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Rove: Bush showed his vision, values

Karl Rove
CNN Access

TEMPE, Arizona (CNN) -- President Bush and Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry met on Wednesday for their final debate, clashing on issues ranging from the economy to jobs, taxes and same-sex marriage.

Afterward, CNN's John King spoke with Karl Rove, Bush's top political strategist, about the candidates' faceoff. Rove told King that -- instant polls and the Kerry campaign perspective notwithstanding -- he believed the president was the clear winner in the final debate.

ROVE: The president, on what was supposed to be John Kerry's strongest turf, domestic affairs, he had a commanding performance, substance and style. From the first question to the last, the president was in charge of the debate, and he showed his vision and values, and also was able to draw in an appropriate way the distinction between Senator Kerry's rhetoric and Senator Kerry's record.

KING: You say a commanding performance, yet if you look at our instant poll, Senator Kerry graded the winner. I know you disagree with these instant polls.

ROVE: Instant polls ... you and I both know that a one-night poll done in a short period of time is an unreliable barometer. I would remind you that in 1984, after the Mondale -- second Mondale-Reagan debate -- where Reagan clearly won, the instant polls showed that Mondale was the winner.

KING: Are you worried, though, that in the world of spin, that we are in now, that people will say the polls say Kerry won three times. You think that could have any impact on ...

ROVE: We're concerned about the world of substance, and tonight the president won substance and style. And no, I feel very confident about tonight.

KING: I talked to one Republican coming in, a close friend of yours, who I can't name, who said he thought the president won on substance; wished that the president would spend a little bit more time talking about jobs. The president, when asked about jobs, made a short case and then turned to education, more of a long-term perspective.

ROVE: Remember, though, the question was, what do you do to help somebody who's lost their job? I mean, the president was answering the question, which was, you need to make sure that people have a quality education to start with, and that they have lifetime learning opportunity, so that if they lose their job, they can have -- they have the proper support to go back and get the new skills they need.

He also, though, talked about the jobs. He said, we need to keep America the best place in the world to do business ... if we want to create jobs and keep our economy growing and growing more prosperous.

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