Skip to main content

Rove, critics try to pin 'arrogant' label on Obama

  • Story Highlights
  • Ex-Bush adviser Karl Rove reportedly calls Sen. Barack Obama "arrogant"
  • Obama has fought back allegations before that he's an elitist
  • Obama campaign used logo that looked like presidential seal
  • Campaign says seal was a one-time thing after bloggers have a field day poking fun
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Jason Carroll
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Critics of Sen. Barack Obama are trying to build a case that the presumptive Democratic nominee is arrogant, and former Bush adviser Karl Rove is leading the charge.

"I will say yes, I do think Barack Obama is arrogant," Rove said Tuesday night on Fox News, where he's a contributor.

Rove's line of attack started a day earlier when ABC News quoted him telling Republicans that Obama is "coolly arrogant."

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy," he said at a Capitol Hill breakfast, according to ABC. "He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone."

When asked about the comments Tuesday, Rove told Fox that he was "not going to get into what I said in an off-the-record event."

Bloggers and TV comedians had a field day last week when Obama's campaign unveiled a new logo -- one that looked strikingly similar to the presidential seal -- on a podium for the presidential hopeful.

The logo showed the same bald eagle clutching an olive branch as the presidential seal, but instead of a shield covering the center of the eagle's body, the Obama version displayed the campaign's trademark "O."

Just above the eagle, in Latin, were the words -- "Vero Possumus" -- which translate as "Yes we can," the oft-heard chant at Obama rallies. The presidential seal says "E Pluribus Unum," which means "Out of many, one."

Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said, "That was a one-time thing for a one-time event."

The seal was short-lived, but one political analyst said it contributes to a perception problem.

"He continues to have a style that is kind of distant, almost professorial and some of the people will regard that as elitist or arrogant," said Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report.

Critics may be using catchwords such as "arrogance" to set Obama apart, according to New York Times political correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

"Arrogance in this campaign will be perhaps more loaded than it would be in other campaigns," he said. "They're trying to say ... 'He's not one of you.' "

Obama faced a similar battle when critics -- including then-rival Sen. Hillary Clinton -- tried to paint him as an elitist. Those accusations surfaced after Obama characterized some small-town Pennsylvanians as "bitter" people who "cling to guns and religion" in the days leading up to that state's primary.

Obama's biggest comeback for those allegations was his upbringing.

"I am amused about this notion of elitist, given that when you're raised by a single mom, when you are on food stamps for a while when you were growing up, you went to school on scholarship," he responded in April.

According to Zeleny, the Obama camp is aware of the line of attack.

"In the last week or so the campaign manager, the top officials in the campaign have sent word throughout the campaign that -- look, we would not have gotten this far if we were not always viewing ourselves as the underdog so keep that mind-set," he said.

But recent polls don't show Obama having an underdog status as the general election campaign gets under way.

He leads John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, 49 percent to 37 percent in a head-to-head matchup, according to the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

The poll surveyed 1,115 registered voters and was conducted June 19 through Monday. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey is the second in a matter of days to indicate McCain may face a sizable deficit as the campaign kicks off. A Newsweek poll released last week showed the senator from Illinois with a 15-point lead.

According to a CNN analysis of five recent national surveys, Obama holds a lead of 8 percentage points over his presidential rival.


McCain said this week that he's comfortable being the underdog.

"This is a tough race. We are behind; we are the underdog. That's what I like to be," he said at a fundraiser in Newport Beach, California.

CNN's Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report.

All About Karl RoveU.S. Presidential Election

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print