Some have labeled him an "evil genius" while others believe he's the savior of Republican politics. President Bush himself has called him "the architect" for his campaign work.
Karl Rove has been one of Bush's most influential advisers since before Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential election, and in some circles he is believed to be the second-most powerful man in the nation.
Rove, 55, was born in Colorado and grew up in Nevada and Utah, the son of a geologist father and a mother who managed a gift shop. His father abandoned the family when Rove was 19 years old, and his mother later committed suicide.
Rove worked on his first political campaign in high school, volunteering for Utah Sen. Wallace F. Bennett's campaign. He attended four universities and served as chairman of the College Republicans in 1973 and 1974, recruiting and training young GOP operatives. He never finished his political science degree after leaving school early to begin running political campaigns.
Rove moved into Texas politics in the late 1970s and set up a direct-mail marketing company, Karl Rove & Co. The firm was instrumental in shifting the makeup of Texas politics from a mostly Democratic stronghold to a state dominated by Republicans. Rove's early Texas work included employment in a political action committee, the Fund for Limited Government, that was dedicated to getting his future boss's father, George H.W. Bush, elected president.
Through the years, Rove developed a reputation as a savage political competitor who understands politics from the top of the federal government to the grassroots county level. Many competitors have complained that Rove used dirty campaign tactics and eagerly made use of negative attack ads. But few questioned his success at winning elections.
Has the President's Ear
Rove and George W. Bush met more than 30 years ago and reconnected in the 1990s, when Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. The younger Bush had never been elected to office, and had lost a Congressional run in 1978, but Rove saw a man with natural political instincts and a pedigree that made him electable. Rove managed Bush's successful bid for the Texas governorship in 1994 and has been with him ever since.
Rove gave up his business ahead of the 2000 presidential election to focus solely on running Bush's campaign. At that time, all 29 statewide offices in Texas were held by Republicans, many of them Rove's clients.
Once Bush was in the White House, Rove served as a senior adviser and chief political strategist to Bush. He continued to have the ear of the president, advising him on virtually every issue that involved political and public opinion. And his reach extended even further into the Republican party, helping to select Republican political candidates nationwide. Some Washington insiders wonder if Rove has too much influence and interaction with the president. But he has often denied that he ever had the type of access that some said made him so powerful.
"Look, I'm an aide to the president. I serve at his sufferance," Rove said in an interview with ABC News in August 2004. "He's been a friend of mine for a great many years. I'm supposed to look out after certain activities within the White House, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, the Office of Strategic Initiatives, the Office of Political Affairs. But I'm one of the great many people who serve as a senior aide."
He ran the Bush re-election campaign in 2004, focusing the message on three main issues: the war in Iraq, values and the economy. Again, he was assumed to be the brains behind the campaign. He took heat for allegedly spearheading a number of political ads that skewered Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's service in the Vietnam War. But Rove claimed innocence.
Whatever the method, the result was a familiar one, as Bush was re-elected to a second four-year term. In his victory speech, Bush was sure to remember his right-hand man in the list of people he thanked.
"Karl Rove, the architect," Bush said to huge applause.
After Bush's re-election, Rove was named White House deputy chief of staff and has served in that position since February.