Published on FoxNews.com on August 30, 2007.
If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, the former valuing peace and the other reveling in war, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lot more like Mars than Venus. She loves war. Indeed, like a dolphin or a submarine, she can only define where she is or who she is by bouncing her sonar off her opponents. It is only in the crucible of conflict that she is truly alive and self-aware. Conflict is the principle which permits her to organize her life. Peacetime is an invitation to entropy.
Published on FoxNews.com on August 24, 2007.
Democrats are increasingly giving evidence that they seem to feel that they have already held their primaries and nominated the former first lady. Neither national debates nor Obama’s increasingly assertive foreign policy proposals seem to weaken her hold on the nomination. Even Edwards’ vocal and effective criticisms of Clinton’s ties to special interests appear to do nothing to cut into her lead. Instead, it just keeps on growing.
Volume 1, #18
August 24, 2007
HILLARY’S STRATEGY AND WHY IT’S WORKING
The contours of the Democratic race for the presidential nominee are now clear: Hillary boasts of her experience, derivative though it may be, while Obama speaks of the urgent need for new directions in
our political process. While Clinton speaks repetitively of her ability to “hit the ground running on day one” as president, Obama laments that all our nation seems able to summon is the tired alternative of a new Clinton to succeed the latest Bush.
What is increasingly evident is that Obama’s attacks on Hillary aren’t working. In fact, the Iraq “surge” is doing a lot better than Barack is; he’s going nowhere fast in the polls – he’s still at about 25% – 13 points behind Hillary. And, John Edwards, who is pushing the same message of change is stuck at about 13%. Why? Isn’t this the Democratic Party, where novelty is valued and new ideas are attractive? Apparently not.
Viewed through the retrospective of the Bush Administration, the Democrats nostalgically remember Bill Clinton as a good president. But the fact is that he was never that popular with the party rank and file and he was particularly distrusted by its vocal and increasingly dominant left wing. So why is Hillary able to use her claim to this inherited record to all but nullify the traditional Democratic affection for change?
The key lies not in the record of the Bill and Hillary Clinton Administration, but in the record of the Bill and Hillary Clinton candidacies. While he may not look like a fearless liberal leader in the mode of FDR or Harry Truman or even LBJ, Bill Clinton has one clear claim to the affections of his party and its loyalists: Despite all odds, he won again and again.
So, it is the Clinton electoral and political history, and not so much its governing record, that is broadly appealing to Democrats. When Hillary speaks of her experience, it is really a reference to her ability
to survive the Republican attack machine far more than any knowledge she may have of the workings of American government which so attract primary voters.
Both fans and critics of the Clinton Administration and of its record have to concede the point that it excelled at survivability. Think about it. If there is one trait which is etched in the political history of this couple, it has been their ability to repeatedly overcome adversity and triumph – and this is precisely what the Democratic primary voters are looking for in their candidate. Above ideology, above foreign policy, above their attitudes toward the war, above their social vision, Democrats are passionate about the notion that their nominee in 2008 be a winner.
That’s their major concern. So obsessed are they with replacing the Bush Administration that they have fast-forwarded past the primaries and are already zeroing in on how the candidates bidding for their attention will fare against the GOP in November of next year.
Can Obama stand up to the likes of Karl Rove? Can Edwards, with his nice guy routine, hope to defeat the Republican Party? Democrats doubt it. But Hillary can and Bill sure did.
Consider the Clintons’ record for survival:
- They recovered from the draft and Jennifer Flowers’ scandals and a defeat in New Hampshire to win the Democratic nomination in 1992.
- They came back from the most devastating defeat in a mid-term Congressional election since Truman lost Congress in 1946 to win a second term.
- Impeached and disgraced in the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton staggered on to the end of his term and rehabilitated his name, albeit with the indispensable assistance of President George W. Bush who raised him to a level of respectability in the wake of the Tsunami.
- Bill spent the last hours of his presidency giving out controversial pardons that triggered a criminal investigation and signing a plea agreement with the Special Prosecutor.
- The Clintons were criticized – even by the liberal media – for taking – and, indeed, soliciting – hundreds of thousands of dollars of expensive gifts as they left the White House.
- Hillary’s Finance Chairman was indicted and it was disclosed that one of her closest aides, Kelly Craighead, accepted an expensive Rolex watch from convicted felon Peter Paul, who arranged illegal campaign contributions to Hillary’s Senate campaign.
- Having started her Senate term bedeviled by the pardons of the FALN terrorists, the New Square Jewish leaders, Mark Rich, and the drug dealer and others her brothers were paid to lobby for, Hillary rose in the Senate and coasted to an easy re-election.
The message for the Democrats is clear: These folks may or may not know how to govern, but they sure know how to win. And a winner is what the Democrats want above all else in 2008.
Meanwhile, on the playing field of the Democratic nominating process, it is fun to watch how the
DEMS SCAMPER TO COPE WITH IRAQ SUCCESS
They were well positioned to exploit failure in Iraq, but how can the Party cope with success? With the casualty lists shrinking and the level of violence abating in Iraq, the Bush-Petreus troop surge is increasingly
looking like at least a short term success.
Even Hillary now admits that it’s working in Anbar Province , while Obama concedes that it’s lowering the level of violence in Baghdad. Each hastens to reassert their opposition to the war with Obama and continues
to call it a “total failure.” Hillary maintains that the surge comes too late and we should still get our troops home.
The contortion by Hillary is the latest in her pretzel-like twists and turns on Iraq. She’s been for the war, against the war, for the surge, against the surge, for troop withdrawal, against troop withdrawal. Now she
says that the surge is what she recommended years ago and that it is working now –but that it is too late to make a difference, now.
The fact is, of course, that Hillary is determined not to let any daylight grow between her and the left of the party over Iraq even though all her instincts – and her correct perception of the positions she must take to win the general election — move her to the right on the issue. But she can’t afford to go there when the Democratic left is watching her every word.
The main impact of the successes in Iraq has been to delete the issue from the forefront of the Democratic campaign. Just as accusations against Bush on the economy and on the budget deficit used to dominate
Democratic rhetoric and are now completely absent, so we hear less and less about Iraq from the Democratic aspirants. We hear a lot more about health insurance and global climate change and a plethora of boutique issues, but very little about the core issues that once animated their agenda.
DEMOCRATS DON’T LIKE CONGRESS, EITHER
The latest Fox News Poll shows that national approval ratings for Congress are down to 24%, almost at the historic lows. But, interestingly, Democrats only give the Congress, now controlled by their own party,
an approval rating of 26%.
Why are Democrats turned off their own Congress? Because their party has not delivered. The two issues which animated the ascension of Pelosi and Reid to power in the 2006, Iraq and ethics, are still hanging fire in the new Democratic Congress. Very little has changed as a result of the partisan reversal and Democrats are as angry at their Congressional leaders as Republicans are.
There has been no serious lobbying reform yet, earmarks are still in vogue, Congress is in session only a few days a week and is currently on a two month break. Pelosi has not been able to pass the reforms that she
touted when she was elected Speaker. In most respects, its business as usual in Congress. And the voters – Democrats and Republicans – are sick of it.
With vulnerable Republican Senate seats coming up in 2008 in Virginia (if Warner retires), Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Maine, the key question is whether the disenchantment of Democratic voters with the
performance of their Congressional majority will carry over to make them less likely to vote against Republican Senators.
It’s too early to tell, but the disenchantment of Democrats with their Congress is an important phenomenon.
By contrast, despite their disagreements with him over immigration reform, Republicans are hanging in for George W. Bush. Sixty-three percent say they approve of the job he is doing.
Whether the Democrats’ negative views of their Congressional majority will carry over into the 2008 election or not, they certainly presage a major split that is likely to widen among Democrats between their perceptions of what their party should do and its actual record. It is a truism that Democrats form a firing squad in a circle and the current lack of party loyalty for their legislative representatives augers ill for Democratic unity.
Fred Thompson just handed Rudy Giuliani an issue that can kill his yet-to-be-announced presidential campaign. Campaigning in Iowa. Asked if he would pledge not to raise taxes if elected President. Thompson demurred. Signing the pledge has acquired almost biblical status among GOP conservatives
and Fred’s reluctance to do so will be seen as an apostasy on the right.
Thompson also tried to put ideological distance between himself and Giuliani by attacking New York City’s strict gun control policies. Clearly Thompson has fertile ground to plough on the NRA’s issues.
Giuliani is considerably to the left of the GOP on all sorts of gun issues.
But taxes remain the core issue for the Republican primary voter. If Giuliani finds a way to flank Thompson on the right over this issue, he could do very, very well in the primaries.
GIULIANI STILL LEADS IN GOP RACE
The latest Gallup Poll, completed on August 16th, shows Rudy Giuliani maintaining his substantial lead over all of the other Republican candidates. Rudy remains at 32%. Fred Thompson is in second place with 19% – having lost 2 points in the past two weeks. Romney has moved up from 8% to 14%, reflecting the Iowa Straw Poll and his advertising campaign, and McCain has fallen from 16% to 11%. (In May, he was at 24%!) Mike Huckabee has moved from 2% to 4%.
With McCain falling apart, Fred Thompson appears to be the only serious opponent for Rudy. But, given Thompson’s tepidness in entering the race and his lackluster performance at his first outing in Iowa, Rudy doesn’t seem to have much to worry about.
Fred’s been throwing negatives at him on gun control, but, so far, there’s been no change in his ratings.
While the two candidates are at opposite poles on many core issues, they do share one thing in common: the national press has savaged both of their wives. Geri Thompson has been widely described in the mainstream press as a “trophy wife” and unflattering details of her involvement in Fred’s undeclared campaign have been routinely leaked. She occasionally delivers pizza to the staff, but also takes attendance. Hmmmm. Already, she’s been blamed for the short tenures of two campaign managers. Meanwhile, Judith Giuliani has been skewered by Vanity Fair for insisting on sitting next to her husband at dinner parties (apparently a mortal sin!) and for advising him on health care policies (She’s a nurse)
Neither wife has been campaigning with their husbands.
But while the Republican wives are fodder for all kinds of stories, no one writes much about possible first husband Bill Clinton these days.
There are, however, quite a few stories about the wives of the Democratic candidates, who are openly savaging their husband’s opponents. Elizabeth Edwards described Obama’s position on Iraq as “holier than thou” and charged that Hillary didn’t really advocate women’s issues as strongly as her husband. Then Michelle Obama hit a lob to Hillary when
she said that a candidate for president can’t clean up the White House if they can’t clean up their own house.
Maybe we should have a candidate’s wives/husbands debate!
McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***
DICK MORRIS’ ‘08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
August 13, 2007
Volume 1, #17
FRED THOMPSON IN FREE FALL
He may become the only presidential candidate in history to lose before he ran. With no declaration of candidacy behind him or in the immediate future, Fred Thompson’s staff shakeups, nepotism, and indecision about running are already costing him the surge of support which initially powered him to parity with Giuliani in Scott Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking polls. While other pollsters always had the former Tennessee Senator in second place, at least ten points behind, Rasmussen has had Rudy and Fred neck and neck during the past month. But no more.
Now even Rasmussen agrees that Thompson is in bad shape. On August 7, 2007, Scott had the two GOP front runners in a dead even 25-25 tie. By August 8th, it was 24-23 Rudy. On August 9th, 26-21 Rudy and on August 10th, the most recent poll as of this writing, the race was: Giuliani: 28%, Thompson 19%. (Rasmussen’s polls are based on a moving three day average).
The main culprit, oddly, does not seem to be Fred himself but Jeri, his wife. Insisting on her skills as a political consultant (although those credentials remain obscure to many in the biz), she instigated the firing of Tom Collamore, her husband’s campaign manager. She was right. His baggage as former vice president of Altria (the soothing new name for Phillip Morris Tobacco) would have weighed heavily on the campaign. But she got her name in the newspapers in firing Tom, a no-no for a would be presidential spouse.
Almost every major newspaper in the country has carried highly negative stories about Mrs. Thompson and her heavy involvement in the ‘campaign.’ From taking attendance at the headquarters to making hiring, firing, and tactical decisions, Mrs. Thompson is clearly in charge. And the result has not been a good one. Stories about her old boy friends, old debts, and low-level jobs in politics are everywhere. What’s nowhere is a single story about Fred’s plans for the country.
After Collamore walked, Fred hired former Senator and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to replace him. That was also a no-go. Abraham has a long history of backing immigration and teaming up with Ted Kennedy to offer amnesty to Nicaraguan and other immigrants. His bona fides as a supporter of Israel and opponent of terrorism were also questioned by many bloggers.
Amid all this turmoil, the campaign managed to raise only $3.4 million by July 31st, more than enough for a Congressional race but a bit wanting when you have to run for president in a national primary a few months hence. They have only a little more than $2.5 million on hand. That’s not going to go far.
And then, finally, there is Fred’s diffidence. Is he or isn’t he running? This ambivalence isn’t playing well with the right wing social conservative base which wants a fire eater to go out there and slay first Rudy and then Hillary. An on-again, off-again candidate doesn’t suit their tastes.
If Fred ultimately runs, he’s going to have to explain his own lobbying background, where he represented the likes of Toyota and Equitas, an insurance company trying to minimize its payments to asbestos victims. He will also have to explain why he hired his son, Daniel Thompson at his Political Action Committee after he left the Senate and, to all appearances, left politics for good. He paid Daniel $170,000 over four years to do virtually nothing. The PAC had no office, no telephone and, other than Daniel, no staff.
Maybe Fred will skip the race entirely, paving the way for….NEWT!
HILLARY UP, HILLARY DOWN
In July, Hillary hit her groove by wrapping herself in Bill’s record. Glombing onto her husband, she schlepped him around Iowa and New Hampshire and injected him, big time, into her campaign.
The gambit worked. Her poll ratings rose from the mid and high 30s to the mid and high forties, peaking at 48% in some polls, an amazing number in a seven way race.
Her pseudo-experience seemed more real with Bill at her side and she was able to draw the implicit contrast with Obama’s lack of federal experience.
But then she tripped up at the bloggers’ on August 4th over the issue of her special interest campaign contributions. Only Hillary, among the top three candidates, is taking money from lobbyists and PACs and she paid dearly for it in the debate. Edwards challenged her directly saying that he would never have his photograph on the cover of Forbes Magazine as the choice of CEOs, an accolade Hillary won which is of dubious value in a Democratic primary. Obama asked if she would continue to take lobbyist money and she answered emphatically: “I will, I will” and reminded the audience that lobbyists are “real Americans” who represent “real people” like teachers and nurses.
But they also represent drug companies, banks, tobacco, foreign countries, and insurance firms less dear to Democratic voters.
To parry charges of special interest contamination, Hillary declared that she didn’t think anybody would believe that she would ever be influenced by a lobbyist. When Rasmussen posed that very question in his daily tracking poll the next day, only 27% of the voters agreed that she would not be influenced.
As a result, Hillary has slipped from 45% in Rasmussen’s August 4th poll to 38% on August 8th. She has since recovered to 40%.
But the news is that for the first time, her rivals were able to use an issue to score against the former First Lady. Maybe now they’ve gotten better at playing this game.
IOWA VS AMERICA
The national polls in the two party’s nomination races have been stuck for months with the same message: On the Democratic side, Clinton leads Obama convincingly and Edwards trails badly. On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani holds a smaller lead over Fred Thompson with Romney stuck at 10% of the vote and McCain fading badly.
(In fact, Hillary has extended her lead over Obama in the national polling going from a 39-26 margin in the four polls conducted in early July to 42-22 in the three polls later in the month).
But, in Iowa, the polls tell a decidedly different story. Here, the front runners for in their respective primaries are Mitt Romney for the Republicans and John Edwards for the Democrats.
So, the real question is: Which will prevail? Will Iowa force its views on the nation? Or will the numbers in Iowa come into conformity with the national trends?
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney, due to his early and aggressive paid advertising, has staked out a formidable lead, one which he has held for the past three months. The following table compares the GOP contenders in the combined polling in May/June vs. July.
|Iowa Republican Polling|
In New Hampshire, where Romney holds an edge because of his service as Massachusetts Governor, the story is much the same. (About 2/3 of New Hampshire is covered by Boston television):
|New Hampshire Republican Polling|
On the Democratic side, in the faux world of Iowa, it is John Edwards who holds small but stubborn lead over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. While Romney’s lead among Republicans is largely the product of his paid advertising, Edwards has run no ads in Iowa. His lead is an artifact of his 2004 campaign which led to a strong second place showing behind John Kerry and his obsessive efforts in the state ever since.
|Iowa Democratic Polling|
In New Hampshire, the results are more typical of the national race with Hillary in front, trailed by Obama and Edwards. But, here, Hillary has fallen back a bit in recent weeks while Obama has come on strong a showing which contrasts with Hillary’s increasing strength in the national polls. Once again, this difference in trends is likely due to Obama’s paid advertising in New Hampshire.
|New Hampshire Democratic Polling|
How Important is Iowa?
So how much does Iowa count in the scheme of things? It, of course, counts for everything. If Edwards or Romney were to win here, it would automatically put them on the map vis-à-vis their better known opponents. While Hillary could survive a loss in Iowa and/or New Hampshire and still make it to the next rounds, an Obama defeat in these early states might seriously impair his chances.
Does Advertising Work in Iowa?
But will Iowa remain as it is or will the national front runners gain when they begin paid advertising there?
The experience of the Romney campaign, where polling changed directly as a result of paid advertising, would suggest that ads work in the state. But the steadiness of the Democratic field and its lack of movement even after Obama’s advertising, suggests that perhaps it is more impervious to paid media.
The difference between the Democratic and Republican field may be explained by the difference in the degree to which their candidates are well known.
Hillary Clinton is, of course, very well known and has been the object of national focus for more than a decade. While Barack Obama is a new comer, he has gotten massive media exposure since he began his candidacy. Edwards, of course, has already run in the state and done quite well.
But the Republicans are less well known. Rudy Giuliani is still the former Mayor of distant New York, Fred Thompson is a character on a TV show, and Mitt Romney is largely a presence through paid advertising. McCain, who ran here before, has faded due to his support of the immigration bill.
Since the Democratic candidates are better known, paid media may be less effective in their contest.
Giuliani Should Advertise in Iowa
Even if the Republican field is susceptible to paid advertising, has Romney wrapped it up or can Giuliani or Thompson overcome his early lead?
Given his fund raising success, it is ridiculous that Giuliani has allowed Romney to build up such a lead. With the former Massachusetts governor likely to win in New Hampshire, Rudy’s campaign has been asleep at the switch in letting Romney stake out an early lead. The fact that Romney has held the lead for three months now suggests that it may be hard to overcome.
While Romney is nowhere in the national polls, if he can hang on in Iowa and win in New Hampshire, he could vault to front runner status.
Giuliani needs to get busy and start paid ads in Iowa lest he find himself fenced out at the start of the race. Obama’s difficulty in gaining much traction even though he has been running ads in Iowa should serve as a lesson to the Giuliani campaign.
POLLING: Who Do You Trust On the Issues?
Source: Gallup Poll
|The War in Iraq||75%||57%||49%||67%|
|The War in Iraq||52%||33%||31%||54%|
Here Comes Newt …if Thompson Continues to Stumble
Look for Newt Gingrich to get into the race! As the favorite of the pro-life social conservatives and a figure of unquestioned intellectual heft, Newt would run strongly in the GOP primaries. All along, he has kept his options open about running in the fall and now, with McCain fading and Thompson stumbling, the path may be open for a Gingrich candidacy.
Could Gingrich brush aside the other GOP contenders and make it a two way race between himself and Giuliani? Probably he can. Could he beat Giuliani? Probably he can’t.
HOW WILL IRAQ UNFOLD IN THE ELECTIONS?
People have been talking about the surprising Op Ed in the New York Times “A War We Just Might Win,” by Michele O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack.
by claiming some measure of success because of the troop surge in Iraq. With July as the least costly month for American troops in at least a year, there is some speculation that the news from Iraq may not be all bad.
Military experts tell us that the Pentagon is going to insist on drawing down the troop levels in Iraq starting around March of 2008 by a rate of about 5,000 soldiers per month. The withdrawals will not be motivated by any sense of failure in Iraq, but by their desire to keep tours of duty in Iraq limited to fifteen months and their reluctance to extend them to eighteen months or more.
With signs of success in Iraq and ongoing troop withdrawals during all of 2008, can Bush blur the differences between his program and that of the Democrats sufficiently to give the GOP a chance in 2008?
And Can We Capture bin Laden?
And then there is Pakistan. It has been obvious for some time that our alliance with Musharaaf is the main reason for our failure to capture bin Laden. Musharraf has had a truce with the warlords in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Osama is said to be hiding. But with the occupation of the Mosque in Pakistan’s capital by Muslim extremists and Musharaaf’s blood campaign to oust them, the truce is over. This could signal a willingness by the Paki leader to allow US forces to come into his nation to hunt for al Qaeda…a move that could lead to some spectacular captures, including, perhaps, the big one.
Barack Obama has seized on the issue of Pakistan and advocated invading the country, with or without Musharaaf’s permission, to go after al Qeada. His aggressiveness has been heightened by a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which concluded that we are not doing enough to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda in the border area.
If Bush manages to capture bin Laden and begin to pull out of Iraq, maybe Hillary Clinton might not move into the White House after all.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***
Published on FoxNews.com on August 10, 2007.
All along he has said that his game plan was to wait until the fall of 2007 and then jump into the presidential race. Now, it seems, his game plan may have made sense after all.
In a sharp reversal, Scott Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll — the only one now being conducted each day — shows that Hillary Clinton has fallen since she defended lobbyists in the blogger debate this past weekend. After more than a week of surging — as high as 45% in some polls — Rasmussen has her coming back down to Earth with a 38% vote share in his latest polling.
While getting hammered over the issue of special interest campaign contributions at the bloggers debate, Hillary defended herself saying “I don’t think anyone would believe that I would be influenced by a lobbyist.” Doubtless her polling showed that line to be in accord with her public image.
The differences between the parties get narrower and narrower as we watch this Democratic Congress punt on the issues over which they flayed the Republicans. The latest example is Pelosi’s refusal to bring up a bill with higher mileage per gallon standards for US autos. Detroit’s opposition to the proposal, and labor’s complicity, are a key reason why foreign cars outsold American made vehicles in the US market last month.