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Rove reacts to Obama saying GOP should be ‘in the back’

Republicans owe much of their success in the midterm elections to the Tea Party movement, but the GOP is going to have to work over the next two years to retain that support, former presidential adviser Karl Rove said Friday.

“It’s not just enough to say we are going to stop the bad things that Americans clearly want to have stopped,” said the author and commentator widely regarded as the architect of George W. Bush’s successful presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004. “It’s also important to lay out an agenda that encourages prosperity.”

Calling the Tea Party “sentiment” just as important as the movement itself, Rove told TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer that voters who helped Republicans wrest control of the House of Representatives away from Democrats could just as easily swing the other way in 2012 if the GOP does not pursue the agenda its candidates presented this year.

“We’ll see … they could move back, but it would require the Republicans to fail at their task and the president to move to the middle,” said Rove, who wrote in The Wall Street Journal on  Thursday that voters are “warming” to Republicans but remain “nervous about it.”

President Obama has been talking about cooperation with the GOP since what he called his party’s “shellacking” on Tuesday, but his statements during the campaign did not help his cause, Rove told Lauer. While Republicans were talking about the specifics of the sweeping health care reform bill Obama got passed in 2009, he amplified, Obama was telling Democrats that they need to punish their “enemies” and reward their friends.

Referring to Obama’s comment in October that “We don't mind the Republicans joining us; they can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back,” Rove said that Americans clearly rewarded the GOP for offering ideas and not divisive rhetoric.

“It was President Obama who said, ‘Oh, we are willing to have those Republicans come along with us, but they oughta be riding in the back.’ If there is one person in American who ought to be keenly aware of any kind of metaphor that says people ought to be riding in the back of a moving vehicle, it’s this president,” Rove told Lauer.

Rove also said that if the Republicans hope to regain the White House in two years, candidates need to keep the focus on the Obama administration policies that voters have already said are not working.

“They need to attack Obamacare any way they can,” Rove said. “They need to ratchet down the spending and to attack the deficit. They need to extend the tax cuts. And they need to have a pro-growth agenda.”

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