He’s smart and has on many occasions shown a keen understanding of Republicans’ vulnerabilities. The compassion in George W. Bush’s conservatism — the oratorical emphasis on education, the moderate stance on immigration — was a Rove-blessed attempt to keep the party from seeming as harsh as it does now. Rove has warned repeatedly that it mustn’t estrange Latino voters. And he was among the first and loudest Republican leaders to lament the damage that Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin and Todd Akin were doing to the party’s brand.

But he either didn’t or couldn’t keep them away in the first place, and as the 2012 campaign progressed, he seemed to get lost in the exaggerated, delusional spin of it all. This culminated in his attempt on election night to refute the Ohio returns and the projection of an Obama victory, prompting the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to ask him if his contrary calculations were just “math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better.”

Two days later, back on Fox News, Rove was still spinning, still in denial. He claimed that Obama won by “suppressing the vote,” but by voter suppression he meant negative ads about Bain. The same kind, mind you, that Adelson once helped circulate.