Karl Rove: Electoral map still favors Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump

Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, walks on the floor before the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.

The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for David Axelrod.

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)Despite improving poll numbers, Donald Trump still faces the political equivalent of pulling an inside straight if he is to succeed to the presidency, says Karl Rove, mastermind behind both of President George W. Bush's presidential campaigns.

"Democrats have an easier path to 270 Electoral College votes than Republicans," Rove told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. That advantage makes Hillary Clinton the continued front-runner in the race headed into next week's critical first debate, Rove said.
"He's got to win all the Romney states, and as you know, three of them are up for grabs -- North Carolina, he's behind; Arizona, Georgia, barely ahead. He's got to win Florida, got to win Ohio, but that only gets him to 253. He's got to find another 17, and I think he'll win Nevada, I think he'll win Iowa, but even then that only gets him to 265. And that last five, he's got to win either New Hampshire and the second district of Maine, or Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Wisconsin."
    Rove, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, is a chairman of the Crossroads super PAC, which has thus far refused to deploy its significant resources on Trump's behalf, focusing instead on preserving Republican control of the United States Senate. The GOP entered the year in an uphill battle for the Senate, with six Republican incumbents running for reelection in blue states President Obama carried in 2012. Democrats must seize five seats, or win four and the presidency, to wrest control of the upper chamber away from the GOP.
    Rove says Republican chances of holding the Senate are "better than 50-50," in part because this year's electorate has "a record number of undecideds, a record number of weak adherents" who do not want to give either presidential nominee "a blank check."
    The conversation with Rove was taped in Kiev, Ukraine, around the Yalta European Strategy conference, at which Rove and Axelrod participated in a panel discussion on the American election. During the panel, Rove, who has been a persistent critic of Trump on issues such as immigration and trade, pointedly declined several invitations to say he would vote for the Republican nominee this fall.
    In his "Axe Files" conversation with Axelrod, Rove suggested that should Trump lose in November, Rove said Republicans could look to their party in Texas, a diverse state where the GOP has firm control, for clues as to how to proceed.
    "We're a party in Texas that represents the diversity of our state. ... I think that's the formula for Republicans, and it doesn't involve sort of changing your principles; it involves sharing your principles with every community in every corner of the state."
    To hear the whole conversation with Rove, which also covered Rove's rise in politics; his misgivings, based on what he knows today, about the 2003 decision to invade Iraq; and the tragic family histories he and Axelrod share, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.