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Rove and a Hard Place

Jan. 30 2008, Published 8:04 a.m. ET

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As if he didn't have enough to worry about, Karl Rove's legacy may be in for yet another blow. With indictments in the Valerie Plame case expected imminently, Jim Moore and Wayne Slater who co-authored the 2003 blockbuster exposé, Bush’s Brain, are releasing an updated paperback version of their book this week with a new title: Rove Exposed: How Bush’s Brain Fooled America. If Rove lands in the big house, it's safe to say it won't be on his reading list.

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But Slater and Moore aren't the only ones looking to kick the Boy Genius while he's down. In fact, several Texas political insiders say Rove’s longtime relationship with lobbyist Karen Johnson may be in jeopardy, too, if Johnson's relatives have their way.

In July we reported on the very close relationship Johnson, a single, Austin-based lobbyist, has enjoyed with Rove since they met over a decade ago in Texas. But now that Rove's White House tenure is looking increasingly shaky, friends are whispering that the forty-something lobbyist--who pulls in well over $1 million a year thanks to her administration connections--may be cooling toward the married presidential advisor.

"Everyone knows how close Karen is to Karl, but she's sick of it," says a person familiar with the situation. Johnson's disapproving family has long urged her to settle down with the improbably named Rhett Hard, a handsome ranch foreman whom Johnson has dated sporadically over the last few years. "Karen's dream has always been to own a cattle ranch, and two years ago she bought Cinco de Mayo the name of her Austin property and hired Rhett to manage the place. They even joined the Cattleman's Texas Longhorn Registry together."

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But while the movie-star handsome Hard shares Johnson's affection for the president (he contributed $2,000 to Bush's reelection campaign in 2004), one Austin social observer doubts that their relationship is going anywhere. "If Rhett hasn't married her by now, he never will," says the source. "Karen has never been married. She's what I call a serial dater."

Hard could not be reached for comment and Johnson did not return repeated calls.

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