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DICK MORRIS’ PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #40
January 9, 2009
A PREDICTION: TERRORISM IN 2009
Three weeks ago, I sent out my predictions to paid subscribers of my Play-By-Play for what the politics and economics of 2009 would be like. Now I want to turn the crystal ball to the war on terror and foreign affairs and make my predictions for the New Year.
Obama has given power to men and women who really don’t believe terrorism is much of a problem. They implicitly share the European view that an attack here or there is not worth turning what they regard as constitutional guarantees on their heads. The result is that we will be vastly more vulnerable and have a good chance of being hit again soon.
1. Obama will dissolve the Homeland Security Council, a White House group of cabinet officers and staff, set up after 9-11 to focus on domestic anti-terror precautions and protections. He will fold the Council’s operation back into the National Security Council (NSC), the umbrella group charged with conducting foreign policy. The NSC is focused abroad, on foreign affairs. As Ohio’s director of its Emergency Management Agency, Nancy Dragani, observed "The NSC is focused outside [the US]. They’re not going to be consumed with worrying about what’s happening in Ohio." We can expect homeland security to be put on a back burner as foreign crises and diplomacy keeps center stage at NSC deliberations.
2. The attacks in Mumbai, India suggest that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are moving away from the big target approach they have followed before and since 9-11. Because of aggressive U.S. homeland security protections, these attacks have become less feasible over the past eight years. But the terrorists seem to be getting the message that they can wreck havoc by sending commando squads armed with machine guns and grenade launchers into heavily populated cities to kill as many civilians as possible. This style of terror attack seemed to lack the glamour and potential for publicity of a 9-11 style hit. But the global reaction to Mumbai indicates that al Qaeda can put the world on edge with such tactics. In 2007, terrorists planned an assault on Ft. Dix, New Jersey a plot that called only for the use of small arms. While the attack was discovered – and the attackers found guilty recently – we cannot always hope for such good luck. The likelihood is that 2009 will bring such attacks to the West and possibly to the United States.
3. As President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Office of Legal Counsel director Dawn Johnsen curtail wiretaps operated without FISA warrants, the National Security Agency (NSA) will increasingly be unable to trawl through billions of phone calls to look for anomalous patterns. No longer will words like "Brooklyn Bridge" jump out at them and be highlighted by their computers for closer attention. As a result, we will be less able to anticipate terrorist attacks and will be increasingly constrained to spot them early on.
4. The likely closing of the Guantanamo prison will lead to the release of 250 hardened terrorists who will be repatriated, at our expense, back to Afghanistan or their country of origin. There, most of them will join the more than fifty of their colleagues who went right from the Guantanamo holding cells to the mountains of Afghanistan to resume their armed struggle against us.
5. Obama, Holder, and Johnsen all are on record as opposing "rough" interrogation techniques and favor using the Army Field manual to govern the questioning of terror suspects. The manual not only prohibits torture but also bans making the target feel "uncomfortable" or bringing psychological pressure on him to answer questions. As a result, our interrogation of terrorists will be defanged and will likely be increasingly ineffective.
6. As a Senator, Obama sponsored legislation to require notification of a group suspected of terrorist activities within seven days of opening an investigation. Since he will presumably hold to the same view as president, terrorist groups under investigation will have plenty of warning to cover their tracks, erase evidence, and warn co-conspirators.
7. As Senator, Obama voted to toughen the standard investigators had to use to seize business records of suspected terror-sponsoring organizations. Currently, the standard is whether the search would be "relevant" to a terror investigation. Obama wanted to require the government to "provide specific evidence to support the suspicion that an individual has links to terrorism" before records could be seized. How the government is to obtain this information without access to the records is a tough question to answer. The inevitable result will be fewer investigations.
8. Obama also advocated stricter criteria for granting FISA warrants for tapping telephones. Currently, the feds have to tell the FISA court why they think a given telephone may be used to promote terrorism. Obama proposed that federal investigators be required to "identify with particularity the person under scrutiny." Again, the feds may only have a phone number and not be able to name the suspected terrorist. In such cases, under Obama: no warrant.
9. During the campaign, Obama advocated lifting the "gag order" on groups under investigation for terrorism. Under current law, these groups may only discuss the investigation with their attorney in the process of challenging the subpoena. The attorney is bound to keep it in confidence. But Obama advocated lifting the ban and letting the terrorist suspects speak to anyone in public or private about the investigation. Will this change let them warn other terrorists with whom they may have been in touch? Yes, it certainly will.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
While the problems we faced in Iraq could be and were solved by changing our approach, the difficulties in policing the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan are far more difficult. (Suggested reading: a brand new book The Strongest Tribe by Bing West explaining how we prevailed in Iraq).
Pakistan, nominally an ally in the war on terror, has been ineffective, and at times unwilling, to deny al Qaeda safe have within its borders. Just as in Vietnam where the enemy could use Cambodia as a sanctuary, so in South Asia, American ground troops have had to observe the border and stay on the Afghan side even when in hot pursuit. While Pakistan has turned a blind eye to unmanned Predator air strikes within its borders, it aggressively resists the introduction of American ground forces. Without a U.S. presence on the ground on the Paki side of the border, it is unlikely that we can crimp al Qaeda’s operations or find bin Ladin.
The problem Obama and Hillary Clinton will face is that the terrorists have decided to do all they can to destroy the nation of Pakistan. By assassinating leaders like Mrs. Bhutto, they have sought to disrupt democracy. And their attacks on Mumbai in India were obviously designed to provoke a war between Pakistan and India which the Pakis would likely lose. By trying to tie up Pakistan with a war in the east against India and in the west against al Qaeda, they hope to drag the nation down and permit a Taliban-like takeover.
Any U.S. effort to impinge on Paki sovereignty to hunt down al Qaeda makes it harder for the government to remain credible with its own people. But by letting al Qaeda grow stronger on its western borders, the government also undermines its own position.
Whether Obama and Clinton can change Paki attitudes and permit U.S. ground penetration remains to be seen. The rumored appointment of America’s best foreign policy hand, Richard Holbrooke, as a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan would be a big step in the right direction. It was Holbrooke who negotiated our way out of the impasse between the Bosnian Serbs and Muslims in 1995.
But one thing is certain: Pakistan will be the central theater in the war on terror and 2009 will usher in graver and more frequent efforts by al Qaeda to take over the country and topple its newly elected democratic government.
In our next play by play, we’ll examine other foreign theaters including North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, Russia and Latin America and what changes they may hold in 2009.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2009. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #39
December 16, 2008
2009: A PREDICTION
The politics of 2009 will be dominated by a continuation and
deepening of the global Depression. Under the guise of stimulating the
economy, look for Obama to pursue a radical, socialist agenda that will
bring America into conformity with the government domination of health care
and the economy that prevails in the European Union. When the dust clears,
the economy will still be in the tank. The new president’s stimulation
packages will do little or nothing to abate the depression, but they will
transform American life and politics. For his part, Obama will take
advantage of his built-in majorities in Congress to pass his agenda, but
will suffer rapidly dropping ratings. By the end of the year, he will be as
radioactive as Bush is today.
Here’s a detailed look at what I think will happen at home and abroad
during the coming year.
*The Economy* To get a handle on what is happening to the global economy,
consider these basic facts: In the mid 1980s, the total amount of debt in
the world – all debt including consumer, corporate, and public from all
countries, companies and people on the planet – equaled the global GDP. We
humans owed one year’s income. Now, the planet’s GDP is slightly above $50
trillion and the total planetary debt is up over $180 trillion! We now owe
almost four years’ income. (Source: A fabulous book by Charles Morris — no
relation – entitled the *Trillion Dollar Meltdown*. Published in Feb.,2008, it predicts much of what has happened since).
The prosperity of the past fifteen years has been largely based on
debt. Drawing on credit cards, inflated home values, negative interest
policies at the Federal Reserve, and a global willingness to subsidize
American indebtedness, we borrowed our way to wealth. But now the house of
cards is collapsing all around us and won’t stop doing so until we are free
of the debt addiction, several years hence.
The process Schumpeter called “creative destruction” now has to run
its capitalist course, putting inefficient companies out of business and
forcing people to live within their means. It will be a difficult and
But it won’t be as bad as the Great Depression. Between 1929 and
1933, America lost a third of its GDP and unemployment topped 20%. That
won’t happen now because the governments of the world are willing to douse
the economic conflagrations with streams of money. Obama’s, Japan’s,
China’s and Europe’s stimulus packages are really pain killers – methadone -
as we go through the process of kicking the debt habit. They assure that we
won’t be racked by the destabilizing agony of massive depression. But they
won’t do much to cure the underlying ailment. The cure has to come from the
normal workings of the capitalist system. Creative destruction made easier
to bear by government welfare.
Obama’s stimulus legislation will increasingly be seen by Americans as
a bad joke and his predictions of job creation will ring increasingly
At first the new president will try demand-side stimulus through public
works construction. But it won’t work. He will identify public projects
that need doing and fund them. Important endeavors like repair of public
school buildings, the development of alternative energy generation sources,
and the renovation and replacement of our failing national infrastructure of
bridges and roads will all get massive infusions of federal funds. While
these projects are deserving in their own rights, they won’t do much to
alleviate the depression. Only about a quarter of the funds will actually
be spent in the fiscal year in which they are appropriated, the average for
federal public works. It takes time to plan, design, and scope out the
projects and three-quarters of the spending will not take place until
subsequent years. And, of the spending that takes place, most of it will be
used by the workers who get the paychecks to pay down their debts and will
do nothing to stimulate the economy. Terrified by the collapsing economy
around them, consumers won’t embark on bold new purchases, but will use any
increase in pay to reduce their student loans, credit card debt, pay off
their car loans, or just pay that month’s bills. The result? No stimulus.
Next Obama will forget about funding just important new projects.
He’ll just pass out money. But even direct checks to people won’t do much
to help revive purchasing power. As noted, people will just pay down bills
with the money. It is estimated that 80% of the Bush stimulus package of
earlier this year went to debt reduction, not new spending. In 2009, with
mounting terror over the economy, it will be even higher.
Finally, Obama’s centrist economic team, despite the president’s
predilections, will try supply side stimulation. He will cut business
taxes, increase R & D tax credits, and might even cut capital gains taxes.
He will get desperate as the economy gets worse and he’ll begin to try
anything. But, as President Eisenhower noted, “you can’t push a string.”
Giving rich people and businesses money to spend won’t result in new plant
and equipment or new services. Scared to death by the bad economic
environment, they won’t spend the money constructively either and there will
be little real stimulus.
The result of all this will be that the economic numbers and Obama’s
popularity will sink in sync with one another and he will lose more and more
of his real political power.
*Socialism Comes To America* Charles Krauthammer has it about right. Obama
has named a largely centrist team to supervise economic and foreign policy
to pacify these turbulent areas of public policy so he can get on with
passing his basic leftist agenda. But while Obama struggles with a failing
economy, he will use the need for stimulus as an excuse to move ahead with
the conversion of the American economy to a European Union model of social
democracy. He will use the $750 billion bailout voted this year by Congress
as a pretext to demand equity in America’s major businesses. And then he
will use that equity to demand “reform.” At first the “reforms” will be
obvious: limitations on executive compensation and bonuses, investment in
environmentally friendly technology, and other socially worthy objectives.
But Obama will use economic populism to justify greater and greater
government de facto control over the financial and insurance sectors. He
will, for example, move to curtail financing of outsourcing or offshore
business operations. He may penalize companies for layoffs by withholding
bank loans. He may embrace some of the more intrusive programs for
manipulation of the economy. The heavy hand of government “guidance” will
come to corporate America.
Remember that half of FDR’s program was designed to combat the
Depression – Agricultural Adjustment, the National Industrial Recovery Act,
the Public Works Administration, the Works Progress Administration – but
half had nothing to do with recovery but was sold under the rubric of
“reform.” These measures included Social Security, the SEC, and the Wagner
Act, all of which totally transformed the level of government intervention
in the economy. Obama will follow that model, advancing programs that
change our basic relationship of government and business disguised as
measures to fight the Depression.
But nowhere will the transformation be as great as in health care.
Manipulating the national consensus that we must make health care a “right”
and move to cover the 47 million uninsured “Americans” (even though about
7-10 million are illegal immigrants), Obama will fundamentally transform our
health care system into one subject to government control. He has to. He
can’t extend health care coverage from 250 million people to 300 million
with no increase in the supply of doctors, nurses, and hospitals without
introducing rationing. While he may use private health insurance companies
and HMOs as his capos to enforce the rationing, the demand and impetus for
the controls on utilization will come from Washington. As a practical
matter, this change will revive the idea that the elderly have a “duty to
die” as first articulated by former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm. Elderly
Americans will find that they cannot have heart bypass operations or get MRI
exams or CT scans even if they are willing to pay for it themselves. We
will come to emulate the British or Canadian model of health care under
government control. (For a fuller discussion of the changes he will bring to
health care, see our book Fleeced).
So do the math. Right now, the federal government’s spending accounts
for about 20% of our national GDP and State and local government, exclusive
of federal aid, adds another 12%. Their 32% share of our economy is about
the same level as in Japan but markedly lower than in the United Kingdom
(41%), France and Germany (about 48%). Other countries, like Sweden are
When the bailouts have run their course, it is not illogical to assume
that the government or the “taxpayers” as Obama likes to call them, will own
about 1/3 of the equity in banks and major insurance companies. The
financial sector accounts for about 20% of our GDP, so that is about 6% that
moves to the public sector (and, of course, the remainder, while still
private, is subject to massive government influence due to the large public
share). Health care consumes about 16% of our GDP and it is about 40%
public at the moment. Under Obama, while not a single payer system,
government will effectively control the whole health care sector though
mandates and rationing. So add another 10% to the public sector. And there
you have it: about 48% government control, just like in Europe.
*Permanent Political Shifts* Obama will use his heavy majorities in
Congress to act on four fronts to try to assure a permanent Democratic
majority in the country.
a) He will pass the union card voting law which will allow labor unions
to intimidate workers into voting for a union by denying them the right to
cast secret ballots in representation elections. His goal will be to
increase the share of the American labor force that is organized (now about
12%) so as to increase labor’s political and economic clout.
b) He’ll move ahead on immigration reform, based on amnesty to legalize
millions of undocumented workers. He will probably adopt the Democratic
proposal that anyone who has lived here illegally for five years can get
amnesty and on a citizenship track. Dodge the cops and there is a reward
waiting for you. His goal will be to increase the Latino vote from the
current level of about 12% to 15-18% to assure Democratic domination of such
red states as Texas and Arizona.
c) He will cut taxes on the middle class. His goal will be to
concentrate the obligation to fund the government on the wealthy, so that a
political minority pays the taxes but an electoral majority consumes them.
Right now, the richest 1% of the nation pays 40% of the income tax revenues
(up from 33% in 2003 and 27% in 1996, according to *Reality Check*, an
excellent book by Dennis Keegan and David West). He wants a situation
nationally akin to that in New York City where landlords are hopelessly
outvoted by tenants and have to face whatever the tenants decide to approve
in terms of rent controls. It will no longer be possible for a Ronald
Reagan to appeal to middle class taxpayers to form a coalition against
liberal tax increases. There will be no middle class taxpayers.
d) Obama will move to squelch talk radio, either by applying the
Fairness Doctrine or, through use of the doctrine of “localism” (i.e. local
control of the management and operation of radio stations as required by
federal communications law) put liberals in control. (Again, see Fleeced
for a full discussion). This measure will strip the right of its most
powerful form of communication.
With Obama’s coming low approval ratings, it is clear that the Republican
Party will make huge gains in the Congressional elections of 2010 and,
perhaps, retake the White House in 2012. Whether the off year gains will
suffice to give the GOP control remains to be seen. But, by then, a lot of
this damage will have already been done and, particularly in the realm of
health care, it will be politically impossible to undo it.
COMING NEXT: FOREIGN POLICY PREDICTIONS
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #38
November 4, 2008
HOW TO DETERMINE THE WINNER… AND GO TO BED EARLY!
Despite all the focus on individual “battleground” states in this election, the fact is that most states vote about the same relative to the national vote each year. When the presidential candidate’s national vote goes up by 3 points, they go up by there. And when he goes down by three, so do they.
So here is what to look for on early on election night.
Six states close their polls at 7 PM EST: Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. All but Vermont and Virginia are solidly Republican, so McCain better carry them, but if you check out the margin by which he does so, you can pretty well figure out the popular vote distribution nationally. (Virginia tends Republican but Obama could carry it).
In 2000, when Bush got only 48% of the national vote, in Kentucky and Indiana he won the support of 57% of their voters. In 2004, when Bush won 50.7% of the national vote, he got 60% of the vote in these two states. So each time, Bush did nine points better in these two states than he did in the rest of the nation.
So when you first see substantial returns from Indiana and Kentucky (about 1/2 of the vote counted) do the math and figure out what percentage of the vote McCain got. Then subtract nine points from the total and that will give you, more or less, what he will get nationally. To derive the Obama vote, and determine the winner, deduct 1.4% for Nader (his 2004 vote share) and give the rest to Obama.
So, for example, let’s assume that McCain is getting 56% of the votes in Indiana and Kentucky. Subtract nine to get his national vote share. That comes to 47% of the vote. Then add 1.4% for Nader and give the rest to Obama. Obama’s national vote, in that circumstance, would come to 51.6 or a five point national margin of victory. It won’t be exact but it will be pretty close.
In 2004, when the exit polls all predicted a Kerry victory, I figured out that they were wrong by 8 PM EST by using this formula. When it became clear that Bush was carrying Kentucky and Indiana by 60% of the vote, I could predict that he would get 51% and beat Kerry 51-48.
Georgia usually gives the Republican seven points more than his national showing. South Carolina votes eight points more Republican than the rest of the nation. Virginia votes three points more Republican and Vermont votes ten points less Republican than the rest of the nation. (I would hesitate to use Virginia for this model because of its substantial demographic changes and I’d worry about using Vermont because it is so small, but the other four states: Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina should tell the story).
What about the electoral vote? Remember that it is very hard to win the popular vote and lose in the Electoral College. Since 1888 it has only happened once – in 2000. But then, Gore won the popular vote by a margin of only 0.4%. When things are that tight, the electoral vote can come in differently from the popular vote but a more convincing margin usually carries the Electoral College with it.
Just in case, I list for your convenience, the plus or minus formula below for each state. Remember it refers only to the Republican vote; you have to derive the Democratic vote on your own.
Thanks for reading my columns and articles all the way through the election and I hope you have enjoyed the journey we have taken together. It sure has been exciting!
STATE BY STATE MARGIN BY WHICH EACH STATE’S REPUBLICAN VOTE VARIES FROM THE NATIONAL VOTE
|State||Electoral Votes||% Republican Deviation from National Vote|
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #37
October 5, 2008
MCCAIN: THE LONG ROAD BACK
Sarah Palin’s undoubted success in her debate with Joe Biden came as a relief to her supporters and a shot in the arm to McCain’s backers. Her doubters were left frustrated as she crafted a new style of political discourse, rooted in the vernacular of every day American life.
But her victory is little more than a respite in the bad news that has engulfed McCain’s candidacy since the start of the financial crisis. The key question that looms over this race is: Can McCain recover?
My bet is that he can and probably will. It is too early to say if he can still win, but he most likely will make the race a nail bitter once again. October will be his month. Here’s why –
So far the general election campaign has been through three stages. The summer was dominated by rising gasoline prices. Energy is normally a jump ball between the two parties, an issue which they are equally likely to win. But the Republicans adroitly used the need for gasoline to promote off shore oil drilling, embodied in the “drill, baby, drill” slogan Palin used to good effect in her debate. By separating the requisites of energy independence and low cost gasoline from those of climate change and environmental preservation, the Republicans and Democrats diverged and the GOP gained important new support.
(That dichotomy will only grow in the future. With the coming advent of plug-in hybrid cars, conservatives will tout the potential of electricity to replace gasoline as our basic fuel while liberals will lament the impact of the increased need for power generation on global carbon emissions).
After the Republicans won the energy round of the election, they followed it up by scoring a decisive victory in the vice-presidential round. The McCain strategy of feinting with a man and then choosing a woman for the spot will go down in history as one of the great head fakes of all time. By pretending he was going to choose Romney or Pawlenty, McCain induced Obama to go with Biden, spurning Hillary’s pretentions to the post. Then, after Obama was locked in, McCain pulled a switch and named Palin, upsetting the Democratic plans and threatening the party’s hold on female voters. Palin’s subsequent spotty performance in her media interviews called the McCain victory in round two into question, but her spectacular debate victory erased that concern.
But no sooner had John McCain and Sarah Palin won round two than the financial crisis burst upon the scene. Inevitably the crisis would have worked to the Democrats’ advantage no matter how it was handled. After all, Wall Street is the denizen of Republicans not Democrats and its obvious greed and mismanagement would redound to Obama’s advantage just as shenanigans by labor leaders would have had the opposite effect.
However, McCain made it worse. He had just spent his whole convention emphasizing how different he was from Bush, what a maverick he is, and how populist his policies are. Then, in a flash, by supporting the bailout legislation and turning his nose up at the Republican alternative, he threw it all away. In one week, he undid all the good his convention had done and he found himself back in the dog house with his long time roommate, George W. Bush.
McCain even highlighted his collapse by signaling a “suspension” of his campaign to allow him to concentrate on saving the nations financial structure by returning to Washington. Once there, he faded back into the woodwork, all signs of originality or even creativity extinguished. He became, again, McCain, the Bush clone. When House Republicans showed some spunk and spirit and turned down the bailout package, their courage merely served to underscore their candidate’s timidity while the commitment to less government highlighted the hypocrisy of McCain’s pretentions to the issue.
With the first presidential debate, coming in the middle of the bailout drama, McCain dashed hopes that he would lead the charge against Wall Street greed and big government largesse by mildly saying that he hoped to be able to vote for the bill. His populist rhetoric against Wall Street seemed to matter little when viewed against the lack of courage of his actions.
And when McCain voted for the bailout bill even though it contained such notable earmarks as exempting children’s toy wooden arrows from the federal excise tax and promoting economic development in Samoa and Puerto Rico, he even compromised on the issue he had spent his entire first debate selling – opposition to earmarks. Far from his vow to make earmarking legislators “famous” with his veto pen, he meekly OKed their extravagance.
After this performance, it is hard to see how anyone can take McCain seriously again.
It is unclear at this writing what the impact of the Palin debate victory will have on the presidential polling, but it is probably safe to assume that, while voters will pause to admire her performance, they will soon resume their march to Obama. The combination of Bush’s mismanagement, the greed of the big business Republicans on Wall Street, and the eagerness of the Administration to shower the greedy with taxpayer money will give Obama the issue he needs.
So how can McCain come back?
Obama can’t handle success. He is peaking too soon. He will probably score a double digit lead in the next week and will wilt in the accompanying scrutiny.
Remember what happened in the primaries. When the focus was on Hillary, until mid-February, she met defeat after defeat. Voters looked at her and saw someone too tied to the establishment, too uncertain in her opposition to the war, and too dependent on the special interests and lobbyists. Obama, glimpsed out of the corner of their eye, seemed a new face promising change in a discredited status quo.
But then Hillary faded and Obama vaulted into the lead. Suddenly, she was an afterthought and the country wondered what kind of president Obama would make. We got to know the Most Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the terrorist William Ayers. Obama described us as “bitter” in our faith and politics. Michelle denied ever having been proud of our country. And Hillary, no longer the object of our attention, scored upset victories in Ohio, Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It was only the residual lead Obama had accumulated in the early February primaries that permitted him to win the nomination.
The lesson is that in modern politics, if the voters are looking at you intently, you will soon die. Nobody can run in a referendum on him or herself and expect to win. When the focus was on Hillary, Obama bloomed. When it shifted back to him, he wilted.
Similarly, when the focus was on Obama throughout the summer, as he came off his primary victory and campaigned in Europe, McCain grew in strength. During the vice presidential round, McCain managed to grow even with the spotlight shining on him, and on his running mate. But soon it grew too hot and scalded him. With the focus on McCain during the bailout – and with Obama hiding under the desk hoping not to be noticed – the Republican’s vote share plummeted.
But now the focus will revert to Obama. He will accumulate a big lead and all will assume that he is going to win. What kind of a president will he be? How will he handle the financial crisis? Will he raise taxes and kill the economy? Is he really in the mainstream of American values? What about Wright and Ayers? The questions will grow as his poll numbers advance. The more McCain seems like an afterthought, the more voters will wonder about Obama.
While the most important impact of the financial crisis is to discredit Republicans and the doctrine of less regulation, the second most important is to hammer home the point that these are dangerous times. The possibility of collapse looms ahead and many fear a return to the days of the Great Depression. Many thought it would take a terrorist attack to give voters a sense of unease at having a neophyte president, but perhaps a financial crisis of this magnitude will do so as well.
Obama has to face the fact that a tax increase now would be a total catastrophe. The normal reluctance of voters to allow a tax hike is now accentuated by the delicate balance in the economy. Polls show that almost 60% of voters believe that Obama will raise their own personal taxes, belying his claim that 95% will have a tax cut.
In addition, any lingering hope of social progress under Obama has just been flushed away by the bailout. The money he would spend on health care, education, infrastructure and the like just walked out the door of the Treasury bound for Wall Street. He obviously cannot afford to fund his commitments, much as he won’t admit it.
And, of course, if he won’t raise taxes (or can’t) and will not cut back on his social spending, the inevitable result will be a huge deficit. Voters are quite ready to believe that it is the deficit to begin with that caused a lot of our current financial crisis. (Polls show voters are willing to blame everything but foul air on the deficit).
So Obama is caught in a three-sided vice. Either he has to admit that he will raise taxes or that he will slow down his social spending and break his campaign promises or that he will run a ruinous deficit. Faced with this Hobson’s choice, he will equivocate. But McCain can use the two remaining debates to pin him down and to underscore the fact that Obama has no real idea of what he will do if he wins.
In the meantime, voters think they know what he will do – raise taxes. And they don’t buy that it isn’t their own taxes that will go up. And, even if they did, they must increasingly realize that raising capital gains taxes would only make the financial situation even worse.
But doubts about Obamanomics are only one of the fronts McCain can open against Obama. The Democrat has never fully recovered from the Wright and Ayers controversies. His recent statements that Ayers is just “someone who lived in my neighborhood” are patently false as recent print sources indicate. The McCain people can resurrect these two demons and sidetrack Obama, pushing him out of the mainstream of American voters.
So look for McCain to gain and Obama to fall during October. Will it be enough to beat Obama? We can’t tell. But the October Surprise is likely to be an unexpectedly close race.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #36
September 15, 2008
OBAMA AND WOMEN: AN UNHAPPY COURTSHIP
Obama has never gone out of his way to relate to women. Only seven of his top twenty Senate staff positions are filled by women (McCain has thirteen of twenty) and women on Obama’s staff earn 83 cents for each dollar his male staffers are paid. (McCain pays his female staffers $1.04 for each dollar he pays to his men).
From the very first moment Obama entered the presidential race, feminists resented him for trying to stop Hillary from becoming the first woman to be elected president. In the minds of feminists, the fifteenth Amendment (giving blacks the vote) competed with the nineteenth (women’s suffrage) for national attention. Even though women had to wait more than fifty years longer than African-Americans to get the vote, feminists were in no mood to let a black man get elected in place of a white woman, especially if her name was Hillary Clinton.
Clearly the Obama/Clinton race triggered ill feelings among many women and laid the basis for the problems Obama was to have in the general election. He won the nomination by beating a woman and then hoped to capitalize on the votes of women to get elected in November. As the race developed, the elbows got sharper and the rhetoric of both sides seemed to emphasize race and gender more and more. Hillary appealed for the votes of “white working people” while Obama lambasted and ridiculed her defense of guns by calling her “Annie Oakley.”
Although Obama always spoke of Hillary respectfully in public, it was clear to all voters that some ill will had crept into their relationship. After the primaries, Hillary postponed her concession for at least a week as pressure built on her to step aside. For his part, Obama seemed to snub Hillary, passing up opportunities to meet her and doing little to help her raise funds to pay off her campaign debt.
As it became clearer that he was not about to select Hillary for vice-president, the mutual animosity seemed to escalate. Obama made it clear that he would not even consider Hillary for vice president, ostentatiously refusing to vet her or to include her on his short list of candidates.
By early July, even as Obama led McCain in the polls, it was evident that his drawing power among women was dwindling. The downhill progression of that relationship and the steps the Republicans took to hasten its demise, may explain the true turning point of the 2008 election.
Rejected for vice-president, Hillary bargained hard for an optimum role at the Democratic convention, insisting loudly -through her spokespeople – on the right to be placed in nomination, have a roll call, and address the convention in prime time. She also asked that Bill be permitted to speak on a separate night. Conscious that he was incurring flack from her supporters for not putting her on the ticket, Obama gave in on all these seemingly cosmetic issues, affording Hillary just the platform she sought at the convention.
But after Obama nominated Joe Biden for vice president, Hillary’s extensive exposure at the convention began to backfire on Obama. When Mrs. Clinton delivered a magnificent convention speech, the best of her life, everybody in the hall wondered about the same collective question: Why had she not been chosen?
In reality, Bill probably had more to do with Hillary absence from the ticket than did the Senator herself. Unwilling to have to explain why the former president would not release the names of his library donors, Obama did not relish having to be held accountable for the former president’s shady financial dealings in Kazakhstan or Dubai. Aware that putting Hillary on the ticket would sign him up for a political “Ménage à trois”, Obama wisely demurred.
Hillary had so infiltrated the convention that it had the ring of a Clinton convention throughout its first three days. Only when it moved from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field for Obama’s acceptance speech on the fourth and final day, did it acquire the hallmarks of Obama’s convention. When Biden spoke – failing to excite the crowd as Hillary had done – the convention became fixated on why Hillary was not on the ticket.
Party faithful and activists fell in line after Obama spoke, but the scars among female voters lingered on.
The polling reflected that Obama did not fall uniformly short among all women. He carried women under the age of 40 by large margins. But polls indicated that McCain was actually ahead of him among female voters over 40 by 4 points. Most Democratic candidates since 1976 had scored more than ten points better among middle aged and older women than among men of the same age.
MCCAIN FINESSES OBAMA
Then the McCain campaign pulled off one of the most successful head fakes in modern American politics. Obama had to decide not only whether or not to choose Hillary, but whether to go with another woman, likely Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Had he opted for either woman, the odds are that he would have won the election, but McCain out maneuvered him. Through leaks and judiciously planted stories, the McCain campaign convinced Obama and his people that the Republicans were going to nominate a man – Romney, Lieberman, or Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty – instead of Sarah Palin who they had, in fact, been eyeing for the job for weeks and weeks before.
For his part, Obama wanted to believe that McCain would pick a boring man because he did not want Hillary on his ticket and did not dare go around her to choose Sebelius. The conventional wisdom among Democratic pols was that Obama would have triggered a floor fight and a revolution had he chosen a woman other than Hillary. Nonsense. Had Obama tapped Sebelius, Hillary would have had to grin and hail the advance for feminism. To do otherwise would be to admit that she placed her personal ambition ahead of her support for her gender, something which, while obviously true, she could never admit. Her supporters, more true feminists than true Hillary backers, would have been seduced by Sebelius’ speech and the hoopla surrounding her designation and would have been enthusiastic. Only a few top level men in Hillary’ milieu, inscluding one former president, would have been grumpy about the choice.
But with McCain meeting with Romney and Pawlenty and floating rumors about them, it seemed that Obama could go ahead and name Biden without fear that the Republicans would embarrass him by naming a woman for their ticket.
After all, Obama’s people reasoned, who would McCain pick? Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – floated out there consciously as a decoy for Palin – was old and dull and had been indicted (although acquitted) in 1993. She seemed an unlikely choice. Palin? Are you kidding they must have asked? McCain wouldn’t do it.
But McCain did. And he did so right in the middle of Obama’s post convention bounce from his excellent speech. The Friday news fell like a wet blanket over the memories of the carnival like atmosphere at Invesco Field the night before. And Obama’s woman problem just got worse.
THE DEMOCRATS FALL INTO MCCAIN’S TRAP
But then the Democrats compounded the error by attacking Palin and doing so on personal, gender based issues, no less. It was a gift to the Republicans even their most sophisticated strategists could not have anticipated. And what was the leading charge against Palin? That her daughter was pregnant and not married!
McCain wisely told the media that Sarah had informed him of the situation before he offered her the job and that he said it would make no difference in his decision. In one stroke, the Democrats undid all the good for themselves they had accomplished in decades of support for welfare, food stamps, day care, rent subsidies, headstart programs, and abortion. By seeming to suggest that a woman should be disqualified because her daughter was pregnant and unmarried was a slap in the face of the tens of millions of Democratic single women voters upon whom the party depended for its fabled gender gap.
Suddenly, the party roles were reversed. McCain, tolerant of Sarah’s personal decisions, was the wise, open minded one, while the Democrats were the narrow minded, harsh, judgmental party. When personal attack followed upon attack women of all ages and backgrounds rallied to Sarah’s defense and were appalled by the Democratic tactics. But the charges kept on coming: Sarah’s husband had a twenty year old DWI. Her sister and brother in law were going through a messy divorce and she had gotten him fired as a state trooper (after learning that he tazered his son and threatened her family’s life. One tabloid is rumored to be working on a story that her kids use drugs (this in a race where the Democratic candidate admitted using cocaine through his college years).
And then Sarah Palin spoke at the convention. The Democratic attacks had so hyped her speech that it drew 34 million viewers -ten million more than Hillary or Biden had attracted and only one million less than Obama himself had gotten the previous Thursday night. Her speech was magnificent. Forceful, confident, funny, firm, sarcastic but not shrill, she drove her way into everybody’s heart. Now, against the backdrop of Palins speech, the Democratic attacks seemed sexist and dirty. And, with Obama having turned up his nose at Hillary for vice president, women began to wonder if he was not anti-woman.
Finally, when Obama chose to play off Sarah Palin’s comparison of a pit bull with a hockey mom (the only difference, she said, is lipstick) by saying that you could put lipstick on a pig but it would still be a pig, Obama had a huge gender problem. And one that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
And who has been silent during the whole process? Not heard from defending Obama or criticizing Palin? Hillary Rodham Clinton has stood back and let her conqueror twist slowly in the wind all by himself.
Hillary’s slogan if Obama loses because women wouldn’t back him? I told you so!
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #35
September 8, 2008
…..AFTER THE CONVENTIONS
To read the polls, you wouldn’t think much changed after the two party conventions. Held back to back, Obama and the Democrats moved up during their gathering and then appear to have lost all of their gains during the Republican convention. For John McCain and his party, the nomination of Sarah Palin certainly energized his followers, but he seems to face the same tied race after the exchange of conventions that he faced before them.
But, beneath the surface poll data, the post-convention environment has indeed altered dramatically in McCain’s direction.
Obama’s failure to nominate Hillary for vice president and McCain’s bold gamble in turning to Sarah Palin have put the female vote more into play than it ever was before the conventions. Going into the convention period, Obama was trailing among female voters over forty by four points – an unheard of posture for a Democratic candidate for president. Normally, a Democrat will win women over forty by more than ten points. Oddly, the Democratic nominee is running well ahead among women under 40 and is doing about as well among men of all ages as a Republican should – he’s losing them by a little. But among middle aged and older women, he was in deep trouble even before the conventions.
But the conventions dug Obama into a much deeper hole among female voters. Three factors appear to have contributed to his problems:
- He passed over Hillary Clinton for vice president without so much as a glance in her direction. She was not vetted or even considered. Yet polls showed that most Democrats wanted an Obama-Clinton ticket. When Hillary gave a great speech at the Democratic convention, the yearning to have her on the ticket was palpable on the floor of the convention. Had Obama opted for Hillary, he would undoubtedly have come to regret it. All of Bill’s dirty laundry about his financial dealings since the presidency would have become fair game. And, if he were elected, the west wing would soon have become a war zone. But he was already suspect among older women because he had challenged and defeated the candidate they overwhelmingly favored for the presidency and, by stiffing her for the vice presidency as well, he appeared to give the needs and concerns of women short shrift.
- When McCain named Sarah Palin he capitalized on the resentment of women toward Obama over his treatment of Hillary. That McCain sought their votes and was catering to their concerns was obvious in his selection of the Alaska governor. But the juxtaposition of Obama’s choice of Biden, when Hillary was available, and McCain’s reaching over the heads of Romney and other possible nominees to tap Sarah Palin did the Democrats no good.
- But all of these currents were exacerbated by the concentrated and highly personal fire directed at Palin by the media and the Democrats after her selection. Accused of everything from neglecting her children to subjecting her daughter to scandal, she and her family were scorched by a Democratic-leaning media. News of Sarah’s husband’s DWI twenty years ago, the marital fight between Sarah’s sister and brother-in-law, and the false rumor that Sarah had a list of books she wanted banned in Alaska all made their way through the Internet within hours of her designation. Women resented this ordeal by fire and were, in turn, enthused by Sarah’s speech at the convention. The fire directed at her hyped the ratings of the speech and Sarah found herself speaking to almost as many people as Obama had watching during his acceptance speech.
By the time the dust settled, McCain had a solid shot at closing or even reversing the gender gap that has been a fact of American political life ever since the Roe v Wade decision in the early 70s.
But the convention altered the strategic construct of the race dramatically as well. The premise of the entire Obama attack on McCain was that he was just an extension of the Bush Administration. Speaker after speaker at the Democratic convention hammered at the theme that a McCain first term would really be a Bush third term.
McCain set out to disprove this contention and sever the linkage between Bush’s unpopular presidency and his candidacy. And he succeeded brilliantly. From his poignant biography with its heroic story of his POW days, to his selection of a reform-minded woman as his running mate, to his acceptance speech and the supporting speeches of Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Joe Lieberman, McCain painted the differences between himself and Bush in vivid colors.
He debunked the Obama claim that Bush and McCain voted together 90% of the time by pointing out that 90% of the Senate votes are unanimous. He highlighted the various areas of his disagreement with Bush over the years. These include:
- McCain backed the surge when Bush was resistant
- McCain backed tough regulation of tobacco and most Republicans opposed it
- McCain fought for a ban on torture in terrorist investigations over Administration objections.
- McCain opposes earmarks and refuses to propose any
- McCain has harshly criticized Bush’s spending policies and his budget deficits
- McCain wanted tougher corporate governance reforms and protection of worker pensions.
- McCain submitted tough climate change and energy independence legislation, co-sponsored by Lieberman that Bush opposed.
- McCain was the author of campaign finance reforms Bush opposed and only reluctantly signed.
- McCain was one of fourteen Senators that ended the deadlock over judicial nominations and led to the designation of moderate judges and a streamlining of the confirmation process.
This independent John McCain, the self-styled “maverick”, has been in remission during the GOP primary campaign as he ran to the right in order to win the primaries. But he has always been a maverick in the Senate and he picked up where he had left off during the convention.
Without being able to link McCain and Bush, Obama has no margin for error in handling McCain’s negative attacks. If the race had been Obama v Bush, no amount of negative advertising against Obama would have made much difference. Voters would simply be determined to risk it, take their chances, and vote for Obama if the alternative was four more years of Bush. But by presenting himself as an alternative vehicle for change and highlighting his record in shaking up Washington, McCain closes the gap between himself and Obama. Now doubts about the Democrat’s experience, qualifications, plans to raise taxes, and weakness in dealing with terrorism are all likely to push voters toward McCain. They never would have backed Bush, but they might well switch to McCain.
WHAT MCCAIN HAS TO DO NOW
Now McCain should pound away with negatives on Obama focusing on three key issues: taxes, energy, and terrorism.
Polls show that a majority of voters disbelieve Obama’s claim that he will not raise taxes on 95% of Americans. Indeed, the latest Rasmussen survey indicates that 56% believe he will raise their personal income taxes. It is a short leap from there to predict economic disaster if taxes are raised as broadly and as high as Obama has predicted. With the possibility of economic catastrophe looming ahead, voters may be reluctant to trust Obama’s tax and spending plans and may worry that he will sink the ship. Obama’s class-based rhetoric worked will among Democrats but cuts much less muster with Independents. When Fred Thompson characterized his tax program as saying “I will only take water from this side of the bucket not from the other side,” he struck a responsive chord.
If things are bad, the insurgent has the advantage. But if things could get a lot worse in a hurry, voters may not be willing to take a chance on a new candidate with an untried and untested approach.
The energy issue has become a class issue in our politics. Middle income voters feel that the elites are so anxious to save the global environment that they won’t permit oil drilling and don’t even want gas prices to come down. Energy independence and climate change, once parallel causes, are now in sharp conflict splitting the nation along class, age, and party lines. The older women, who are the core of Obama’s problem, are particularly sensitive to this issue.
Finally, Obama’s failure to show any strength in foreign policy and his appeal to both Georgia and Russia to “show restraint” in the recent invasion (where McCain spoke out forthrightly against Russian aggression) raise doubts among voters. As the threat of Iran going nuclear increases and the possibility of war in Eastern Europe between newly independent countries and a resurgent Russia increases, Americans may be loathe to trust an ingÃ©nue with foreign policy. Particularly if Israel takes military action against Iran before the election, a hot foreign environment could dictate switches to McCain.
To date, the McCain campaign has pursued targets of opportunity in its paid advertising, capitalizing on the embarrassment du jour of the Obama campaign. But the time has come for more discipline and focus to begin the slow pounding away at Obama with negative ads that raise doubts about his inexperience and liberalism.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #34
September 2, 2008
THE UNCONVENTIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION
If the Democratic Convention represented the passing of the torch to a new generation, to outsiders, and to a new post-racial world, watching it was like standing under the flame as it changed hands. I will always remember the stage hands carting away the convention paraphernalia after it was over, taking away the chairs, folding up the tables, dismantling the screens, and taking down the displays. I sat in the now abandoned Fox News skybox and watched as a convention hall was returned to a basketball court. Alone, with the cameras gone cold and the strobe lights off, I watched as the old Democratic Party was packed up and stowed away. The Clinton era was over. The division of America based on race was packed up with the used banners and the discarded signs. The idea that only those who have paid their dues by spending decades in Washington can run or serve went away as the lights got turned off one by one.
Whether or not Obama wins – and my bet is that he will – his primary victory and his takeover of the Democratic Party already represents one of the most important transformations in American politics. It’s like it was in 1964 when ultra right wing conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona wrestled the Republican Party away from its liberal eastern establishment wing by defeating New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller for the GOP nomination. Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in the fall, but his successor and soul-mate Ronald Reagan didn’t lose and served two terms, transforming the Republican Party and America. Or it’s like 1972 when the first apostle of the anti-Vietnam War movement, George McGovern, defeated the old school liberal Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination. Nixon beat McGovern, but the antiwar movement went on to elect a president twenty years later when one of McGovern’s campaign staffers, Bill Clinton, won.
Whether Obama wins or loses, the transformation of a political party, and perhaps of the nation, has begun.
And, with John McCain’s nomination of Alaska governor Sarah Palin – a young, articulate, attractive political reformer -as his vice presidential candidate, he hangs up a banner over the Republican convention: “Under New Management.” Now, America will either have a black president or a woman vice president. The times they are a changing.
Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a book called “Present at the Creation” describing his role in staking out the American position at the start of the cold war. As I write this flying home from Denver, I feel that I have had the privilege of being present at the transformation.
Obama’s speech still rings in my ears. How can it not? It was a speech to rank with Lincoln’s second Inaugural or JFK’s only one. He summoned America to lead again in energy, environment, science, but most o fall, in decency. I had wondered if Obama could lay out the specifics of his program before 75,000 screaming, chanting, adoring fans. But he made them listen as he explained himself to the American people.
Obama still has much to answer for. He glibly passed over, in a scant one hundred words, how he was going to pay for his idealism. I hope the 95% of American “working families” that were promised a tax cut don’t rush out to spend it all in one place. The odds are very good that he will raise taxes on almost everyone if he gets the chance and that he would raise them most steeply on those to whom he would then turn to create new jobs and generate prosperity. McCain is right to fear a depression if our struggling economy gets hit with massive new taxes. And he has a point that Bill Clinton could spend two years learning how to be president and run foreign policy before he got good at it but that Obama will have no time for any such learning curve. Iranian nuclear weapons, a war in the Middle East, more Russian invasions, and perhaps a new terror strike will crowd the first months of his presidency. If he gets to have one.
The juxtaposition of the drives for women’s rights and for racial equality collided at this Convention. The fifteenth amendment, which gave blacks the vote, beat out the nineteenth, which awarded the franchise to women. Once again, the drive to end poverty and reverse discrimination against African Americans eclipsed women’s demands for recognition and power. Everyone -except white men – watched the 2008 Democratic primaries thinking that their time had come. But half were disappointed and were only bitter sweet support in supporting of Obama as they tried to conceal their grief and heartbreak.
The Clinton era of the Democratic Party is over. Bill, eloquent and articulate as ever, seemed like a batter at an Old Timers Day game and Hillary’s concession speech just reminded us of how badly she had been jilted at the political alter – first for president and then even for vice president. It was one thing to lose out to a talented, articulate young black man like Obama. But how did it feel to be passed over by the new leader of her party for a retread politician who last ran for president twenty years ago?
When Hillary spoke, so clearly and well, explaining what her candidacy had been all about. As she showed her obvious ability as a partisan orator and a policy advocate, a miasma hung over the convention hall. Everybody had one question on their lips: Why didn’t Obama choose – or even seriously consider -Hillary for vice president?
Now poor Barack Obama, who is not anti-woman but just pro-Obama – has to compound his sin of stopping the first woman president by stopping, also, the first woman vice president. There may be statues to Barack Obama in Washington before long, but there will be none at Seneca Falls.
Barack Obama and John McCain are two very, very good men. Both are sincere in their convictions, neither is so much of an opportunist that he would let ambition eclipse principle. Each represents a major transformation of our politics.
If Obama erred at his convention it was only in demeaning this other very good man – his opponent. Calling John McCain another George Bush is like would be like calling Cameron Diaz another Doris Day. John McCain is male, just like Bush and a Republican just like Bush, but the resemblance ends there. McCain is at once smarter, more principled, and stronger than Bush. Unlike Bush, he has been tested. It’s a lot harder to waive getting released from a Vietnamese POW camp so you can stay with your mates than to get released from serving in Vietnam by having your Daddy’s friends sign you up in the Texas national air guard.
McCain is both more liberal and more conservative than Bush. More liberal? He led the fight against torture of terror suspects. His proposals for corporate governance reform read like Karl Marx compared to the tepid legislation that passed. He totally changed the world of campaign finance by his reform legislation and ushered in the new Internet era of democratic funding of political campaigns. Alone among Republi8cans, he refused to take money from the tobacco companies and campaigned to pass Bill Clinton’s program for FDA regulation of tobacco as a drug and cigarettes as a drug delivery device, a paper syringe. With Joe Lieberman, he authored the landmark climate change legislation and the best alternative energy sources bill ever introduced. If Obama doesn’t realize all this, it’s because he was in diapers in the Illinois State Senate at the time.
And McCain is also more conservative the Bush; He voted against Bush’s tax cuts because he wanted a balanced budget and thought, correctly, that they would balloon the deficit. While Obama earmarks federal money for his pet projects, and gets campaign contributions from Joe Biden’s son, the lobbyist, in return, McCain refuses to earmark anything and demands the abolition of this pork barrel spending that invites corruption. It was McCain who attacked Bush for signing every spending bill he could get his hands on and who pushed Bush to take off the blinders and realize that he needed more troops in Iraq unless he wanted another five years of quagmire. And remember, McCain almost beat Bush in the primaries eight years ago.
Like him or not, whether you are left or right, John McCain is no more a George Bush than Obama is George Wallace!
Obama likely came out of his convention with a huge bounce! He entered the proceedings tied with McCain in the polls. Before he rose to speak, he had moved up to a three or four point lead. I think his Thursday night speech will rocket him to a 15 point advantage. But his Berlin speech did the same thing, moving him up 9 points. But one week later, his edge had dissipated. Will they love him next week from now as they love him now? As former House Speaker Tip O’Neil said “a week is a long time in politics.”
But for McCain to win, he has to scare the hell out of the country. Most voters realize that Obama will raise taxes. Polls show that a majority believe he will raise their taxes. When they heard Obama say that he will fund his new programs by going over the budget line by line, you could almost hear people laughing.
But voters don’t mind higher taxes as much as the Republicans hope they do. What McCain needs to do is to explain why a tax hike at this time with our economy on the verge of tanking will push us over the edge into a big and long depression. With American banks so desperately short of capital that they have to go hat in hand to the Arabs and the Chinese and sell their equity for some short term cash, you get the sense that we are short of capital. But Obama will double the tax on capital gains. (He hinted that he would do that in the primary and now denies it, but, count on it – he’s lying). And if he doubles the capital gains tax, even more capital will leave the US and go offshore. And no capital means no jobs and a big depression. Not a correction. Not a midcourse readjustment. Not a correction in the markets, not even a recession. A big bad depression.
And McCain also needs to make the case that Obama is too weak on terrorists and on Vladimir Putin to be president. With Russian tanks rolling into Georgia, Obama stopped body surfing only long enough to issue a statement saying that both sides needed to show restraint. The lion and the lamb both needed to back off! And when he proposed direct talks with Iran so he can persuade the Ayatollah how bad he’s being in going nuclear, it is not only naive, it is destructive. It breeches the global isolation that is Iran’s biggest problem and her people’s most terrifying nightmare. With Iran’s economy tanking — despite high oil prices — and inflation up near 30%, Iranians are getting the point that the world has turned its back on Teheran. Until Obama comes prancing in and relieves their anxiety.
And does Obama think that Israel will let Iran get the bomb so it can use it on Tel Aviv? One nuclear weapon lobbed into that compact country would kill six million more Jews – remember that figure from the past? Obviously Israel will bomb Iran first. Obviously Iran will get Hamas and Hezbollah and Lebanon and Syria to retaliate. And obviously that means a major Mideast war in early 2009, just as Obama takes office. Is he ready to handle it? Does his five minutes of foreign policy experience suffice to know what to do?
Is Obama another Kennedy? I think he is. He has the poise, eloquence and judgment that JFK possessed. But also the inexperience. Remember that had Kennedy not invaded Cuba in the Bay of Pigs in early 1961 and not seemed so weak in the Vienna at the summit meeting two months later, we would likely not have had the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962. And it was then that the world came within a hair of being blown up and humanity destroyed.
Sometimes change has its virtues but inexperience has its risks. How will they offset each other in the election? Let’s all stay tuned.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
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***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #32
August 18, 2008
OBAMA TEACHES US: HOW TO LOSE A CONVENTION
For the first time in recent memory, the Democratic and Republican conventions will be held on consecutive weeks. The Democratic gathering, in Denver, will begin on Monday, August 25 and run through Thursday, August 29. The Republican conclave, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, will start three days later on Monday, September 1 and run through Thursday, September 4.
Obama is certain to have a big bounce in the polls after his acceptance speech outdoors to 75,000 spectators Thursday, August 29th. But how will the bump stand up during the Republican convention? It is unexplored territory.
Will the Obama spell linger over the Republican convention, impeding any real gain for McCain? Or will his magic dissipate under the pounding he is sure to receive, day and night, during the Republican convention?
To bring about the quick-dissipation scenario, the McCain campaign has done a good job of laying the groundwork for a dismissal of the Obama acceptance speech. While the night of the speech, it is likely to stoke all the passion that he generated during his campaign in the primaries – and more so – McCain has laid the basis for asking during the Republican convention the classic question Mondale asked of the charismatic Gary Hart in 1984: “where’s the beef?”
By running ads which highlight Obama’s celebrity and charisma, the McCain campaign can dismiss the speech as all sizzle and no steak. They can make Obama’s rock star popularity work against him, much as it did against Bobby Kennedy in 1968. The Senator’s campaign, brilliantly captured in the new book The Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke, was haunted by the kids who engulfed him morning, noon, and night. He had to replace his tie clip and cufflinks several times a day because they were ripped off. Once somebody even took off his shoes! Voters put down his campaign as a youth crusade, unworthy of serious consideration. McCain is trying to marginalize Obama in the same way.
McCain’s polling likely shows that voters distrust the puppy love with which young people greet the Obama20candidacy and worry that he has not been properly vetted. They will probably use the very enthusiasm he arouses against him, portraying him as unsafe and risky.
The days when a political convention actually meant anything are, of course, long over. But the four day and night extravaganza still means a huge amount in our presidential contests. A bad convention (like Bush in 1992) can be fatal. A good convention (like Bush in 2004 or Clinton in 1996) can be decisive.
The average convention gives its candidate a bounce of ten points in the polls — the standard by which conventions are measured.
But Obama is showing, nonetheless, an almost historic inability to control his own convention. He has allowed the Clintons to invade his time and hog the spotlight. The effect will be to reduce his convention to a one night stand. A great convention acceptance speech might give him 8-10 points, but its unlikely to generate more and it is not likely to stand up to the Republican onslaught the following week.
The most likely scenario is a tied race after both conventions and there is even some possibility of a McCain lead.
WHO WATCHES CONVENTIONS?
Network commentators delight in highlighting how few people watch conventions, but they are focused on ratings, which measure what all people watch. Political surveys, which ask what likely voters watch, indicate a tremendous interest in following the conventions.
In 1996, when there was much less interest than there is in this race, about 20% of the electorate followed the gavel to gavel coverage on CSPAN and PBS. Another 30% watched most of the prime time coverage and a total of 75% watched the acceptance speeches. Conventions are the decisive media event of the early campaign, outshone only by the three televised debates.
But to capitalize on a convention, one has to treat each night on its own, projecting a game plan=2 0for that night’s viewers and monitoring how much of a bounce each evening generates. That’s why the Clintons’ expropriation of two of the four nights is so damaging to Obama’s campaign. It assures that Hillary’s candidacy, not his, will be front and center for the bulk of the convention. Obama’s backers and handlers may assume that all anyone watches is the final acceptance speech, but that would be a misjudgment. The fact is that viewership on each of the four nights is very high.
For every ten people who watch the acceptance speech on Thursday, eight watch on Wednesday, seven watch on Tuesday, and six watch on Monday (an average of the Neilson ratings over the past few conventions). So most of the electorate will get a total emersion in what-might-have-been when Hillary and Bill speak, not exactly the warm up Obama needs for his acceptance speech.
CAN EVENTS DERAIL OBAMA?
Asked what could get in the way of his political plans, former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan answered “events, dear boy, events.”
The Russian invasion of Georgia shows how quickly events, particularly abroad, can change domestic political calculations. While American voters are determined to cast their ballots based on domestic issues like the economy, energy, and health care, events may blow them off course and lead to an election based on international problems.
The more attention focuses on foreign and national security issues, of course, the more likely is a McCain victory. Voters would not have trusted the ingénue Bill Clinton in 1992 over the veteran George H. W. Bush had not the international scene been quiescent. It was possible to take a chance on Clinton because no pressing national security issues seemed to be at hand.
But foreign affairs may not be so docile in 2008. With the United States fighting a two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan and with Russia bent on a program of imperial expansionism in Eastern Europe, events may force Americans to elect the more experienced and seasoned of the candidates.
But the most serious threat to international peace, and to a cakewalk for Obama, may come from the issues triggered by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the threat it poses for Israel.
AS ISRAEL GOES, SO GOES THE UNITED STATES?
Facing a potential existential threat in Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli politicians are hotly debating the nature of the Jewish State’s response. Overshadowing the dialogue is the Kadima Party primary to be held in mid-September. The top two contenders are Tizipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz. Livni, the current foreign minister in the Olmert government, has been Condi Rice’s point person in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Syria. An advocate of diplomacy, she generally throws cold water on the need for immediate military action against Iran. Her opponent, Shaul Mofaz, the current Transportation Minister, is the former Chief of Staff of the Army and has said publicly that he believes an air strike against Iran is necessary.
Currently, Livni is ahead of Mofaz, but Olmert, the still serving prime minister, is openly opposed to her candidacy. Olmert has indicated that he will not step aside as prime minister until a new prime minister can be named. That not only means that Livni would have to win the Kadima Primary, but that she would need to cobble together a majority of the Knesset to serve as prime minister. That won’t be easy. Barak, the leader of the Labor Party is highly critical of Livni and Shas, the religious party, may refuse to serve in a government with her (or under any woman). Shas and Labor are key element s of Olmert’s coalition and, if they leave, it is hard to see how Livni would put together a government.
If Livni can’t put together a coalition, then Olmert will stay in power and will be able to exact vengeance on party members who voted for Livni. With such a prospect, Kadima members may vote for Mofaz.
If Mofaz wins, then an attack on Iran is very likely. But when would it happen?
Clearly Israel would want to attack while Bush is in office since he will certainly do all he can to help the attack, while Obama might not. But could Israel wait until after the election? What would happen if President-elect Obama told Mofaz not to attack Iran? Israel could no more ignore the request of the president-elect than it could if the request came from a sitting president. But it matters less what the Democratic candidate says before the election.
So Israel may attack Iran and it may do so before the US election. If that helps elect McCain, so be it.
All this goes to show how fragile Obama’s support is. A deep foreign crisis would drain his candidacy of its glitter and invest it with fears of his inexperience, and naiveté.
AND FOR VICE PRESIDENT?
Obama’s goal in choosing a vice president seems to be to avoid controversy. Picking an Evan Bayh or a Tim Kaine would be a safe choice. (Although some will worry about Bayh’s close ties to Mark Penn and others will be concerned about Kaine’s lack of experience and the absence of any national security credentials).
But he would be better advised to choose Joe Biden or somebody with good national security credentials. If a foreign crisis heats up during the campaign, a vice president who has been through it all would be a reassuring sight to anxious voters.
Kaine has even less experience than Obama. A city councilman, a mayor of Richmond, and now a governor of Virginia, he has hardly set foot in Washington DC. Apart from some time as a young volunteer in Honduras he appears to be without any foreign policy experience at all. While he would emphasize that the Obama/Kaine ticket would be the non-Washington slate, choosing a vice president whose lacks so closely parallel his own could be going too far.
I still wonder why Obama does not give more serious consideration to Bill Richardson. The Hispanic vote is in play this year and Obama has little popularity among Latinos, as his loss of their votes in the primaries makes clear. Richardson’s extensive foreign experience and his service in the cabinet both make him an attractive candidate.
McCain is trying to choose between Joe Lieberman and Mitt Romney. He is worried about either choice. The conservatives, led by the talk show hosts, have vowed to leave the ticket if Lieberman is the vice presidential nominee. But choosing him would so clearly help McCain win swing voters and would send a message of bipartisanship all could hear. Romney would trigger disapproval from evangelicals who are suspicious both of his flip flops on abortion and gays and his Mormon faith. Either choice has its drawbacks.
My guess is that McCain may play it safe and choose Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a safe choice, although not one that will do much to attract votes.
But there is also some possibility that McCain could score a winning ticket by putting Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on as vice president. With Obama showing weakness among women over 40, nominating a woman could be a master stroke. Electing a woman vice president has long been a goal of the feminist community and women all over America would be attracted to such a ticket.
A good Senator with a fine record, Hutchison might bring real strength to the ticket and give McCain’s candidacy an historical aspect to compete with Obama’s.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***