Published on TheHill.com on February 12, 2008.
Hillary Clinton has blown an almost sure shot at the Democratic presidential nomination. Having surrendered the lead to Obama, she is not likely ever to regain it. It is a fantasy that the Ohio and Texas primaries will be a “firewall” to contain the flames of enthusiasm for Obama and reverse her defeats of February. Just as with Giuliani’s supposed Florida firewall, Hillary’s will crumble as Obama’s momentum carries him forward to the nomination.
Before Hillary lost her first primary or caucus, she lost the dialogue with the Obama campaign vis-Ã -vis the totally misguided decision to focus her message on experience, surrendering the ground of change to her opponent.
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
1. THE DEMOCRATS
The Race is Tied Now, but Obama Will Win
I believe that Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination for president.
Since 2004, I have predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the inevitable nominee, but I now believe that she will most likely lose to Obama.
After the Maine caucuses on Sunday, February 10th, Obama leads Hillary by three delegates, 1134 for Obama and 1131 for Hillary, according to CBS News. And the gap between them is going to widen.
Hillary has shown an inability to win states without large immigrant and Latino populations. Since 75% of all Hispanics are in five states which have only a third of the nation’s population (Cal, NY, Ill, Fla, Tex), the other quarter are lightly distributed around the other 45 states, rarely constituting more than a tenth of their population. Not enough to give Hillary an edge.
Based on their performance so far, here’s how I stack up the remaining primaries and caucuses:
|2/12||Virginia (101)*||Obama by 10|
|2/12||Maryland (99)**||Obama by 10|
|2/12||DC (38)*||Obama by 15|
|2/19||Wisconsin (92)*||Obama by 20|
|2/19||Hawaii (29)**||Obama by 5|
|3/4||Texas (228)*||Hillary by 30|
|3/4||Ohio (161)*||Obama by 20|
|3/4||Rhode Island (32)*||Hillary by 5|
|3/4||Vermont ( 23)*||even|
|3/8||Wyoming (18)**||Obama by 5|
|3/8||Mississippi (40)*||Obama by 10|
|4/22||Pennsylvania (188)*||Obama by 30|
|5/6||North Carolina (134)*||Obama by 40|
|5/6||Indiana (84)*||Obama by 15|
|5/13||West Virginia (39)*||Hillary by 10|
|5/20||Oregon (65)*||Obama by 20|
|5/20||Kentucky (60)**||Obama by 20|
|6/3||Montana (24)*||Obama by 5|
|6/3||South Dakota (23)*||Obama by 10|
|6/7||PuertoRico (63)*||Hillary by 30|
* primary state
** caucus state
This process nets out to an Obama margin among elected delegates of 236. Hillary’s current lead among super delegates puts her at a pace to win them by about 160, not enough to offset the Obama advantage.
I also seriously doubt, knowing the nature of the political species, that super delegates, mostly Congressmen, Senators, and Governors, are going to vote all that differently from the constituents who elected them. IOUs in politics do not require one to commit suicide.
Obama will, as these predictions suggest, add delegates upon delegates until he slowly but surely wins the nomination.
Here’s why Obama will win:
Hillary Depends on Immigrants and Latinos
Hillary won California and Arizona even though she tied among whites and lost blacks because she carried Latinos by 2:1. With Hispanics making up one-third of the vote there, her edge among Latinos propelled her to victory. She also did well with Asians and, especially in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, among immigrants.Meanwhile, Obama was winning in states with few Latinos, carrying Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Alaska, and Kansas.
But with Hispanics concentrated in just five states, only in Texas have they yet to play their role.
Hillary’s strength among Latinos is probably due to Bill’s record on NAFTA, the Mexican Tequila Crisis bailout, and the FALN pardons. Obama might be able to make inroads by running ads touting his support for drivers licenses for illegals (which Hillary, at latest count, opposes).
But with most of the forthcoming primaries and caucuses in the heartland now that the coasts have largely voted, Obama has a clear edge.
Independents and Republicans Will Enter Democratic Primary to Torpedo Hillary
Hillary’s partisanship and the unique rancor that she arouses in Independents and Republicans will now probably come back to bite her. No one is falling for the phony – and temporary – alliances with Congressional Republicans. In many of the upcoming state primaries – like Texas – anyone can vote in either primary. Now that McCain is all but crowned as the Republican nominee, there is no reason for them to turnout in the GOP contest. All the attention will focus on the Democrats and we can expect them to cross over in the hundreds of thousands to vote against their favorite villain.
In Texas, where hostility to Hillary runs especially high in Republican circles, Mrs. Clinton is doubtless banking on a large Hispanic vote to power her to victory. But the crossovers may be so numerous that they nullify her advantage and make it hard for her to win Texas with its second largest block of delegates at the Convention.
Hillary is Running Low on Money
Obama is outraising Hillary because he bet on the Internet for his fund raising, while she relied on large donors and PACs. About half of Hillary’s money in the fourth quarter of 2008 came from donors whose contributions maxed them out, making it illegal for them to give more. But only 17% of Obama’s contributors were maxed out donors. By contrast, half of Obama’s donors were contributors giving less than $200. Only 17% of Hillary’s contributors fell into this category.
So while Hillary has to go back to her rolodex to see if there are any fat cats she ignored the first time around, Obama has merely to aim his mouse and fire to reload his war chest. It is a case of the machine gun vs. the breech loading rifle. With fewer maxed out donors and twice as many contributors, look for Obama to widen his supremacy in fund raising as February and March roll on.
The greater cash will count heavily in the half of all states that have yet to vote begin to do so. It will let Obama advertise in them all for longer periods than Hillary can. The effect will add to the week after week lead that Obama will probably pile up as the caucuses and primaries are held.
In Louisiana, where Obama ran ads and Clinton did not (because her campaign was broke), he beat her by 2-1. Exit polls showed a huge percentage of his voters saw his ads.
Obama’s College Kids
Exit polls have repeatedly shown that Obama does expecially well among voters under 24. With turnout a key factor, his ability to mobilize on campuses and turn out the college vote will stand him in good stead. A friend reports from Minnesota that the polling site near the college campus had to stay open two hours after its official close to let kids who were already on line in to vote. And Obama carries young voters by 3 or 4 to one. For the first time since the voting age was lowered to 18, college students are making a real difference in political outcomes.
The Race Issue is Dead
Obama’s convincing wins in states with virtually no black population have reversed the impression left by South Carolina of racial polarization. The Clintons now have the worst of both worlds: They suffered repudiation for invoking race to win the election and now race has faded as a factor in supporting her candidacy ( a development for which she, of course, neither deserves nor gets credit)
Hillary Has Nothing New To Say
Her campaign themes of being “ready on Day One to hit the ground running” and of her experience in dealing with foreign leaders have fallen flat in the face of Obama’s battle for change. It is evident that she has nothing new to say.
And she has no new negatives to throw at Obama. Obviously, if she had dirt on him, she would have used it in the leadup to Super Tuesday, so she probably has none. And don’t think she and her operatives haven’t been searching in every dark corner to find something.
And she seems incapable of developing new campaign themes. Obama, by contrast, is only now getting full traction from his message of repudiating lobbyists and special interests as his financial base increasingly centers around small online donors and hers’ around maxing out special interests. Obama, plainly a better speaker, also has more to say while Hillary’s prosaic rhetoric and annoying voice drains whatever excitement there once was out of her campaign.
This contrast was in evidence on Saturday night at the Virginia Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, where both spoke. Mrs. Clinton approached the stage with polite applause, read a boring speech from a pad, and left to chants of OH BAM A! OH BAM A!
In marked contrast, Obama was surrounded by supporters and admirers who continued the chant. His uplifting, refreshing, and inspiring speech about the importance of hope roused the crowd as he politely – but pointedly criticized Hillary’s cynicism.
That tangible difference in style, in message, in support, and in inspiration will repeat itself throughout the next few weeks.
But What About Super Delegates?
Hillary’s possible lead in delegates will now be exclusively based on a possible advantage among super delegates – ex-officio delegates who hold their positions due to public or party office and who are free to back whomever they choose. Since she has spent six years giving funds to public and party officials in the hopes of getting their votes at the Convention, her lead among these insiders is substantial.
But can Hillary get nominated by super delegates even when the elected delegates back Obama? For the Democratic Party to go this route would be to risk a repetition of the tear gassed streets of Chicago in 1968 outside their convention hall.
By convention time, Obama will probably have a significant lead among popularly chosen delegates. His lead may be so great as to make the votes of super delegates irrelevant. But if these unelected delegates obfuscate the clearly expressed will of the voters by backing Hillary, there will be hell to pay and they know it. Since many are public officials – Congressmen, Senators or Governors – they will not lightly risk wholesale rebellion against them in their home states and districts from Obama loyalists who want revenge for being cheated out of the nomination.
Obama will begin stressing how inappropriate it would be for super delegates to nullify the will of the voters and his comments are likely to string a responsive chord among party voters and elites alike.
One more factor – Harold Ickes is apparently in charge of rounding up the superdelegates for Hillary. This could really clinch it for Obama. With Harold’s thug-like demeanor and absolute lack of any charm whatsoever, his targets are more likely to run screaming.
And What About Michigan and Florida?
These two truant-states where punished by the Democratic National Committee for holding their primaries before Super Tuesday. Candidates were instructed not to campaign there and, in deference to the party’s admonition, Edwards and Obama both withdrew their names from the ballot in Michigan and stayed out of Florida. Hillary, however, stayed on the Michigan ballot and won the primary against a slate of uncommitted delegates and campaigned in Florida in violation of the party’s injunction. She won Florida by 2:1, although the turnout was significantly smaller than that in the Republican Primary because most Democrats stayed home.
Now Hillary will likely challenge the convention credentials process and ask that both state delegations, Hillary delegates all, be seated. Her efforts will cause a huge furor as the convention approaches.
The most likely and most just solution would be to hold new primaries in these two states, particularly if they would make a difference in the outcome (which they probably would). The Democratic Party has ordered such solutions in the past and may do so again.
But to merely seat the almost unanimously pro-Hillary delegations would be an offense against fairness. In a real primary, Obama would have doubtless won his share of delegates in Florida and might have won outright in Michigan.
How the Credentials Committee stacks up will have a major bearing on the outcome of this fight. But any disagreement must be referred to the Convention floor where the two states could not vote while the Convention deliberates on their right to be seated. Still, some pro-Hillary super delegates might feel free to back her on the procedural motion while bowing to the will of their home state voters in supporting Obama on the first ballot. This might be enough to seat these two delegations with their top heavy Hillary votes.
Changing Campaign Managers Won’t Make Any Difference
Hillary announced on Sunday that she was dumping Patti Solis Doyle, her long time aide-de-camp and her Campaign Manager since her announcement last January. In her place will be Maggie Williams, Hillary’s former chief-of-staff in the White House. This change will make no difference in the campaign.
No one believed that Solis Doyle made policy, decided strategy, or did anything but make the trains run on time.
Maggie Williams will do the same. She is a very nice person, loyal to Hillary, but without any political experience at all. She’s never been involved in a campaign before and this is not the time to learn.
Forget About the Right. McCain Must Move to the Center
McCain is under heavy pressure from the noisy forces on the economic right of the Republican Party to move in a conservative direction and do penance for his liberal apostasy. But it is precisely his support on issues like climate change, environment, post-Enron reforms, regulating tobacco, immigration reform, banning waterboarding, the patient’s bill of rights, and campaign finance reform that attracts Independents and Democrats to his cause and make him electable.
If Obama is the Democratic candidate, he will get all of Hillary’s votes. Her supporters are dogmatic Democrats who will not sway from the party line. He might have difficulty getting all of the single women out to vote, but those that do will vote straight Democratic tickets.
But if Hillary wins, don’t look for all of Obama’s support to switch to her so easily, even if she puts Obama on her ticket for Vice President. Particularly if she uses super delegates or a credentials fight over Florida and Michigan to win the nomination, the bitterness that such tactics will leave in their wake will be so profound as to make it very hard for her to pick up Obama voters. The poisonous atmosphere of 1968 will be back when hatred of Johnson and distrust of Humphrey led many liberals to vote for Nixon.
And McCain is no Nixon. He has always been the Democrats’ favorite Republican (just as Lieberman has been the Republicans’ favorite Democrat).;
Now is the time for McCain to show that he deserves Democratic and Independent support by moving to the center.
The right wing has no place to go. And, particularly if Hillary is the Democratic candidate, they will be standing in line in the rain for hours before the polls open to be sure to vote against her. It’s the center McCain needs to win.
Huckabee’s Next Move
Under the winner-take-all rules of most Republican primaries, John McCain will doubtless win the nomination by carrying most northeastern states. But Huckabee will score win after win in the South, border areas, and the Midwest where his evangelical base will be strong. McCain voters will tend to stay home or, where possible, vote in the Democratic primary to stop Hillary, while Huckabee’s people will brave winds and fire to vote for their guy.
As a result, Huckabee will probably show up at the convention with a quarter or a third of the delegates and he will embarrass McCain by beating him in state after state after state all throughout the winter and spring. McCain can’t make Huckabee withdraw (except by offering him the VP) especially as his rival begins winning states, as he did on Saturday in Kansas and Louisiana. If Huckabee was able to carry five Super Tuesday states even though he spent no money (and he came close to carrying two more), his revived fortunes are likely to animate his candidacy still further.
Eventually, McCain will no longer be able to ignore Huckabee and must make some gesture to him. My bet is that it’s the vice presidential nomination.
I believe that Barack Obama will defeat Hillary and win the Democratic nomination. I think that this weekend’s victories in states as diverse as Washington State, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Maine illustrates his national appeal and demonstrates Hillary’s inability to win in states without large immigrant and Latino populations.
Hillary’s results on Super Tuesday, which amounted to a draw with Obama, will be her high water mark and will represent the closest she will ever come to the party nomination.
Published on FOXNews.com on February 8, 2008.
Hillary Clinton’s decision to lend her presidential campaign $5 million raises a key question: Where did the money come from?
Hillary says it’s all her money. But, is it?
Published on TheHill.com on February 7, 2008.
The Fox News exit polling in California’s Democratic primary underscores the key role of Hispanic voters in awarding the triumph to Hillary Clinton. As Texas looms as the next major contest on March 4th, the lessons learned in California will be very important.
How odd is it that Obama tied among whites and carried blacks but lost California? The key is that she won Latinos by 2:1 and they constituted one third of the vote in the primary. In Texas, their role will be similar and their impact on the race might be the same if Obama cannot turn them around.
Published in the New York Post on February 7, 2008.
Is Hillary Clinton bicoastal? Can she win in America’s heartland?
These questions surface in the wake of her victories in New York-New Jersey-Massachusetts and in California-Arizona and her defeats everywhere else except in her former native state of Arkansas and its two next-door neighbors, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
In the first flush of her California victory, it seemed Clinton had a clear path to the nomination. But the picture looks different on closer examination a day later.
As impressive as Hillary’s win in California is, her Super Tuesday performance raises the question: Is she a bi-coastal phenomenon? Is flyover country Obama-land?
The California result likely means that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee. And John McCain can beat her. He appeals to Hispanics and to the disaffected Obama voters. The enthusiasm of the Obama voters for a lobbyist free candidate will feed directly into McCain’s message. Hillary’s and Bill’s ties to the special interests will be a big problem for them as they face the patented outsider — McCain.
Published in the New York Post on February 6, 2008.
Hillary Clinton’s victory in California restores her as the front-runner, a title that was in doubt as Barack Obama racked up victory after victory in states he was not supposed to win.
While the apportionment of the delegates will distort her victory, the message is clear: Obama’s surge fell short.
Once again, the polls proved to be blind to the single women, the core of Hillary’s base, who flood the polls to back the possible first woman president.
The USA Today headline on Monday said it all: “Obama Erases Clinton Lead.” The press on the day before Super Tuesday has been the best that Obama could hope for. In a race dominated by perception, you could not buy more favorable publicity than the published reports of his closing the gap with Hillary.