

Orchestrating the meeting in Las Vegas was the former political adviser to Puerto Rico’s immediate past governor, Pedro Rossello (statehood party/D), Alvaro Cifuentes.

Cifuentes, who served as Rossello’s first Secretary of the Governorship, is now Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Caucus. Although a lawyer in private practice with a small but highly-regarded lobbying and international relations firm in Washington, Cifuentes is devoting most of his time to the Democrats’ Hispanic effort.

Cifuentes’ work and insights have made the Caucus a force in the national Democratic Party, and bolstered his personal standing. He was named to the Caucus by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, but elected Caucus Chair by the Caucus.

The only opposition to Cifuentes’ election came from Puerto Rico Democratic Committee Chair Eudaldo Baez Galib and Vice Chair Mercedes Otero. Baez, a "commonwealth" party senator, conducted a campaign against Cifuentes’ election, trying without substantiation to tie Cifuentes to Puerto Rico officials involved in scandals.

Baez recently tried to make amends with Cifuentes and admitted that he knows of no improprieties involving him.

Hispanic voters numbered 5.9 million in 2000 and are expected to climb to 7.8 million in 2004. President Bush won 35% of the vote in 2000. Rove and other Republican strategists say he will need to win a higher percentage in 2004 to win.

A highlight of the Las Vegas meeting for many Democrats was the presence of Linda Carter, "Wonder Woman" in a popular television program in the 1970s. Why was Carter there? She is a friend of Cifuentes’.


Governor Sila Calderon’s ("commonwealth party/no national party) top Democratic lobbyist here lost a battle in federal district court to shield some of his lobbying records from a federal agency subpoena. A judge upheld a subpoena issued against Thomas Boggs of PattonBoggs, one of Calderon’s $1 million a year lobbyists.

The subpoena was issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in a case against a Texas businessman Boggs also represents. The FDIC is seeking $250 million from the Boggs client for his role in the $1.6 billion failure of a savings and loan.

Boggs’ firm has reportedly told members of Congress that the suit is really intended to enable the federal government to acquire a highly valued California redwood forest the Texan owns.

The "Washington Update" appears bi-weekly.

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