With Karl Rove stumping this weekend for Sen. Bob Bennett's re-election campaign, should Bennett's Republican opponents -- Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Cherilyn Eagar and, possibly, Tim Bridgewater -- worry about going to jail anytime soon?
It's a tongue-in-cheek question, I admit. Rove's appearance at a Bennett fund-raiser Friday while the former White House guru is in town for his 40th high school reunion is not really as momentous, or ominous, as it would be if he were working on the senator's campaign.
But the fact that the opponents of Rove's clients tend to get indicted, and convicted, on what many critics have called dubious charges and questionable evidence, brings into question what Bennett hopes to accomplish in terms of his sketchy image with the party's right wing.
Rove is a combative character, to say the least, with plenty of Democratic scalps burnishing his reputation as a clever and incredibly successful political strategist who is widely credited with getting a former ne'r-do-well, George W. Bush, elected governor of Texas and to two terms in the White House.
But Rove's Machiavellian reputation has some Republicans in this state worried about his association with their party.
The merely conservative Bennett, everyone agrees, has a problem with the party's right wing, which will have much to say about who gets the nomination at the state GOP convention next year. He helped get the bank bailout plan through Congress that is anathema to Utah's ultraconservatives. And he just got blasted by the right-wing Club for Growth over his bipartisan health care reform proposal.
Bringing in Rove for a little boost may help, since Rove is a frequent guest on Fox News, the staple news source of the right wing. But let's look briefly at Rove's history.
He is accused in the book Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, with having used his friendship with an FBI agent to get corruption indictments against two state bureaucrats who worked for the Democratic agricultural commissioner, who just happened to be challenged by Republican Rick Perry, now the governor of Texas.
Sources quoted by Time magazine and CBS' "60 Minutes" maintained that Rove used his influence with a U.S. attorney to get a bribery conviction against former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
Rove's name also figures prominently in the ongoing investigation of the firings of several U.S. attorneys, allegedly because they weren't aggressive enough in pursuing questionable criminal charges against Democratic congressional candidates prior to the 2006 elections.
Rove was implicated in the illegal leaking of CIA agent Valarie Plame's identity as punishment for her husband's having publicly questioned the Bush administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
His fingerprints are all over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth fraud aimed at Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, and he is believed to have been behind a smear campaign that questioned the patriotism of former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee and disabled Vietnam War veteran.
"Bush's Brain" describes how Rove disrupted a campaign-launching open house for Democratic Illinois state treasurer candidate Alan Dixon with fake invitations to the event that read, "Free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing." The invitations were distributed "at a hippie commune, a rock concert, soup kitchens, and among the drunks on Chicago's bowery."
And now, at least for this weekend, Karl Rove is the face of Bennett's campaign.
Perhaps this odd partnering will prove a plus for Bennett among next year's delegates to the state Republican convention. (Imagine! Karl Rove!)
Or, perhaps, Bennett's Rove gambit will turn into a "jump-the-shark" moment ( "Karl Rove!! What the ...") for a campaign that can't afford one.