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Rove gets raves

President Bush's chief political guru told North Dakota Republicans on Saturday the GOP has become the nation's dominant party because of its foreign policy, domestic reforms and focus on traditional values.

President Bush's chief political guru told North Dakota Republicans on Saturday the GOP has become the nation's dominant party because of its foreign policy, domestic reforms and focus on traditional values.

"This happened because of ideas. This happened because of our philosophy," said Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff and the strategist credited with engineering the president's 2000 and 2004 victories.

GOP control of the White House, Senate, House of Representatives and the majority of statehouses is a stark change from the political landscape 40 years ago, Rove said.

"We were in the political wilderness," he said.

While Rove was expected to meet with Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican said to be mulling a run against Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad next year, the governor did not attend the speech.

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ROVE JUMP A15

Rove praised Hoeven near the end of his 30-minute speech to the state Republican committee in Fargo.

"What is it about North Dakota? You grow such wonderful Republican governors," he said.

Rove was also the guest of honor at a fundraiser that followed the speech.

Blair Thoreson, a Republican state representative form Fargo, said the speech was inspiring. Mentioning Hoeven near the end of the talk served as a reminder of the potential 2006 race with Conrad, he said.

"I think it's something the crowd appreciated hearing," he said.

Though Rove hailed North Dakota as a state friendly to Republicans, his visit prompted some vocal opposition.

Rick Gion, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, criticized Rove for attending a political event here so soon after Hurricane Rita hit his home state of Texas.

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"Rove puts politics above people," Gion said.

Rove touched on the impact of Rita and Hurricane Katrina at the start of his speech, saying he will be meeting in Washington today to discuss the recovery.

"This could have a real impact on our energy situation," he said of the storms.

He suggested that one of the keys to recovery along the Gulf Coast will be cutting taxes, along with helping out victims with job training and temporary child care.

Earlier in the day, area progressive groups protested at the Fargo Post Office and along the Main Avenue Bridge, speaking against President Bush's Social Security reforms and the war in Iraq.

Ryan Gustafson, a spokesman for the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, sported a T-shirt bearing Rove's mug and held a sign urging the strategist be fired.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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