McCain has reached for the stars and grabbed one. On a recent cruise to Alaska, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Sarah Palin. She is brilliant and articulate and, in Alaska politics, is a breath of fresh air as an alternative to their corruption epitomized by Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens. Now Obama, who has spent two years preventing a woman from being president, will spend two months preventing one from becoming vice president – and hopes to do so with women votes. The entire premise of the Democratic convention was the fungibility of Bush and McCain. Now McCain has vividly demonstrated the difference. Sarah Palin is no Dick Cheney!
Published in The New York Post on August 29, 2008.
A MASTER was at work last night. A politician who can inspire hope filled in the blanks of his program and articulated his vision with skill and panache.
Barack Obama, never short on inspiration, gave us specifics. He delivered a State of the Union Address, laying out his programs fully and well. He gave exactly the right speech with the right delivery and balance of detail and rhetoric.
And he wove his background and his philosophy into and around his proposals, combining moving words with specific proposals. The speech will surely give him the bounce he needs – turning a deadlocked race into a potential landslide.
Many political campaigns run against the wrong candidate. The opportunity to pick on a vulnerable target is so tempting that they are lured into attacking someone who isn’t running. In 1992, the Republicans unleashed their convention barrage at Hillary and left Bill unscathed. In 1996, Dole still ran against Clinton the liberal and ignored the changes in his political positioning. Campaigns go after the flaming red cape, so glittering a target, and leave the matador alone.
Published in The New York Post on August 28, 2008.
If Barack Obama wants to get a serious bounce in the polls from his speech tonight, the gifted speaker should eat some humble pie and copy dull old Al Gore.
At the 2000 Democratic Convention, Gore gave one of the best acceptance speeches in recent history. And by “best” we mean a 17-point bounce in the polls.
Published on TheHill.com on August 27, 2008
Barack Obama would do well to remember the lines from Hamlet: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” Bill Clinton’s strategy is to take refuge in his carefully cultivated reputation for being undisciplined and borderline-eccentric to drop bombs on Obama in such a way that Hillary can escape blame.
Bill and Hillary do not want Obama to win. If he does move to the White House, Hillary will be unable to run for president until 2016 (Obama would run again in 2012), by which time she will be closing in on 70 years of age. But Hillary cannot afford to be seen dumping on Obama.
Published in The New York Post on August 27, 2008.
Her words were emphatic: “Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our next president.” Hillary Clinton’s endorsement was unambiguous and she held nothing back. She attacked John McCain with gusto and purpose and made the case for a Democratic victory splendidly and with passion and commitment.
She did such a good job, in fact, that when she left the podium and the cheering rose to a crescendo, everybody in the hall was asking the same question: Why didn’t Obama pick her for vice president?
Published in The New York Post on August 26, 2008.
‘I love this country”: Those are the magic words that Michelle Obama said at the Democratic National Convention last night.
They’re the words we’ve wanted to hear from her ever since we saw her say that she was proud of her country “for the first time in my adult life” now that her husband was winning primaries en route to the White House.
Did she buy into the American dream? Was she part of our national aspiration – or part of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s twisted view of us? Those were the questions we wanted answered. Last night, she answered – loud and clear.
Everybody agrees that when Barack Obama finishes his historic outdoor acceptance speech on Thursday night and the 75,000 adoring fans in attendance finally quiet down, he will bounce up in the polls, likely to as much as a 10-point lead or even more.
Obama is at his best when delivering a telepromptered speech to a large and enthusiastic crowd. What would be a major task for some is just batting practice for this skilled orator. But how long will his bounce last?
To make it stay and not let McCain dissipate it with the Republican convention that will follow hard on the heels of the Democratic gathering, Obama needs to give a State of the Union speech, not a campaign speech, to his national television audience.
Published in The New York Post on August 24, 2008.
It doesn’t take a political genius to realize that Barack Obama needed to nominate a woman for vice president.
Obama’s key problem is that there is no gender gap. In the most recent Zogby poll, he runs only two points better among women than among men. A Democrat should be running 10 to 15 points better among women.
If Obama is to have a hope of winning, he needs to improve his performance among female voters. A Fox News poll indicated that only about half of those who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries are voting for Obama and that fully one in five plans to support John McCain.
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #33
August 24, 2008
HOW THE CLINTONS FINESSED OBAMA
By sulking in his tent, Bill Clinton has finessed Barack Obama into making the biggest mistake of his candidacy – failing to name Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his running mate.
The key to the Clinton game is that they understood, from the beginning, that Obama would not name Hillary to be his VP. They realized that she had far too much baggage and that they came as a package and Bill certainly had too much. They knew that the bad blood between the two camps was such that it was highly unlikely that she would be on the ticket.
That left the Clintons with two objectives:
a. they needed to be sure that no other woman would be nominated; and
b. they had to do what they could to stop Obama from winning
Bill and Hillary need to keep the former first lady at the head of the class among Democratic women. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House is a real threat to her supremacy. They didn’t want another woman to vault over Hillary’s head to the top of the list. They had to prevent Obama from nominating Sebelius.
Obama needed Sebelius on the ticket. His key problem right now is his inability to carry women with nearly the level of support that a Democrat needs to win. In the latest Zogby poll, for example, he is running only two points stronger among women than among men. Normally, at this stage, a Democratic presidential candidate should be at least ten to fifteen points further ahead among women than among men. The fact that there is no gender gap is Obama’s chief strategic problem. The Fox News poll confirms these findings. One Hillary voter in five is now backing John McCain for president.
So the Clintons made a big show of negotiating with Obama for prime time speaking slots at the convention and Bill dropped comments indicating that Obama was not ready to be president. Her delegates were encouraged to speak out and demand a roll call and to insist that her name be put in nomination to celebrate what they called “the historic nature” of her candidacy.
But their real goal was to be so in Obama’s face that he didn’t dare to nominate another woman as vice president. By keeping Obama and his staff on egg shells about what the Clintons were doing and thinking, they bluffed them out of turning to a female candidate for vice president.
Had Obama chosen Sebelius, there is nothing the Clintons could have done about it. Hillary would have had to smile and celebrate the promotion of the cause of women. Her delegates might grouse over Obama passing over Hillary to name Sebelius, but women around the nation would have rallied to his ticket. It is exactly what a great many of them wanted: a woman other than Hillary. For her part, Hillary would have found it necessary to be publicly jubilant that a woman was nominated, much as it would have angered her inside. To do otherwise would have been to admit that her feminism was really ambition cloaked in gender.
Now the Clintons can move on to the second item on their agenda: stopping Obama from winning.
They need McCain to win in order for Hillary to run for president in 2012, just as they needed Bush to win in 2004 to pave the way for a Hillary candidacy in 2008. If Obama loses, Hillary can run for the nomination in 2012 on a platform of “I told you so” pointing to her warnings about how Obama could not win and about how the Democrats would be abandoned by women voters if they did not nominate her. McCain would be 76 were he to be re-elected and the voters might be disinclined to give him a second term, should he even seek it.
Their strategy to stop Obama from winning involved two elements: stop him from naming a woman running mate and hog the convention spotlight.
They could not have asked for a better scenario on the vice presidency that unfolded. Not only did Obama name a man, but he chose one born in 1942 – five years older than Hillary – who would be 70 in 2012, borderline too old to run for president. If McCain wins, he’ll likely give old presidents a bad name and it would make things so much harder for Biden to run. So Hillary not only escaped a woman VP but Obama picked a running mate not likely to pose a future threat to her ambitions.
In the meantime, they used the fact that Hillary would not be vice president to pry from Obama concession after concession in the convention scheduling. On Tuesday night, a film produced by Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Hillary’s favorite filmmakers, will introduce Chelsea who will introduce Hillary who will then speak in prime time. On Wednesday, Bill will also address the convention in prime time. He is buried on the list with a bunch of other speakers, but you know the cable networks will cut away for his speech and likely not for any of the others, except, of course, for Biden’s acceptance speech. On Thursday, Hillary will be there in spirit as the roll call of the states records vote after vote for Mrs. Clinton, showing how Obama edged out the first woman with a chance to be elected so as to run on an all male ticket. Not a scenario geared to attracting female voters.
Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman to run on a major party ticket, is out there saying that Hillary should have had the right of first refusal. Her contention that Obama should at least have asked Hillary will become a focal point for women throughout the country. In rejection, Hillary can become the feminist icon she never was as she was running.
By making the convention one vast effort to portray Hillary as the victim of an oppressive male establishment, the Clintons will have succeeded in emphasizing who is not being nominated: Hillary Clinton.
But beneath it all, there is likely a real anti-Obama rage in the Clinton household. Since Obama won, he has dissed the Clintons personally in every way he could. Hillary was not vetted in the vice presidential process. She was never on any short list. Obama did not accept Bill’s invitation to have dinner together. When Hillary offered to campaign for Obama, he sent her to New Mexico and Orlando, not places guaranteed to get national media coverage.
So for the Clinton’s it’s the perfect combination: a male VP, Hillary looking like a victim, Obama hobbled by the absence of a gender gap, and all the face time they could want at the convention itself. In defeat, a win-win-win situation for the Clintons.
NOW WILL MCCAIN NOMINATE A WOMAN?
To complete the process, John McCain should nominate Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as his running mate. While he is thought to be leaning toward Mitt Romney, naming a woman would completely pull the rug out from under Obama. After Obama has so ostentatiously declined to run with a woman, for McCain to take one on his ticket would be the height of skill.
Hutchison, pro-life and therefore acceptable to the Party base, would represent a statement of McCain’s openness to women and their political goals. She would be a continuing reminder to Hillary supporters of who is not on the Democratic ticket. In a swoop, McCain would open up a reverse gender gap and imperil the chances of the Obama ticket.
Were McCain to put her on his ticket, he would likely leave the two conventions with a good and solid lead that he could use all during the fall.
Unfortunately, the men around McCain are slow to see the attractiveness of the Hutchison scenario. They are so mired in their focus on the Republican base that they can’t look at the larger picture and go after swing voters – especially swing female voters.
The frustration of women with the Obama-Biden ticket would power an outpouring of enthusiasm among female voters for a McCain-Hutchison pairing. And their enthusiasm might just turn this election around.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***