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Rose majored in diplomacy at Occidental, and studied in Jerusalem and Mexico. His senior year, he worked on the campaign of Tom Campbell, a moderate running in the GOP primary for Senate. Though not technically the first campaign he'd ever worked on--in high school, he'd put up signs for Grant Woods--it was here that Rose found his calling.
He went from his college campus to fund raisers in Beverly Hills, where he got to see his candidate munch hors d'oeuvres with the rich and famous. He caught the buzz right then.
Rose wrote a letter to the campaign manager and to Campbell--"still probably the best thing I've ever written," he says--essentially slamming the campaign's ads and offering his suggestions. "I told them, 'I don't know why you're doing this,'" Rose recalls. Campbell never got back to him about the letter. And then Campbell lost.
But Rose wasn't deterred. Instead, he says, "I thought, 'Hey, I might be able to make a few bucks doing this.'"
There are other things Rose says he wants to do with his life, but they're all still big adventures. He wants to buy a Winnebago and tour every national park when he's 35. He wants to be on Jeopardy!. He wants to open a Nixon's in every state capital, maybe one in China. He's been meeting with some venture capitalists about taking a Nixon's franchise to Sacramento.
Despite his ambition and intelligence, the reviews are mixed on Rose's future in Arizona politics:
His friends think he's already made it.
"For a long time, this city and this state have been ruled by a Star Chamber," says Bundgaard. "There's a lot of history here, old money, a very tight inner circle. And it's kind of nice to see other young guys breaking that paradigm and getting good things done in our community."
Others think Rose plays it a little too fast and loose, and that he's headed for a fall.
"Everything he's got going is like a house of cards," a GOP insider says. "He's getting by on the skin of his teeth each time, but that's the way of lobbyists and consultants."
"Look at the McGovern ads he did," another consultant says. "It's slick; it's beautiful; it makes all the sense in the world on the surface . . . [but] there's no message except 'I'm not John Kaites . . . I'm going to take my good looks and do good with them.' It's not real. It's what he thinks real is. That works when you're selling cheese, but when you're selling a candidate, people need more."
Rose's friend and mentor, Kevin DeMenna, thinks Rose just needs to grow up a bit.
"He hasn't disciplined many children, hasn't made many mortgage payments. . . . If you're a blue-collar guy, worried about making the mortgage, it's tough to relate to a 28-year-old. He has a natural ability, but he doesn't have the experience."
DeMenna's prescription: "A wife, children and a more diversified existence. . . . I've told him this many times. At some point, he has to make the decision to get a life."