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The next Karl Rove?

Five political consultants to watch

Karl Rove



Karl Rove
George W. Bush

PALO ALTO, California (CNN) -- This week's Inside Edge ties to a new segment I am doing on CNN television.

Each month on CNN's "Live From" with anchors Kyra Phillips and Miles O'Brien, I'll profile five individuals to watch in the political arena.

I start with "the next Karl Rove," five political consultants to watch.

While few people outside of Texas knew who he was a decade ago, today Karl Rove is a household name as President Bush's top political adviser. Barbara Walters even named him to her "2004 Ten Most Fascinating People" list.

Rove is perhaps the most influential political adviser of the last century, but may "retire" when his boss does in 2008. So, assuming that he actually retires, who will be the next Karl Rove?

The obvious and most likely choices are, of course, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman or former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile.

There are several, less-well known candidates who just may surprise us, however, and emerge front and center as political powerhouses in 2008 and beyond. Here are five contenders:

"Rove's Right Hand"

Sara Taylor, 30, is the youngest White House political director ever. The pollster played a major role in both Bush presidential victories and is now poised to have a hand in a variety of major Senate and gubernatorial races in 2006. She began her political career as a toddler, helping her dad, Ray Taylor, a former Iowa state representative.

"The Internationalist"

Jeremy Rosner may become famous for advising not only domestic politicans, but international ones. In fact, the foreign policy guru and former Clinton National Security Council staffer just helped British Prime Minister Tony Blair win a third term. "The Internationalist" has advised eight heads of state around the world and illustrates the growing globalization of political consulting.

"The Start Up"

Like Rove, who helped George W. Bush defeat incumbent Texas Gov. Ann Richards in 1994, Jude Barry hopes to make his mark by knocking off a well-known governor. That's right, Barry is trying to help California Controller Steve Westly take on the Terminator a.k.a. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (But first they will have to beat savvy California Treasurer Phil Angelides in a Democratic primary). A Silicon Valley native, "The Start Up" joined Joe Trippi in helping Howard Dean to ride the Internet wave.

"The Hot Hand"

Dick Wadhams is one of the hottest hands in GOP politics. He managed South Dakota Republican John Thune's upset of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and is now captaining the ship for potential presidential candidate Sen. George Allen of Virginia. "The Hot Hand" has won major campaigns in three different states -- Colorado, Montana and South Dakota -- and is 6-1 in major races. The lifelong political junkie was a Republican Party county chairman at the tender age of 19.

"The Field General"

Michael Whouley is perhaps the most sought after operative in Democratic politics. He famously turned around Iowa for John Kerry in 2004, and in 2000, he called Al Gore to tell him he could win Florida and to retract his concession call. That prompted the recount. "The Field General" is notoriously publicity shy -- we're not even showing his picture in our gallery. Whouley got his start in local Boston politics and has since worked on five presidential campaigns.

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