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Luke Johnson   |   November 13, 2012    9:25 AM ET

Former GOP vice-presidential nominee and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is blaming President Barack Obama's win on his turnout in cities.

In one of a series of first interviews following the loss by Ryan and Mitt Romney last Tuesday, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Well, he got turnout. The president should get credit for achieving record-breaking turnout numbers from urban areas for the most part, and that did win the election for him." Ryan repeated the line to local station WISC-TV.

But Politico's James Hohmann notes that the Romney-Ryan ticket also lost predominately white and rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and underperformed in Midwestern states.

Ryan's fixation on urban areas is not something that merely happened post-election -- during the campaign, he wanted to go to inner cities and promote Republican ideas to lift people out of poverty. He did give a campaign speech in Cleveland on poverty, but his message has a contradiction -- he has penned budget proposals in Congress that would slash the social safety net, worsening poverty.

Luke Johnson   |   November 12, 2012    4:11 PM ET

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, floated the idea of running again for the RNC chairman position on Sunday.

Asked directly if he would run again on C-Span, Steele said, "It's not a bad idea. I can go shake up the house a little bit more, what do you think?"

"Are you serious?" asked the host.

"We'll see."

Asked when he would announce a decision to run, Steele said, "Oh, I've got time for that."

Steele deflected a question about whether current RNC Chairman Reince Priebus should stay on for another two years. "That's going to be something the members have to decide," he said. Steele then proceeded to tout his tenure from 2009 to 2011. Steele also declined to say whether Priebus deserved another term on a conference call on Monday. In the same call, he defended his record in the 2010 midterms.

The Washington Examiner reported that Priebus is leaning towards running for reelection. Priebus won election to the chairmanship in 2010 after Steele's tenure came under criticism for running large debts.

Luke Johnson   |   November 12, 2012    9:12 AM ET

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Axelrod: On Taxes, The Election 'Wasn't Close'

Elise Foley   |   November 11, 2012   12:43 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said Sunday the president's victory was a mandate on his vision for taxes, pointing out that a majority of voters said they support ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy.

"On this particular issue, it wasn't close,” Axelrod told host Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The cuts first implemented under former President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of the year, and the two parties are still at odds about how they should be extended. President Barack Obama and the Democrats argue the cuts should continue for those making less than $250,000 per year, but that taxes should be allowed to go up on others so the government can gain additional revenue to bring down the deficit. Republicans, meanwhile, say raising taxes on the wealthy would hurt job creation.

Axelrod said "it is obvious" that cutting the budget would not be enough to bring down the debt.

"You need new revenues, and every objective person who has looked at this agrees on that, so the question is where is that revenue going to come from?" he said. "The president believes it is more equitable to get that from the wealthiest Americans who have done very well and frankly don't need those tax cuts and who benefited disproportionately from the tax cuts in the last decade. Most Americans agree with that."

Schieffer asked about House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) recent comments that the tax code could be reformed by closing loopholes in order to bring in more revenue.

"I think that the speaker's comments have been encouraging, and obviously there's money to be gained by closing some of these loopholes and applying them to deficit reduction," Axelrod said. "I think there are a lot of ways to skin this cat, so long as everybody comes with a positive, constructive attitude toward the task."

Jerry Brown: Marijuana Laws Should Be Decided By States

Elise Foley   |   November 11, 2012   11:13 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said Sunday the federal government should respect states' rights to decide how to regulate marijuana use, in light of votes Tuesday to approve legal use of the drug in Colorado and Washington.

"It's time for the Justice Department to recognize the sovereignty of the states," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

His state has legalized medical marijuana use, which is illegal under federal law. Colorado and Washington went even further by making marijuana legal even for recreational use.

Brown said he's not predicting another push to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California, calling drug use "dangerous."

"We already have a fair amount of marijuana use in the guise of medical marijuana," he said. "There's abuses in that field."

Still, he said Colorado and Washington should be allowed to do what they believe is right on marijuana law, adding there was adequate debate within the states on whether it was the correct move.

"We are capable of self-government," he said. "We don't need some federal gendarme to come and tell us what to do. I believe in comity toward the states, that's a decent respect."

Bill Kristol: 'It Won't Kill The Country If We Raise Taxes' On Millionaires

  |   November 11, 2012   11:03 AM ET

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Romney Hispanic Adviser: Latinos 'Were Scared'

Elise Foley   |   November 11, 2012   10:50 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, an adviser to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Latino outreach, said Sunday the candidate's failure with those voters was due to hardliners in the Republican party who were "scaring the heck out of them."

"The Hispanics I know were scared of the Republican party," he said on CNN's "State of the Union" in a blunt assessment of Romney's loss. "I think it has to do with our incredibly ridiculous primary process where we force people to say outrageous things, they get nominated, and they have to come back."

Gutierrez worked under former President George W. Bush, who won around 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004 -- over 10 points more than Romney won this year. The Latino vote was a pivotal part of the 2012 election, and it is widely acknowledged that the Republican Party could be forever damaged if it can't win over more Latinos in the future.

He said extremists in the party were fully to blame for Romney's loss, pointing to "the anti-immigration talk, the xenophobes." "It's almost as if we are living in the past," he added.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), appearing in the same segment, defended the party, saying it needs to become more modern but not more moderate to win over more Latino, women and young voters.

"Whether it's Hispanics, whether it's women, whether it's young people, the Republican Party has to make it a priority to take our values, take our vision, to every corner of this country, to every demographic group," she said. "And I am confident that we can do it."

When she said the party is pro-immigration, Gutierrez interrupted with "Really?"

"In order to be modern in the twenty-first century, we cannot be extreme right," Gutierrez said.

His advice to the party was to begin to lead on immigration reform, particular new laws that allow some undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

"If we want to be the party of growth and prosperity, we have to be the party of immigration," he said. "We should be leading comprehensive immigration reform. We should be leading the Dream Act, and not the military Dream Act, students as well. We should be getting rid of things like English as the official language of government. We have to be welcoming immigrants."

Candidate Beats Back Shocking Tea Party Attack

John Celock   |   November 9, 2012    2:22 PM ET

Brandon Whipple, the Democrat attacked by the Tea Party for not having children, easily defeated his opponent to win a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Days before the election, Kansans for Liberty, a Tea Party group in the Wichita area, distributed a piece of literature to houses across the district questioning how Whipple, 30, could represent families when he does not have children. Whipple and his wife, Chelsea, have been trying to conceive, according to Whipple.

Whipple, who defeated Republican opponent Rick Lindsey, 58 percent to 42 percent on Tuesday, said the literature provided a last-minute push for the couple. "What that did was fire us up more," he told HuffPost. "It was the first piece that was offensive. It was directed to us as a team."

Whipple noted that he received a series of phone calls and emails of support from voters after the flyer was distributed expressing support for him and his campaign. Whipple also believes the literature stopped momentum for the Republican side. Among the calls he received were from people who told him their own stories about trying to have children.

Lindsey stressed to HuffPost that he did not know the literature was being developed and denounced it. Lindsey, who is also childless, noted that Craig Gabel, the head of Kansans for Liberty, used a similar attack on him when Gabel ran against him in the Republican primary.

"I reject the message sent out in my district," Lindsey told HuffPost. "It is a disgraceful action on the part of the person who sent it out."

Lindsey said that while it is hard to determine the exact impact of the piece, he believes it hurt his chances. "I am sure it didn't help me even though I wasn't involved," he said. "It was so negative that it drew negative attacks. That can't help."

Gabel declined to be interviewed by HuffPost about the impact of the literature piece. "I'm not talking to you," he said Friday morning.

In comments to HuffPost earlier this week, Gabel described it as an "educational piece" about Whipple. In addition to the childless issue, the piece criticized Whipple for only teaching in public schools, not having his name on his house deed and for saying his marriage into a Republican family taught him compromise. Whipple called the first two accusations "lies," and noted that he had taught at private colleges and put his name on the deed earlier in 2012.

Gabel also said that the issue was one of experience. He cited issues like the desire to have neighborhood schools, Whipple's calls for increased school funding and the ability of parents to spank their children. "Someone who does not have kids and does not sweat blood thinking they can't spank them -- if you don't have kids, you don't understand that," Gabel said on Monday.

Whipple said he is prepared to move on from the attack and focus on his work in Topeka. Among his priorities are constituent services and fighting for middle class issues. He cited concerns that the tax cuts signed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) earlier this year could lead to property tax hikes to fund public schools, which he said would hurt senior citizens and young families in his district.

Looking back on the race, which included attack ads from Republicans comparing him to President Barack Obama, Whipple said the experience brought him and wife closer together. "It is surreal right now, it still hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "Looking back at the attacks against us and how much money was poured into our opponent. At times, for me and my wife it felt like it was just us."

Amanda Terkel   |   November 9, 2012    1:32 PM ET

Karl Rove's American Crossroads group has been on a charm offense in the wake of widespread Republican losses in Tuesday's election, attempting to reassure donors who gave the group more than $300 million to spend on candidates who largely were defeated. So far, Rove has refused to take any blame for the losses, and on Friday, a spokesman for the group said that its supporters were standing by them.

"We've been talking to a lot of our donors," said American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio on MSNBC. "Everyone is disappointed with the results, but everyone also fully understands the contribution we had in the 2012 election."

Crossroads held calls with its big donors on Thursday, to go over what happened in the election.

Privately, donors don't seem to be quite as reassured as Collegio said.

"The billionaire donors I hear are livid," one GOP operative told The Huffington Post. "There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don't know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing."

Rove and Crossroads have aggressively been deflecting the blame. Rove, for example, has blamed the timing of Hurricane Sandy, accused President Barack Obama of suppressing the vote and argued that the former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not respond quickly enough to the Obama campaign's attacks.

On Friday, Collegio identified another culprit: the Senate candidates and a weak GOP recruitment process.

"On the Senate side, we did -- and I'll be the first person to admit -- have some pretty big problems on the candidate-recruitment side," he said. "I would argue that over the last two election cycles, Republicans have probably lost at least six Senate seats -- not because of any bad messaging coming from our party, but because we had some candidates that were outraised and that frankly were not ready for the platform that's a Republican Senate candidate, where there's an enormous amount of scrutiny. So instead of talking about our message of cutting the debt and taxes, we ended up on a lot of tangential issues that should never have been debated, because we had some very, very weak candidates."

The two conservative candidates whose races became dominated by discussion over their controversial comments about rape -- Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Indiana's Richard Mourdock -- were certainly surprises for the party when they won their primaries and put the GOP in a weaker position in the general election. They were also dealt a setback when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she was retiring, and the more liberal Angus King (I) ended up winning. In other races like Ohio, Michigan and Florida, the Republican candidates never really seemed really for prime-time.

Still, the defeats of all these candidates call into question the wisdom of Republican donors giving so much money to Rove, and whether they should instead have invested more into recruitment, grassroots organizing or research. But Collegio argued that without Rove's operation, the election would have been an even bigger Democratic victory.

"The critical thing that gets lost with all of this analysis, is the president did a very, very good job raising a lot of money; he outspent Mitt Romney on television by $154 million over the campaign," he said. "And even that is understated by the fact that Mitt Romney was buying all of his ad time late, which meant that he was paying higher prices. The Crossroads groups and a lot of the outside groups that were spending money were really balancing out a really good and well-executed campaign by the president, but one where the Democrats had a really big financial advantage. Not only at the presidential level, but at the Senate level."

Luke Johnson   |   November 9, 2012   12:55 PM ET

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is standing by his decision not to extend early voting hours, despite the fact that some voters said they waited as long as nine hours to cast a ballot.

"Well I'm very comfortable that the right thing happened," he told WKMG Orlando while speaking with reporters on Thursday night. "We had 4.4 million people vote."

The WXMG reporter tried to follow up again and ask whether hours should have been extended, but a member of Scott's staff appeared to end the press conference. When Scott was asked again while walking with reporters, he repeated his answer.

A major reason for Florida's chaotic early voting process was that last year, the state's GOP-controlled legislature shortened early voting days from 14 to eight. Long lines were reported across the state, with one polling place closing as late as 1 a.m. Sunday morning. In a sudden move, the Miami-Dade elections department allowed voters to cast in-person absentee ballots on Sunday afternoon, but closed temporarily because it could not meet demand.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, accused Scott of "voter suppression" for refusing to extend early voting hours, and said Scott should have extended hours like he did in 2008 when he was governor.

Things weren't any better on Election Day, as people waited in lines for up to six hours in Miami-Dade County. Voting ended in the county at around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

As of Friday afternoon, Florida still has not been called for President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, though Obama has a slight lead in votes. Romney conceded the state on Thursday.

GOP Official Explains Election Night Absence

John Celock   |   November 9, 2012   12:53 PM ET

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has ordered a probe into how votes were counted in the state's largest city, while facing questions about how he handled technical glitches there on election night.

Kobach (R) is dispatching a three-person team to Wichita Monday to look into a series of software problems in the Sedgwick County elections commissioner's office that delayed results until close to midnight on Tuesday. The probe, which Kobach spokeswoman Kay Curtis described to HuffPost as a fact-finding mission, comes as Democrats question Kobach, as well as a decision by the county's election commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, to bar outside observers from a room where paper ballots were counted.

State Democrats criticized Kobach's decision to leave his Topeka office at 10 p.m. Tuesday, saying that he should have remained in the office to answer questions about the Sedgwick County situation. Kobach told the Wichita Eagle that he left to take his daughter home, remained in touch with his staff, and believed that Lehman and the software provider could solve the problem.

“It is not as if I can physically fix the software for them,” Kobach told the Wichita Eagle. “I am not sure what they personally expect me to do.”

Lehman did not return messages from The Huffington Post requesting comment, but told the Wichita Eagle that software problems caused the delay in posting results, along with issues counting the ballots in some areas of the county. She said she plans to work with software providers on the issue. Lehman, who served a year as deputy elections commissioner, was appointed to the post by Kobach earlier this year.

“We’ll continue to make improvements,” Lehman told the Wichita Eagle. “And make sure we get proper training.”

Democrats have raised several other issues in terms of the election in Sedgwick County. They accused Lehman of not allowing them and others to observe a count of paper ballots, and said earlier in the day voters were being asked to cast provisional ballots if the address on their identification card did not match the address on the voter rolls. Curtis said that should not occur because the state's voter ID law does not require an address check.

State Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis said the party is also looking into similar voter ID questions raised in other parts of the state and their impact on provisional ballots. Democrats in Sedgwick County have formally requested information on who cast provisional ballots and the reason the provisionals were cast. The votes could impact a handful of close state legislative contests.

Curtis said the office's lawyers have determined that the state's records law allows it to withhold the ballots until after they are counted, unless otherwise ordered by a judge. The secretary of state's office encourages an open vote count "in principle," she said, and poll agents can witness the count. Curtis could not speak to the specific circumstances in Lehman's office.

Levi Henry, a poll agent for Democrat Keith Humphrey's state Senate campaign, said he attempted to obtain access to the count, but was not allowed in. He said Lehman did not explain why.

"Tabitha never came out to speak with me," he said. "She stonewalled everyone, including media, that night."

Amanda Terkel   |   November 8, 2012    6:23 PM ET

Since their losses on Election Day, Republicans have been pointing fingers in every direction to explain what happened: the timing of Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney not fighting back enough and President Barack Obama "suppressing the vote."

In an interview with the AP on Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) identified another culprit: an ignorant electorate. From the AP article:

Johnson attributed Obama's win on the heels of those Republican gains in Wisconsin to an uninformed electorate who voted in this election but not in the [Scott] Walker recall.

"If you aren't properly informed, if you don't understand the problems facing this nation, you are that much more prone to falling prey to demagoguing solutions. And the problem with demagoguing solutions is they don't work," Johnson said. "I am concerned about people who don't fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country."

In fact, voters had more access to information in this election cycle than in any other in the past. Republicans and Democrats spent a record amount of money getting their messages out -- especially through TV ads -- to voters who, if anything, seemed to be over saturated with news about the candidates. On the Republican side, Karl Rove's Crossroads groups alone spent more than $300 million.

Johnson's new counterpart from Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate will be Rep. Tammy Baldwn (D-Wis.), who defeated Republican Tommy Thompson.

Johnson said he spoke with Baldwin on Wednesday, and he hopes he they can work together -- just as soon as he explains "facts" about the federal budget to her.

"Hopefully I can sit down and lay out for her my best understanding of the federal budget because they're simply the facts," he said. "Hopefully she'll agree with what the facts are and work toward common sense solutions."

Baldwin has served in Congress since 1999; Johnson took office in 2011. Presumably, Baldwin is already familiar with how the federal budget works. She also double-majored in college in government and mathematics.

Amanda Terkel   |   November 8, 2012    4:24 PM ET

Mitt Romney lost the election because President Barack Obama engaged in voter suppression, according to Republican political strategist Karl Rove.

"He succeeded by suppressing the vote," Rove said in an interview on Fox News with anchor Megyn Kelly on Thursday afternoon, "by saying to people, 'You may not like who I am and I know you can't bring yourself to vote for me, but I'm going to paint this other guy as simply a rich guy who only cares about himself.'"

Rove didn't actually give any examples of ways in which Obama made it harder for people to exercise their constitutional right at the polls -- things like voter ID laws, which have been pushed by GOP legislatures around the country. In fact, Obama specifically said in his victory speech that it was unfair that people had to wait in line for hours to vote, which occurred in part because Republicans reduced the time period for early voting.

Rove did say that Obama had aired attack ads and painted Romney as out-of-touch with the concerns of ordinary voters, but these are fairly common tactics in politics, and Rove is certainly no stranger to them.

"Fifty-three percent in the exit polls said on Election Day that Mitt Romney's policies would only help the rich. And they voted for Obama by a 9 to 1 margin," added Rove. "Of the 21 percent of the electorate who said that the most important characteristic in a president was that he cares about people like me, they voted for President Obama by almost a 9 to 1 margin. They effectively denigrated Mitt Romney's character, business acumen, business experience and made him unworthy."

Kelly then pointed out that whoever runs in 2016 on the Democratic ticket is not likely to go any easier on Republicans. Rove replied that the GOP needed to be quicker to responding to attacks, saying the Romney campaign did not do so effectively enough.

"The first group to respond to the attacks on Bain Capital was not the Romney campaign, it was American Crossroads with an ad in July. We don't do defense all that well," said Rove, saying it was sometimes more effective to have the candidate appear in an ad and respond directly to the charges being leveled.

He also faulted the GOP for not reaching out enough to Latino voters and young voters.

Thursday's interview marked the second time Rove has appeared on Fox News since Tuesday night, when he had a meltdown and refused to believe that Obama had won Ohio -- even after the network had called it for the president.

Rove's groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent more than $300 million on the 2012 election; the candidates it supported overwhelmingly lost on Tuesday, raising questions about Rove's effectiveness and the larger overall strategy of throwing so much money into attack ads.

"The billionaire donors I hear are livid," one GOP operative told The Huffington Post. "There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don't know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing."

While Rove has not fully addressed the GOP losses and Crossroads' role in them, American Crossroads Communications Director Jonathan Collegio went on MSNBC Thursday morning and argued that Republicans were really the underdogs in the 2012 election. All that conservative money, in other words, was necessary just to make the election close.

Amanda Terkel   |   November 8, 2012   11:32 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- No one lost as much on election night as Karl Rove.

Although he wasn't running for office, his Crossroads organizations spent more than $300 million on Republican candidates in the 2012 election, with some of the biggest spenders in the conservative movement putting their hopes -- and dollars -- in the care of Rove. Combined, his groups were the largest single outside force of the 2012 election.

The results were bleak. According to the Sunlight Foundation, American Crossroads, Rove's super PAC, saw just a 1 percent return on its investments. Crossroads GPS, the political nonprofit arm, saw a 14 percent return.

Rove remained in denial about GOP misfortunes on election night. Even after the networks had called Ohio for President Barack Obama, Rove continued to insist on Fox News that Republicans could win the state.

Rove was back on Fox News Wednesday morning after his election night meltdown. He didn't address his reaction to the Ohio call or Crossroads' failures but instead argued that Republicans need to do a better job in reaching out to the Latino community.

"Obama kept the coalition that he had in 2008, only it was a little bit smaller," he said. "This will be the first president reelected sent to second term with a smaller percentage of the vote than he got the first term. In fact, there are only two states -- two states in the union -- where he got a higher percentage of the vote this time around than he got the first time. One is Mississippi, by one quarter of 1 percent, and Hawaii by less than one fifth of 1 percent. Otherwise, he basically held together that coalition, which means if we're going to win in the future, Republicans need to do better among Latinos and they need to do better among women -- particularly single women."

Underlining Rove's comments is the belief that while Obama won, he did not win by as large a margin as he would have without all the money and support from conservative outside groups.

On MSNBC, American Crossroads Communications Director Jonathan Collegio made a similar argument, stating that Republicans were really the underdogs in the 2012 election. All that conservative money, in other words, was necessary just to make the election close.

"President Obama, over the course of the campaign, outspent Mitt Romney on television by $154 million from April through November," said Collegio. "Senate Democrats -- if you take away the two self-funders in Connecticut and Pennsylvania -- outraised their Republican counterparts by $60 million. Not to mention the DSCC outraised the NRSC by another $20 million. So what Democrats did in this election extremely effectively was leverage their incumbencies to have huge financial advantages over their Republican opponents. We believe that American Crossroads by evening out the playing field kept this what was essentially a two-point race at the end."

When host Chuck Todd asked whether the election would have been a "blow-out" for Democrats without Crossroads, Collegio replied, "It absolutely could have been."

He also argued that in the end, Obama and Democrats won through their ground game, which is something that super PACs and all their attack ads just can't control.

"Strategically, outside groups are going to be a little bit hamstrung with any get-out the vote-efforts. I mean, we don't have a brand that translates in Columbus, Ohio," said Collegio, adding, "If you look at the exit polls, the way that Obama won was on the ground in Cleveland with a lot of the minority voters. .... I just don't know that's a job for super PACs. We kind of have that done by the local parties."

But many Republicans aren't buying it.

"The billionaire donors I hear are livid," one GOP operative told The Huffington Post. "There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don't know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing."

Even the blustery billionaire Donald Trump went after Rove on Twitter on Wednesday, writing, "Congrats to @KarlRove on blowing $400 million this cycle."

On Wednesday morning, "Fox and Friends" host Steve Doocy asked Rove whether he received any sleep on Tuesday night, after all the election excitement.

"Not at all, because I was prepping for this morning. I tried to find a table that I could slip under for a few moments," he joked. "But no, between you and the 'Wall Street Journal' column I've got to turn in today, no time at all."

In that Wall Street Journal op-ed, which ran in Thursday's paper, Rove again declined to address his group's failures. Instead, he said Obama was "lucky" Hurricane Sandy walloped the East Coast when it did because it "interrupted Mr. Romney's momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan."

Watch Rove on Fox:

Watch Collegio on MSNBC: