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ROVE SHIFTS FOCUS TO PASSING BUSH'S DOMESTIC AGENDA

Karl Rove, who ran President Bush's two successful presidential campaigns, is now turning his attention to passage of the president's ambitious and controversial domestic agenda.

The 53-year-old senior White House adviser says his main objectives are passage of the president's plan to partially privatize Social Security and adopt some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

A political junkie since his teens, Rove has been shaping Bush's campaigns since he first ran for governor of Texas in 1994.

On a personal note, Rove said he has run his last presidential campaign.

In a one-hour briefing with political writers Tuesday, Rove said the White House staff is already meeting with senior Republicans in Congress about how to pass what Rove called "immigration reform," or the "guest workers" initiative.

"Republicans need to focus on delivering," Rove said. "We've laid out an agenda, a vision, and we now want to see results. Major concern as a party is that we fulfill the promises we made."

But he acknowledged that speed may be important, too, because the GOP majorities could shrink after 2006.

"Social Security is in real trouble," Rove said. "Our kids and our grandchildren are going to face a horrific demographic bomb that's going to go off in midcentury" as fewer people will be paying Social Security taxes for a growing number of retirees.

"The president believes fervently that part of the answer is to allow younger workers the option of putting some of what they now pay in taxes into a personal retirement account which they can own and pass on to their heirs," Rove said.

Bush had a meeting Tuesday morning with "a significant member of the Senate," whom he did not otherwise identify, to discuss immigration legislation.

The issue is a touchy one for conservatives who want to clamp down on illegal Mexican immigrants and liberals who see the president's guest workers program as a way to force down wages for American labor.

Bush would make undocumented immigrants temporary guest workers, expecting that most would eventually return to their native lands. The president's program would be open-ended, allowing an unlimited number of foreigners to work in the United States, provided that employers certify that they could not find an American for the job.

Rove said that "it's in the economic and security interests of the United States to gain control of our borders to reduce, if not eliminate, illegal immigration. Part of that process is not just to move more resources to the border, more border patrol, more vehicles and more surveillance equipment -- but also to reduce the pressure for illegal immigration."

Rove, in addition to political strategy, heads three other White House operations that deal with long-range government planning, public liaison, and relations with state and local agencies.

Washington Bureau Assistant Anna L. Miller contributed to this report.

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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