Published on TheHill.com on May 30, 2007.
National surveys of the presidential races in each party have remained relatively consistent since early in the year. As soon as Giuliani announced his candidacy, he jumped out to a big lead in the Republican primary, an advantage he still enjoys, although recent signs indicate a possible tightening of the contest. John McCain continues to run second, with Mitt Romney mired in a distant third place. Surveys that include Newt Gingrich or Fred Thompson usually have either or both lagging behind McCain but ahead of Romney. On the Democratic side, Hillary Rodham Clinton enjoys a commanding lead over Barack Obama, with John Edwards in third place. While Hillary’s lead shrank earlier in the year, she now appears to have reestablished a formidable margin. When Al Gore is added to the field, he generally runs about even with Edwards but behind both Clinton and Obama.
This is a more detailed version of a column that was published in The New York Post on May 24, 2007.
Since he left office in 2001, former president Bill Clinton has been paid by InfoUSA, an Omaha, Nebraska company that has been identified as a key provider of specially designed databases that are sold to criminals who use the detailed information to defraud the unsuspecting elderly.
The conservative right is in full fury opposing the deal cooked up by Senators McCain, Kennedy, Kyle, and Graham for immigration reform. The full impact of the storm is likely to be felt by John McCain as he offers himself as a candidate for the GOP nomination. The deal, of course, is good precisely because it pleases nobody. The right hates the idea that twelve million people who came here illegally can stay and work. The Hispanics hate that they have to pay $5,000 each, can’t become citizens until they return to the country of origin, and cannot bring their families in. The left hates that the border fence and increased guards are prerequisites for the bill’s implementation. The Democrats hate that the twelve million illegals won’t be able to vote for a decade more. The Republicans hate that they will be able to vote eventually.
RUBUTTING BILL ON HILLARY
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY ANALYSIS
Volume 1, #11
May 25, 2007
BILL CLINTON LEAVES SOME THINGS OUT OF HILLARY’S BIOGRAPHY
Go to www.hillaryclinton.com and check out Bill Clinton’s syrupy five minute ad for Hillary. He introduces the commercial by saying that wants to share some things we may not know about Hillary’s background. His version of her biography is about as reliable as if it appeared in Pravda!
So, I wanted to make a few corrections.
Bill says: Hillary never wanted to run for public office, but she did want to work at public service.
The facts are: When Clinton was considering not running for another term as Governor of Arkansas in 1990, Hillary said she would run if he didn’t. She and Bill even had me take two surveys to assess her chances of winning. The conclusion was that she couldn’t win because people would just see her as a seat warmer for when Bill came back licking his wounds after losing for president. So she didn’t run. Bill did and won. But there is no question she had her eye on public office, as opposed to service, long ago.
Bill says: In law school Hillary worked on legal services for the poor.
The facts are: Hillary’s main extra-curricular activity in law school was helping the Black Panthers, on trial in Connecticut for torturing and killing a federal agent. She went to court every day as part of a law student monitoring committee trying to spot civil rights violations and develop grounds for appeal.
Bill says: Hillary spent a year after graduation working on a children’s rights project for poor kids.
The facts are: Hillary interned with Bob Truehaft, the head of the California Communist Party. She met Bob when he represented the Panthers and traveled all the way to San Francisco to take an internship with him.
Bill says: Hillary could have written her own job ticket, but she turned down all the lucrative job offers.
The facts are: She flunked the DC bar exam and only passed the Arkansas bar. She had no job offers in Arkansas and only got hired by the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville because Bill was already teaching there. She only joined the prestigious Rose Law Firm after Bill became Attorney General and made partner only after he was elected governor.
Bill says: President Carter appointed Hillary to the Legal Services Board of Directors and she became its chairman.
The facts are: The appointment was in exchange for Bill’s support for Carter in his 1980 primary against Ted Kennedy. Hillary became chairman in a coup in which she won a majority away from Carter’s choice to be chairman.
Bill says: She served on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
The facts are: Yes she did. But her main board activity, not mentioned by Bill, was to sit on the Walmart board of directors, for a substantial fee. She was silent about their labor and health care practices.
Bill says: Hillary didn’t succeed at getting health care for all Americans in 1994 but she kept working at it and helped to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that provides five million children with health insurance.
The facts are: Hillary had nothing to do with creating CHIP. It was included in the budget deal between Clinton and Republican Majority Leader Senator Trent Lott. I helped to negotiate the deal. The money came half from the budget deal and half from the Attorney Generals’ tobacco settlement. Hillary had nothing to do with either source of funds.
Bill says: Hillary was the face of America all over the world
The facts are: Her visits were part of a program to get her out of town so that Bill would not appear weak by feeding stories that Hillary was running the White House. Her visits abroad were entirely touristic and symbolic and there was no substantive diplomacy on any of them
Bill says: Hillary was an excellent Senator who kept fighting for children’s and women’s issues.
The facts are: Other than totally meaningless legislation like changing the names on courthouses and post offices, she passed only four substantive pieces of legislation. One set up a national park in Puerto Rico. A second provided respite care for family members helping their relatives through Alzheimer’s or other conditions. And two were routine bills to aid 9-11 victims and responders which were sponsored by the entire NY delegation.
HOW CAN RUDY GET HIS LEAD BACK?
Rudy Giuliani is slipping in the polls. Realclearpolitics.com keeps track of all the national and state presidential surveys. It reports that in six polls from April 20th through May 3rd, Rudy led by an average margin of 11 points. But in six surveys after May 3rd, his lead has dropped to an average of 6 points.
None of these polls were conducted after Rudy’s decisive win in the South Carolina Republican debate. It is quite possible that when more recent surveys come out, they will show Giuliani getting his lead back. But the long term trend – the fading of his numbers – may well set in again even if he gets a temporary respite from his strong debate showing.
What’s Rudy’s problem? How can he solve it?
His biggest problem during the early May period was his hesitant answers on abortion. Rather than just admitting his pro-choice position, as he did in the second debate, he seemed to be having it both ways when he said that it would be “OK” if Roe were overturned.
He needs to get back to his central issue of terrorism as he did in South Carolina. Rudy vs. the Right is really a battle of terrorism vs abortion for salience and relevance. By making terrorism the issue, Rudy makes himself the inevitable candidate.
But to date, he has been running a largely biographic campaign in which he speaks almost exclusively about his past record as Mayor and as the hero of 9-11. Both are good points, but he needs a proactive theme for his candidacy to attract attention and gin up support.
But he needs to do more. Here’s my suggestion -
Rudy has taken a firm stand against Iran and pledged not to allow it to acquire nuclear weapons. He has urged pension funds to disinvest in companies that do business with Iran and campaigned for tougher economic sanctions.
Rudy should go around the country meeting with State Treasurers and Governors from both parties to urge them to follow disinvestment policies in their pension fund investments, denying their investments to the 485 companies that disinvestterror.org lists as doing business in terror sponsoring countries like Iran, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea.
Rudy should hold press conferences each time announcing his progress in turning off investments in Iran. This policy of campaigning by doing good work could give his candidacy an ongoing traction and relevance which a purely biographic campaign cannot do.
Giuliani needs to lead the nation by showing how to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. An ongoing tour of the country promoting disinvestment, meeting with those who control pension investments, and testifying for legislation in key states like California, Florida, and Ohio where bills to disinvest are making their way through the legislatures.
Already Rudy seems to understand the importance of bypassing his Republican opponents and attacking Hillary Clinton. As the Republican front runner, he can go after the Democratic front runner and lift himself above his GOP competitors. And since Rudy’s biggest edge is his ability to defeat Hillary in the general election, he reminds the voters of why he should be the candidate with each lightening bolt he sends her way.
But now he can go even further. He can not only telescope the primaries but move into the realm of governance, in effect campaign by governing – use his candidacy to generate opposition to Iran and support for disinvestment strategies.
By showing his ability to generate disinvestment in Iran, he can show himself as a leader actually fighting terrorism, a notch above the politicians who can only fight one another.
But Rudy’s biggest asset is clearly John McCain —-
MCCAIN BLOWS HIS STACK…AND HIS CHANCES
The Arizona Senator’s legendary temper was on public display twice in the past few days, both times to his severe detriment. When he said “f— you” to Texas Republican Senator John Cronyn who was criticizing his immigration bill and then told Mitt Romney to get his gun and chase the Guatemalans off his property, he was presenting his unattractive side to the American people.
But his biggest problem remains immigration. Even if the legislation proposed by McCain, Ted Kennedy and Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss passes, it will leave a wake of dissatisfaction among Republican stalwarts. With Rush Limbaugh attacking the compromise and the conservative hard liners coming out against it, McCain is placing himself directly in the line of fire.
The immigration deal is actually a pretty good one for the Republican Party. It lets those who are here illegally work for many years, but postpones their day of ultimate citizenship and voting rights. If, as some say, the Democrats want illegal immigrants to vote but not work and Republicans want them to work but not vote, the compromise hues closer to the GOP priority. By making illegal immigrants return home and wait their turn on line for legal green cards, the proposal puts off the day when massive numbers of potentially Democratic voters enter the electorate.
But conservatives don’t see it that way and McCain will be badly hurt by his own temper on the one hand and his immigration positions on the other.
Ultimately, McCain’s sin is that he is too much of an insider – too happy in the ways of Washington and too used to bi-partisan compromise to make a good primary candidate. While his ability to reach across the aisle and make common cause with the likes of Ted Kennedy would serve him well in the White House, it might make it impossible to get there.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***
Published on TheHill.com on May 23, 2007.
The Republican Party would be self-destructive (not for the first time, either) if they did not let the immigration compromise negotiated by Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) pass and become law. The hopes of the entire Latino community are pinned to immigration reform and, if the GOP is seen as blocking it, the consequences for the indefinite future will be horrific. The Republican Party will lose Hispanics as surely as they lost blacks when Barry Goldwater ran in 1964 against the civil rights bill (even though a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats backed the bill in each house).
The Republican Party can decide whether it lives or dies by whether or not it blocks the immigration compromise from passing this year. If they stop it from going through and a Democratic President pushes it through a Democratic Congress in 2009, the GOP will suffer as much among Hispanic voters as it did among black voters after Barry Goldwater crusaded against the Civil Rights Bill in his 1964 election campaign. Until Goldwater did that, blacks usually voted Republican. Kennedy won over about 60% of them when he called Correta Scott King while her husband was in jail. But LBJ got the 90% of the black vote that has since become his party’s expected share as a direct result of Goldwater’s campaign.
Published on FoxNews.com on May 17, 2007.
To understand the presidential debate on Tuesday night in South Carolina, think of a tennis tournament. There are quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
The Democrats hope that by attempting, symbolically, to force a timetable for withdrawal and then failing they will appease the left sufficiently to cave into White House demands for a pretty clean funding bill. But the left will not be easily fooled. The four Democratic senators running for president all sided with 26 of their colleagues to support an Iraq funding bill with a withdrawal provision attached. Now that that bill has failed, Reid and Pelosi will trot happily to the White House to raise the white flag and support a war funding bill with only token restrictions. If Clinton, Obama, Biden, and Dodd vote for this compromise they will be voting themselves into a perilously weak position in the presidential primaries. But if Clinton and Obama vote against the compromise their votes will leave John Edwards without a campaign platform and will guarantee a two-way race on February 5th. If they split -with Clinton backing the compromise and Obama opposing it – it will breathe new life into the Obama candidacy.
Published in the New York Post on May 16, 2007.
Two shadows loomed over last night’s Republican debate in South Carolina – the men who weren’t there.
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY ANALYSIS
Volume 1, #10
May 16, 2007
SECOND GOP DEBATE: RUDY BY A KNOCKOUT!
Watching the FOX News Presidential debate in South Carolina last night, it was clear that there were really five separate mini-debates going on within the main debate, as the ten Republican contenders went at it for the second time. This second debate, sponsored by Fox News, was more lively and less starched then their earlier, boring contest two weeks ago. Each internal debate had its own winner and loser:
Â· Â· The Main Event, in the center ring, featured Rudy Giuliani vs John McCain for the status of front runner.
The winner: Rudy by a knockout!
Â· Â· Then there was the Romney debate as Mitt Romney debated himself, trying to shake off the image of a flipper and a flopper who trimmed his position on issues to suit the constituency he was facing.
The loser: Romney
Â· Â· Then, on the right, there was the Battle of the Six Conservatives on the stage to break through (Huckabee, Brownback, Gilmore, Hunter, Tancredo, Thompson) and prove to the conservatives that they did not need to wait for Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich to emerge as the hero or Mr. Right.
The winner: Mike Huckabee
Â· Â· Beneath the entire contest, there was a thematic competition between abortion and terrorism for the role of key issue in the Republican primary.
The winner: Terrorism
Â· Â· And finally, Fox News was facing off against MSNBC for who did better in staging the debate.
The winner: Fox News.
Rudy Giuliani needed to recover from his weak performance in the first debate, show a real contrast with runner-up John McCain, get over the abortion issue, and demonstrate why his experience in fighting terrorism made him the logical Republican candidate. Missions accomplished.
In the second debate, Rudy got his act together. The hesitant, tentative former Mayor who made his debut in the first debate was gone and in his stead came an aggressive, tough fighter on terror. When he interrupted Congressman Ron Paul and put him in his place, slapping him down for his ridiculous contention that we caused 9-11 by meddling in Iraq, he spoke like a president.
He stepped up and embraced his record on 9-11, making the telling point that he was best equipped to handle security issue of all the candidates. Anyone putting terrorism at the top of the national agenda had to be inspired by the Giuliani they saw on the podium.
But there are a lot of people who don’t put terrorism at the top of their agenda, but put abortion and other social issues up there. To them, Rudy showed himself to be a worthy opponent, sincere in his convictions but, in the view of social conservatives, wrong headed.
Giuliani’s performance drew the line clearly: If you are more focused on terror than social issues, Rudy is your man. If social issues mean more, he’s definitely not.
Meanwhile, John McCain showed what his problem is: After all of his years in Washington, he has become too much of an insider in the Senate. He justified his immigration positions by saying that he was trying to move a compromise in the Senate to get something passed (rather than stand on principle). He seemed almost to despair of making the Iraq War a popular cause again and affirmed the lonely view that he would “be the last man standing” in backing it. He said that he had opposed the Bush tax cuts because he felt that spending was out of control, even though he conceded that the tax cuts had stimulated revenue and cut the deficit. Insider positions all.
Gone was the attractive outsider John McCain railing at the special interests, engaging big tobacco, demanding corporate governance changes. The maverick had joined the fold.
But most important was his waffling answer to the chilling hypothesis posed by Fox News’ Brit Hume of a terror attack on three American shopping centers. Asked how he would interrogate the suspects to find out what was their next attack, he delivered an insider’s attack on aggressive interrogation (torture to its critics). He said that most military men opposed these tactics for fear that it would lead to similar treatment of our own troops if captured. Hey, John, these guys cut off heads if they get one of us and they don’t need any justification to do it. To most Americans, it would be just fine to waterboard Osama to find out where the next hit would be.
So, Mc Cain was the loser of the Main Event.
And while the debate raged, Mitt Romney was tripping over himself all night trying to explain his flip flops on abortion and other issues. Without the softball questioning of MSNBC (“Is there anything that don’t you like about America, Governor Romney”), he had to face hard interrogation from the Fox News team and he wasn’t up to it.
Asked why he converted from pro-life to pro-choice in 1994, he cited a relative who had died after an illegal abortion. Then pressed on why he switched back in 2006, he said that his research into stem cells convinced him that Roe v Wade had led to a throw-away culture that disregarded human life. When John McCain dryly commented that these seemed like “even numbered year conversions,”the kindest thing a Romney booster could do was change the channel.
This should have been Mitt’s week. A Sixty Minutes TV interview on Sunday, Fox News ads running all week, a cover on Time Magazine and then a debate to show off his handsome face and silken voice. You can’t ask for more than that. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, Mitt came over as an empty suit.
On the right, former Governors Mike Huckabee (Ark), James Gilmore (Va), Tommy Thompson (Wisc), Senator Sam Brownback (Kan), and Congressmen Tom Tancredo (Col) and Duncan Hunter (Cal) had to show that one of them was equipped to move up into the first tier of candidates and that there was no vacuum for Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich to fill by running.
Gilmore was OK. Brownback was bad. Thompson was worse. Tancredo came over as a demagogue. Hunter did pretty well, but Mike Huckabee did better.
As in the first debate, Mike Huckabee put on the most interesting performance. When he called Democratic spending as out of control “as John Edwards at a beauty shop”, he brought the house down. His response on abortion – challenging Rudy’s position on the morality of the issue – was clear and convincing. His second strong showing may perhaps lift him into contention. If charisma, creative responses, and a clear ability to communicate can lift a non-contender into the race, Huckabee is on his way.
But while politicians see debates and elections as a clash of candidates, history often remembers them as a battle of issues. Just as the 2004 contest evolved into a battle between the anti-terror candidate (Bush) and the domestic issues alternative (Kerry), so the GOP contest turned into a fight between terrorism and abortion for the primacy of first place in the lexicon of issues.
Terrorism trumped abortion. The chilling scenarios of possible terror attacks outlined by the Fox News team of Brit Hume, Wendell Golar, and Chris Wallace and the backdrop of the Ft. Dix terror plot, made clear the centrality of the security issue. While pro-life advocates like Huckabee did a fine job in summoning the emotion and reasoning behind their position, it could not compete with the idea of another 9/11 as the prime concern of GOP voters. And, if terrorism is the issue, Rudy will be the candidate.
Finally, viewers had a head-on contest between Fox News and MSNBC in debate staging. In the first debate, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews upstaged the candidates and seemed to be running himself for host-of-the-year. Rushing hither and yon over the stage, poking his microphone into each candidate’s face, he ran the debate like he runs Hardball, his MSNBC show. But Matthews’ questions were inane. He asked about pardons of Scooter Libby, whether the candidates would keep Karl Rove on staff, how they felt about evolution, and other topics he brought in, literally, from left field.
The trio of Hume-Golar-Wallace asked probing questions, stimulated a real debate, demanding answers to their questions, and gave us a chance to evaluate each of the candidates under fire. They did not try to sell themselves as the stars of the debate but remained catalysts trying to bring out what each candidate really stood for and was trying to say. Fox News showed why it is number one among cable new outlets and why MSNBC is a distant third.
Will the debate matter? Yes. The ratings may be low, but so is the turnout in Republican primaries. Only about 6% of the American population of voting age adults will participate in the GOP primaries. So the Fox News audience – about 3% of the population – hit a large portion of the potential electorate.
The enduring lesson of this debate is that terror is the issue of the race in the GOP primary. Giuliani’s resonance with the voters over his focus and experience on the key issue, even with his liberal answers on social issues, makes it clear that there is a new key issue in the GOP – terror.
THE DEMOCRATS: Why Did Hillary Regain The Lead?
All of the polls taken after the first Democratic presidential debate are clear in their conclusion: That Hillary Clinton has regained her large lead over Barack Obama. The Gallup Poll, for example, has her rebounding from a narrow 31-26 lead on April 13-15 to a comfortable 38-23 margin on May 4-6.
The question is why did Hillary rebound so strongly?
Four factors stand out strongly:
Â· Â· Voters are impressed by their first real exposure to her as an articulate, competent, and poised Senator
Â· She was tougher on terrorism than the others in the debate
Â· The Supreme Court partial birth abortion decision sets her up with her best issue
Â· She delivered a strong anti-war statement just as the poll was being taken.
In previous Play-by-Plays, we’ve discussed Hillary’s “talking dog” theory that she explained in her memoir, Living History. Her thesis is that when a woman appears to be articulate and knowledgeable in a public forum that people are so amazed that they don’t so much listen to what she says as marvel at the fact that she is saying it.
Hillary quoted Dr. Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth century English philosopher, as comparing a woman preaching to a dog walking on its hind legs. Boswell, Johnson’s biographer, wrote”its not that he does it well but that he does it at all.”
The talking dog theory has great validity but it is a passing phenomenon. At first people are very impressed by an articulate, intelligent, well informed woman standing among men and debating. That’s the up part of the talking dog curve. For most of the audience watching the first Democratic debate, this was their initial exposure to Hillary in a debate setting. Only some New Yorkers had seen her engage opponents in give and take before during her two Senate races.
So the talking dog theory worked. People were clearly impressed at the one woman standing out among the six suits.
But the fallacy of relying on the talking dog syndrome is that as large numbers of voters move further into the curve and see Hillary more and more, the novelty will wear off and her issue positions and style will matter more. That’s the downward slope at the back of the talking dog curve.
Just as important as the talking dog syndrome in explaining Hillary’s surge after the debate was her strong answer and Obama’s pathetic reply to the question of how they would respond to a terror attack on US cities.
Obama answered first and began by saying that we needed to make sure we had an adequate number of “emergency responders.” Then he said his second concern would be to find out why our intelligence had not alerted us to the danger of an attack and had not thwarted it. Only then did he say, albeit vaguely, that he would see if the intelligence was clear enough in identifying those responsible that we could see about “dismantling the network” that had launched the attack.
Hillary hit the question out of the park. She began by saying that she would “retaliate” not just against the terrorists, but against any country that was found to have harbored, trained, or equipped them. She assuaged the left by saying that she would not go looking for a war, but made clear that she was a lot tougher on terror than the ingÃ©nue from Illinois.
It was the moment that may have stopped Obama’s momentum dead in its tracks.
Before the debate even began, Hillary had an edge after the US Supreme Court decision upholding a Congressional ban on partial birth abortion. With a majority looming on the horizon seemingly likely to reverse Roe v Wade, women throughout America turn their eyes to Hillary as the most likely protector of their right to choose. Just as a war would heighten the attention one might pay to a general running for office, the Court decision put a premium on pro-choice women. And that means Hillary.
Finally, right after the debate, Hillary made her strongest statement yet against the war in Iraq, saying that she would vote to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in the first place. Never mind that she has construed the “Resolution to Authorize the Use of Force in Iraq” as meaning that we would not use force in Iraq but would send in more UN inspectors, her announcement that she would introduce a measure to repeal the resolution showed her strong opposition to the war. With liberals doubting if she had the fiber to stand up against the war, her statement was music to their ears.
How permanent is Hillary’s gain?
Likely she will fade back again and Obama will rise once more to make it a real contest. This race will go down to the wire.
All of Hillary’s advantages are short lived. Obama will likely get his act together in the next debate and show some spine in dealing with terrorists. The novelty of the talking dog will wear off. The Court decision on abortion will fade from the headlines. And, most important, Hillary will vote with the Congressional leadership to cave into Bush and give him the war funding that he wants.
I still think Hillary will win both the nomination and the election, but the race will get closer once more.
Stay tuned and follow it in Play by Play!