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Karl Rove On Tea Party: 'A Little Raw And Unsophisticated,' But Will Prove Powerful At Polls

First Posted: 08/17/10 02:57 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:25 PM ET

Karl Rove Tea Party
Karl Rove On Tea Party: 'A Little Raw And Unsophisticated,' But Will Prove Powerful At Polls

(AP) - Former White House adviser Karl Rove said Monday the tea party movement may be "a little raw and unsophisticated," but he expects its message of outrage toward Washington will boost voter turnout this fall and help Republicans win control of Congress.

Rove, who was President George W. Bush's top political adviser, said he expects millions more voters will come to the polls in November than in 2006, the last midterm election when turnout was estimated at more than 82 million.

"I would not be surprised to see turnout over 90 million in this election," Rove told reporters in Savannah, where he spoke at a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "And the difference ... is going to be largely the people who have been motivated by the tea party."

The GOP needs to win 39 additional House seats and 10 in the Senate to wrest control of Congress from Democrats this fall.

While the tea party has some rough edges, Rove said, Democrats will make a big mistake if they try to dismiss the influence of the loose-knit grassroots movement.

"There are a couple of small groups of cranks and nuts inside this group. Any new political movement draws people like that," Rove said. "It's a little raw and unsophisticated because virtually all of these people have never done politics before."

Still, he said the tea party has effectively tapped into Americans' anger at President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders over spending on corporate bailouts -- which began under Bush -- and stimulus packages and the government's overhaul of health care.

Asked about a Muslim group's plan to build a mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Rove said the idea was "insensitive, unnecessary, spiteful, hurtful." He also criticized Obama for getting involved in the debate after first refraining by calling it a local issue.

"It is like they are attempting to score political points, to attempt to gloat, to have an Islamic center located on the edge of ground zero," Rove said.

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Filed by Elyse Siegel  |