Ahmadinejad's bag of tricks is eerily like that of Karl Rove - the constant use of fear, the exploitation of religion, the demonization of liberals, the deployment of Potemkin symbolism like Sarah Palin:

Ahmadinejad made an advertising movie of himself and his family which was very effective among the masses.  His simple life is similar to low income people.  This is despite the fact that during his first term some people acquired a lot of wealth because of Ahmadinejad’s bad economic decisions, housing prices during the last four years tripled, industrial production decreased, many factories closed and unemployment increased.  Import of goods such as rice, tea, sugar, and Chinese goods mostly helped the importers who are Ahmadinejad’s biggest supporters.  It’s interesting that several of his ministers are very wealthy including his mister of the interior.

An increase in the price of oil and a $280 billion revenue allowed Ahmadinejad to not only raise people’s salaries but also to give cash, goods and even gold coins to the people who came to greet him whenever he visited a town or a village; just like the Qajar kings. Many of the agencies under the supervision of the supreme leader helped him in this matter.

The armed forces, specially the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij are Ahmadinejad’s supporters. Their penetration in the villages and small towns, and the fact that they are often from the lower income classes, played a major role in Ahmadinejad’s victory like the previous elections.

Think of this regime as Cheney and Rove in a police state setting, and you see what's been going on. (Of course, Rove and Cheney live within a democratic system utterly unlike Iran, and there's no evidence they would violate democratic norms as Khamenei just did. But their demagoguery, abuse of the state, dedication to conflict abroad, co-optation of the armed forces, and manipulation of rural and religious voters all have parallels in Red State Iran.) We keep expecting to see some kind of shame or some attempt at rational dialogue. They have nothing but contempt for that kind of talk. If they're going to lie, it's gonna be a Big Lie. Like this sham of an election.

(Photo: Thousands of supporters of Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (portraits) wave national flags during a massive rally to celebrate his victory in the presidential elections in Tehran's Valiasr square on June 14, 2009. By Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty.)