DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #31
August 7, 2008
THE VICE PRESIDENCY
Obama has a limited range of pain or gain in his choice of a vice president. With his highly personal and charismatic candidacy, there is little he stands to gain or lose in choosing a vice president.
Unless he chooses Hillary, which would be a total disaster. It would suddenly make him accountable for all of her and Bill’s scandals past, present and future and would bring an uncontrollable element into the equation: Bill.
But since current indications are that Obama has not taken leave of his senses, he will likely not turn to Hillary.
The top three choices seem to be Kane of Virginia, Bayh of Indiana, or Biden of Delaware. My vote would go to Biden. He is a seasoned politician with tremendous national security credentials. He would bring a touch of reassurance to the ticket in the same way that Cheney did to the novitiate George W. Bush in 2000. He is a fierce speaker, a formidable debater, and could lead the attack on McCain.
Kane would simply add another inexperienced ingénue to the ticket. Obama’s got inexperience covered already. Why would he need Kane? His selection could put Virginia in play, but it would probably still go Republican.
I think Obama will choose Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and now, succeeding his father Birch Bayh, the Senator from the Hoosier state. He seems like a safe choice, but he is a cream puff. I worked hard to get him the keynote speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention but he wouldn’t use the occasion, as every other keynote speaker has, to attack the Republicans in general or Dole in particular. Instead he gave a forgettable and self-serving series of bromides that did him and Clinton very little good.
He can’t be counted on to bring the fight to the other side. He dislikes “getting down in the gutter” and that’s a phobia a vice presidential candidate can’t afford to nurture.
Obama could choose Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius or some other woman. He certainly needs to attract woman voters, especially those over 40. But if he names a woman – other than Hillary – he will have hell to pay with the Clintons. They will see him as deliberately slapping Hillary in the face and will note that he is promoting a rival to the New York Senator. It would be a declaration of war that Obama would hesitate to make.
If Obama’s VP choice doesn’t matter that much, McCain’s could be enormously important.
He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.
Its tempting to name a woman and collect all those alienated over 40 women who are not backing Obama. Remember the enthusiasm Geraldine Ferraro generated when Mondale nominated her in 1984? Women who had backed Hillary, will turnout in droves to elect a woman vice president. Even a pro-life one at that. It’s hard to imagine any other VP choice that would produce so many votes.
But…is Kay Bailey up to the job? Would she come across as an old lady to go with an old man? Can she handle the battering of a VP run without making any faux pas? Is she intellectually impressive enough to nominate? I have my doubts.
So I think McCain should choose Joe Lieberman. The first cross-party ticket since Abraham Lincoln named Andrew Johnson in 1864 would send an unmistakable signal of change. It would flag McCain’s determination to transcend the partisan gridlock in Washington and his independence of party orthodoxy. Selecting Lieberman would elevate the national security issue and reassure environmentalists on climate change issues. It would help attract Jewish voters in Florida and Ohio. And Lieberman has proven he can handle the stress of a national campaign. Joe is the way to go.
But McCain will probably choose Mitt Romney who will do him no good at all. Voters are allergic to Romney, perhaps because of his religion. Despite massive spending, topping his rivals by 3:1 in the primaries (largely out of his own pocket) Romney lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. The only states he carried were Michigan where his Dad had been governor, Massachusetts where he was, and a bunch of LDS (Mormon) states in the far west. He also carried some Super Tuesday states when his rivals didn’t have the money or time left over after California to fight him.
It is a myth that Romney would stand for economic recovery. He helped the Olympics recover. Big deal.
And Democrats, unlike his primary opponents, will have a field day with the layoffs in the companies Romney “turned around” as a hedge fund guy. They will use class warfare to discredit Romney in a way you couldn’t do in a Republican Primary.
He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.
WHAT DOES THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE MEAN?
When George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the electoral college in 2000, after having lost the popular tally to the Democrat by 500,000 votes, it was only the fourth time such an outcome has happened in American history.
(The others were John Quincy Adams’ defeat of Andrew Jackson in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes’ triumph over Samuel Tilden in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison’s victory against incumbent president Grover Cleveland in 1888).
So how important are swing states and the electoral college tally? In following the contest of 2008, should we be paying a lot of attention to the individual state polls in places like Florida or Ohio or focus mainly on the national popular vote?
The short answer is that if the popular vote is one half of one percent or closer, the swing states make the difference and it becomes quite possible for the winner of the vote to lose in the electoral college. But any margin of victory in the popular vote that is larger than that is almost guaranteed to be reflected in the electoral vote.
The fact is that most states vote more or less the same relative to the national vote year after year. They are always X percent20more Democrat or more Republican than the nation as a whole.
Take Georgia for example. In 2000, Bush got 48% of the national popular vote and won 55% of the vote in Georgia, seven points above his national showing. In 2004, Bush’s national vote rose to 51% and, sure enough, his vote in Georgia also went up to 58%, again seven points above his national showing. As Bush went up three points nationally (from 48 to 51) he also went up three points in Georgia (from 55 to 58).
So the odds are that any Republican candidate for president will run seven points better in Georgia than he does nationally.
In six of the fifty states, Bush’s vote share rose exactly as much as it did nationally from 2000 to 2004. In eighteen others, it rose by only one point more or20one point less than it did nationally. In twelve states, it rose by two points more or two points less than the national vote and in thirteen states, it rose by three points more or three points less than the national vote.
So Bush’s popular vote in forty-nine states (Hawaii was the exception) rose between 2000 and 2004 within three points as much as it did nationally.
This data shows how marginal is the impact of state-by-state campaigning. In a close election, it can make a big difference, but most of the time in most of the states, a party’s presidential candidate’s vote share in that state is in a fixed relationship to his national vote share.
The chart below shows how much more or less Bush got in each state relative to his national vote share in 2000 and in 2004.
So, to read this chart, begin with Utah, the most Republican state in the nation. Bush ran 21 points better there than he did nationally in 2000 and also ran 21 points better in Utah than he did nationally in 2004.
The states are listed in the order of how Republican they were, relative to the national vote share, in 2000. And you can bet that the chart for 2 008, when all is said and done, will be very similar in ranking to this chart. We just don’t know yet what McCain’s or Obama’s national vote share will be.
HOW STATES DEVIATED FROM THE NATIONAL NORM IN THEIR PRESIDENTIAL VOTES, 2000 AND 2004
|State||% Deviation from National Bush Vote|
So here’s how to use this chart:
Check out the national polling. If Obama and McCain are in a dead even tie, the states that scored a zero on the chart will be in play (because they tend to mirror the national vote exactly). So if there is a tie in the national polls, expect the swing states to be Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
But if Obama moves out to a three point lead nationally, those states will all likely vote for him. The new swing states, at that point would be those states ranked at +3 or +4 in the chart like Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Missouri. In a dead even contest, these states would all vote Republican, but in a national race where Obama is ahead by three, they would be in play.
Conversely, if McCain were to open up a three point lead in the national polling, the states that tend to be one or two or three points more Democratic than the national trends would be in play. They would be: Michigan, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington State.
(If it seems confusing and complicated, it is exactly the methodology we used in the 1996 Clinton campaign to target where we would spend our money. As Clinton’s national vote share rose or fell, we shifted resources to the states that came in range. Indeed, we carried it one step further. We figured out which counties in each state would come into play at what percentage of the national vote so as to focus our phone and field operations. For that, a computer comes in handy).
AS ISRAEL GOES, SO GOES AMERICA
Pay attention to the Kadima Party primary in Israel, now scheduled for the middle of September. It could be the pivotal event in the U.S. presidential contest.
With Prime Minister Olmert resigning one step ahead of the sheriff, there is a primary for control of his Kadima Party. Remember that Kadima used to be part of the conservative Likud Party now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, but it split off to follow Ariel Sharon in his path of trying to trade land for peace. When Sharon fell into a coma, Olmert took over.
The contenders are Livni, the foreign minister, and Mofaz, the former Army Chief of Staff and the current transportation minister. As a woman and a moderate, Livni will get the votes of the left of the Kadima Party while Mofaz captures the right.
If Livni wins, not much will change. She’ll pursue Olmert’s negotiating efforts and will not likely take military action against Iran. She’ll fit in nicely with Obama in trying to appease Iran.
But if Mofaz wins, he is very likely to bomb Iran. He may even cross party lines and form a coalition with Netanyahu to get the support in the Knesset (Congress) he needs to do so without letting the dovish Labor Party, now part of the ruling coalition, slow him down.
If Israel decides to bomb Iran to stop it from getting a bomb, when would they do it?
Obviously, if Obama wins the election, they had better do it before Bush leaves office. The Democrat might not be sufficiently hard line to offer the necessary U.S. assistance and the vital American sanction for the operation.
But can Israel really proceed if the President-elect doesn’t want her to? Hardly. So there is a very good chance that they will decide to bomb Iran before the election. It doesn’t matter what Obama thanks of the attack before the election. And, it might have the ancillary benefit (from Israel’s point of view and ours’) of helping McCain by creating a foreign policy crisis for the U.S.
If a war is raging in the Middle East, it’s hard to see the nation trusting an ingénue like Obama with the presidency.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
WHY HILLARY LOST
It started with the rulebook. Obama read it, Hillary never did. She, who prided herself on her hands-on experience in two previous presidential elections, assumed that 2008 would be like all the others: that one candidate would defeat the other in either one bruising, pivotal primary – or in a series of states on Super Tuesday — and that her opponent, then deprived of the ability to raise funds, would drop out of the race, leaving her on a glide path to the nomination.
But, unlike defeated candidates Mo Udall (1976), Gary Hart (1984), Al Gore (1988), Paul Tsongas (1992), and Bill Bradley (2000), Obama had carefully read the rulebook. He realized that, unlike the Republican Party, the Democrats awarded votes in their primaries on a proportional representation basis. That meant that the Republicans gave the winner in each state all of the state’s votes. But the Democrats awarded the votes by proportional representation. That meant that if a candidate won a state by a landslide – 60-40 – the loser would still get 40% of the votes. That’s a big difference.
To be fair to Udall, Hart, Gore, Tsongas, and Bradley, they would have had trouble staying in the race after the knock-out primary because their funding would have dried up. But Obama combined his understanding of the rules with the lessons he learned from Howard Dean’s almost victory in 2004 – that the Internet could be a viable basis for fundraising.
On line, you didn’t have to drop out if you lost a primary. True online believers stayed hitched even when your candidacy seemed in trouble. Defeats did not deter them. These donors were in for the duration. So Obama set about the key task in modern American politics – amassing an Internet list. Every time he gave a speech, he collected all the email addresses. Federal law did not require the campaign to reveal the names of donors who gave less than $100, so most candidates didn’t bother to collect them. But Obama did. Buy a T-shirt, a button, attend a rally, the campaign asked for your email address. And you entered the list. The list grew and grew. By May of this year, it exceeded one million donors.
Armed with such a valuable list, Obama realized he could not be knocked out by early primary wins by Hillary. He could win by fighting a battle that anticipated a long haul and made allowances for early defeats.
Meanwhile, Hillary assumed 2008 was like all other years. She saw half of the states moving up their primaries and caucuses to Super Tuesday and decided that this was the moment to pounce. Win California, win New York, win New Jersey and watch the other candidate hit the canvass for the ten count.
But, instead of the referee raising her hand in triumph, Hillary found that Wednesday was just the day after Super Tuesday and that Obama just kept on rolling along.
HILLARY AS SAME OLD, SAME OLD
But even before Super Tuesday, in the closing months of 2007, Hillary Clinton and her team of strategic advisors made a huge blunder. Instead of running in the Democratic primary as the candidate of change, as the first woman to run for president, as the dynamic new force that would reshape American politics, she opted for “experience” as her selling point.
Fascinated by Obama’s lack of experience, Hillary decided to become the “un-Cola”, the opposite of Coca-Cola, the beverage that had no caffeine or sugar and was clear and clean. She would be the candidate of experience to highlight Obama’s status as a recently arrived ingÃ©nue.
Worrying about whether voters would accept a woman as the next commander in chief in the midst of a war, she decided to emphasize – and exaggerate – her White House tenure and make it the selling proposition of her candidacy. “I can hit the ground running on day one” she said over and over again. “I don’t need on the job training” she repeated, aiming a subtle barb at Obama who clearly would.
But Obama made a brilliant counter move – he turned her flank. Confronted with experience as an argument, he countered by making himself the proponent of change. He capitalized on Hillary’s insider status and dependence on lobbyist and special interest money to portray her as the candidate of Washington, deepening a hole she had dug for herself by emphasizing her time and experience in the capital. At the same time, Obama managed to make his position as the first black candidate much more significant than hers’ as the first woman.
Oddly, he did this by running a post-racial campaign. In the late months of 2007 and January, 2008, he ran, implicitly, as a contrast to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He never invoked his race, abjured victim status, and even spoke sharply of the “anti-intellectual” climate among young blacks. He backed merit pay for teachers and suggested diluting affirmative action to base it on poverty rather than on race or gender.
Meanwhile, Hillary looked and sounded like the quintessential establishment candidate, all the time burnishing her Washington image. In the later stages of the Iowa campaign, she tried to pivot to become the candidate who was experienced at making change. But it was way too late. Obama became the charismatic candidate and she was more of same.
After losing Iowa, Hillary moved to inject race into the campaign. In a carefully orchestrated campaign, she and Bill spoke about Martin Luther King as ineffective and her surrogates emphasized Obama’s race, claiming that he would never have won had he been white. Obama, who had struggled to keep race out of the campaign, now was confronted squarely with the issue.
Obama stumbled, losing New Hampshire, but used race to rebound in South Carolina, with its huge black population. Despite Hillary’s later claims, Florida and Michigan passed as non-events since, in the one Obama did not appear on the ballot and in the other, he obeyed the party injunction not to campaign.
And then it was Super Tuesday.
Obama realized that he wouldn’t win Super Tuesday, but he knew he would do enough to hold his own. But when the smoke cleared on Super Tuesday, he had lost all the important states – California, New York, New Jersey – but he had won enough tiny states to stay in the race. And he won many of them by top heavy margins because Hillary had been so focused on the big states and the potential knockout punch they represented that she had ignored these states.
In Colorado, he won 36-19. He won Kansas by 23-9. Hillary won California, of course, but she only won by 204-166. Tiny Idaho, which went for Obama by 15-3, offset New Jersey which Hillary won, but by only 59-48.
In all, Obama left Super Tuesday slightly behind.
And then, he was in his element. February. He had prepared for February for a year, building organizations in a series of states which Hillary barely knew existed. The Clinton campaign, assuming a Super Tuesday knockout, had neglected the February states and Obama had a virtual monopoly there.
And he had the money. His Internet fund raising base responded to the Super Tuesday tie with more and more donations. Obama was raising ten million dollars each week to his war chest.
Hillary tried to parlay her front runner status to raise funds, but her rolodex was exhausted, all of the cards representing maxed out donors who could give no more. She ended up spending $11.6 million of her own money! But Obama’s small donors, still had plenty to give.
And so Obama ran the table in February. He won the eleven states that voted between Super Tuesday and March 4th by 288-165. On one day, he wrapped up Virginia, Maryland, and DC by 108-63. Hillary would never recover.
The February states gave Obama a solid lead in elected delegates which Hillary could never overcome. Bounce back as she might, Obama won enough delegates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas to keep his lead. When he won North Carolina, he offset his minor losses in the northeastern states and Hillary had run out of time and out of states.
Hillary moved more and more into the racist corner. She became the new George Wallace, exploiting racism under the guise of populism. Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rants opened the door for Hillary to score big wins in Kentucky and West Virginia. But Obama had amassed such a lead that Hillary was sunk.
THE CLINTON MACHINE COULDN’T DELIVER
The Clintons were counting on a win in the Rules Committee to at least give Hillary the argument that she had won the popular vote. By all counts, Clinton partisans had 13 of the i votes and several others were expected to support her position that all of the votes should be counted in both states. But the Clintons had not yet realized that they no longer controlled the Democratic Party. She was not able to force her unsupportable position through the committee.
That may have been the moment that the Clintons finally knew that the end was near.
There would not be a Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton order of succession.
GRACELESS IN DEFEAT
But even after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination last night, Hillary would not admit defeat. Watching her speak, anyone would have thought that she, and not Obama, had won the nomination. Deliberately intruding on his historic victory by organizing her own made-for- TV party, she was introduced by Terry Mc Auliffe as “the next president of the United States.” Throughout the day, she leaked word that she wanted to be the nominee for Vice-President.
It may be that Obama will have to peel Hillary’s fingers off of the podium at the convention in order to finally get rid of her.
BILL CLINTON HAS DEFINITELY LOST IT
Throughout this long presidential campaign, Bill Clinton has set a new standard for inappropriate behavior for both an ex-president and a spouse of a candidate.
He truly is a piece of work.
He’s been revolting in his arrogance, his race-baiting, his personal attacks on Obama, his exaggerations about Hillary’s accomplishments and achievements, and his sarcastic and snide remarks.
We’ve all seen the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades that have been repeatedly captured on YouTube. He often seems like a crazy old uncle who ruins the Thanksgiving dinner with his nutty attacks while everyone else at the table avoids eye contact with him.
He’s become Crazy Bill.
I often saw those same kinds of tantrums in the twenty years that I worked for Clinton. But, for the most part, he was able to keep them out of public view. Now it seems that he’s lost the ability – or maybe it’s the desire – to filter his rage. The former privately angry Bill Clinton is now publicly in everyone’s face.
In responding to a critical article in Vanity Fair, Clinton called respected journalist Todd Purdum “slimy,” a “scumbag,” a “real dishonest guy.”
That’s not what he thought about Purdum when he was President. In fact, he viewed Purdum as one of the best.
One day in 1995, while I was working for Clinton, Joe Lelyved came to see me. As the Executive Editor of The New York Times, he wanted to end the tension between The Times and the White House that had developed over the paper’s coverage of the Whitewater scandal. Assuring me that he wanted to move on, Lelyved asked me to set up an interview with the President for The New York Times Magazine.
I discussed the proposal with Clinton and his press secretary Mike McCurry. After a few phone calls back and forth, the ground rules were established. The only remaining question was which reporter would do the interview and write the piece. Clinton agreed to Purdum and was very happy with the positive piece that he eventually wrote. He never said a single critical word about Purdum to me.
But now he’s a “slimy”, “dishonest” “scumbag.”
Purdum’s article in Vanity Fair raises the same questions about Clinton that I have heard over and over again from so many people who know him and who have been appalled as they watch what he’s become. “What’s happened to Bill Clinton?” they ask. And that’s the question that Purdum raised, too. It’s the question that anyone watching the embarrassing behavior of the former president must ask.
We’ve seen the rage, the sense of entitlement, the mean-spiritedness of Bill Clinton on constant display. But there’s something else here, too. Either Bill Clinton has lost some of his superior intellectual skills or he’s a brilliant actor. I suspect it’s the former.
In the audio tape of the interview about Purdum, Clinton seethes about the journalist’s role in “telling lies to Ken Starr.” He also says that Purdum never apologized to him about Whitewater.
What’s that about?
Clinton is apparently referring to Jeff Gerth, who wrote about (but did not lie about) Whitewater for The New York Times. A review of The Times archives reveals that Purdum wrote only two pieces about Whitewater out of the hundreds of articles that he authored. One questioned the moral authority of the Whitewater Committee Chairman, Senator Alfonse D’Amato, in view of the investigations of his own ethical conduct. (hardly a negative story) A second article reported on Hillary Clinton’s defense of her actions in Whitewater. (also not a negative piece). Where are the lies here? There’s no there there. Clinton’s rantings are just wrong on that score. What makes one wonder about Clinton’s mental state is that he obviously knows that Dee Dee Meyers, his former press secretary, is not married to someone who covered Whitewater. But he seems to be having a serious memory problem, at best.
But Clinton went way beyond just the article in his crazy comments. He claimed that it was all part of a media conspiracy to elect Obama. Then he actually suggested that Obama put the ministers up to their anti-Hillary speeches to “slime” Hillary.
Bill Clinton’s paranoid moanings about the conspiracy against him and his downright lies about a respected journalist are nothing new. They are, however, out of place in a presidential campaign.
It’s time for Crazy Bill to go home and take a much-needed rest.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
BARACK OBAMA: HOSTAGE TO HISTORY
When John Kerry dedicated the 2004 Democratic National Convention to a celebration of his role in fighting the war in Vietnam, he became a hostage to the historical reminiscences of every soldier who served with him in the war. Their collective doubts about the efficacy of his performance, the verisimilitude of his medals, and his length of service combined to undermine his credibility and, eventually, take down his candidacy.
Is Barack Obama about to suffer a similar fate courtesy of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright? When Obama said, in Tuesday’s press conference that the Reverend Wright he saw over the weekend at the National Press Club “was not the same man I met twenty years ago,” he begs the question of what happened in the interim. Did he not go to church? Did he sleep through the sermons, like many a good Christian, or was Wright on his best behavior when the Senator was present? The media will doubtless be crawling over the church, interviewing every attendee who will stand still long enough about his recollections of when Obama was there and what Wright said that Sunday. Doubtless, there will be many eyewitnesses who will remember – accurately or not – that Obama was in the next pew when Wright spoke of 9-11 as the day America’s “chickens came home to roost” or when he blamed the American government for creating the HIV virus or when he announced that our government gives our children drugs to get them hooked.
In the immediate future, Obama’s comments were good ones and his moves important steps in the right (as opposed to Wright) direction. Just as he began his candidacy for president by implicitly contrasting his agenda with those of his predecessors as black candidates, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, he now defines himself as the opposite of the views expressed by Rev. Wright. Since Wright has now become the poster child for everything whites fear in radical blacks, Obama can position himself as the reasonable alternative and profit by the comparison.
But it’s a long way until election day and Obama’s denunciation of Wright now makes his credibility, and therefore his candidacy, hostage to the question of what did he know and when did he know it about Rev Wright’s political views.
It is clear as we get to know the Reverend that politics, race, and religion are bound tightly together in his mind. There appears to be no easy way to parse one away from the others. His theology is based on his view of God, man, and government and his notion of sin rests squarely on public, as well as private, misconduct. It is impossible to imagine such a man preaching 52 sermons a year without frequently letting his spiritual views bleed over into the political and it is equally hard to understand why Obama is so shocked – SHOCKED – to see Wright’s views fully elaborated.
Politicians must always fear getting “stuck” in a rut, hewing inflexibly to a given position, unable to maneuver or dodge incoming bullets. Johnson got stuck in Vietnam. Nixon got stuck in Watergate. Carter got stuck in the hostage crisis. Reagan got stuck in Iran-Contra. Bush sr. got stuck in the recession. Clinton was deprived of the ability to maneuver by the Monica scandal and Bush jr. is now stuck in Iraq. Is Obama now stuck in the controversy about Wright? Will his implicit claim not to have realized how much of a “caricature” (Obama’s word) Wright has become stand the test of scrutiny and time?
An issue like this acquires a life of its own. Granted we mostly now believe that Obama’s views are not akin to those of Rev Wright. But this controversy has gone beyond issues and ideology. It now relates to credibility and integrity. Is Obama telling us the truth when he says that he did not realize how extreme Wright had become until he heard him before the National Press Club? Or is he trying to fool us and to feign innocence?
And the controversy also goes to strength and leadership. Did Obama fail to separate himself from Wright because he was too weak and indecisive to do so? Is he too much the Hamlet to be capable of decisive action? Did he stay with Wright too long, both before and during his presidential candidacy? Did he show himself to be a strong leader or a weakling in the way he handled the controversy.
These questions, more than Wright’s ideology, are likely to determine the future of the Obama candidacy.
OBAMA’S NOMINATION IS NOT IN DANGER…BUT HIS ELECTION IS
Hillary Clinton cannot win the Democratic nomination even with the latest eruptions from Mt. Wright. He is like the ball team that wins a bunch of games after its rival has already mathematically clinched the pennant.
With 450 or so delegates yet to be selected (130 North Carolina, 70 Indiana, 50 each in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon, 65 in Puerto Rico, and 20 in North Dakota and Montana combined), she has no chance of closing Obama’s 150 vote lead among elected delegates. In all likelihood, Obama will regain the ten votes he lost to Hillary in Pennsylvania next week when North Carolina and Indiana vote. Even if Hillary wins Indiana, Obama will probably win North Carolina by a sufficient margin to offset both Indiana and Pennsylvania.
With Obama well ahead among elected delegates, the superdelegates are not going to overturn the will of the voters.
The end game is pretty clear. Speaker Pelosi (who has great influence over the 230 superdelegates who are Democratic Congressmen), Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Party Chairman Howard Dean will ask the superdelegates to make up their minds shortly after the final votes are counted on June 3rd. They will insist that the superdelegates make their preference known in the first few weeks of June.
Then a mob psychology will take over. Obama will leave the primaries with about 1,925 delegates of the 2025 he needs to win the nomination. Super delegates will clamor to be counted in his column before he wins the nomination. Nobody will want to be the 2026th delegate to commit to Obama. There is no patronage or favor in being in such an unenviable position. With Obama so close to victory, the superdelegates will fear that they will be left off the bandwagon and they will line up to be counted for Obama.
Hillary will then face 2025 commitments for Obama and will have to withdraw. If she persists despite Obama’s statistical majority, Democrats will accuse her of sabotaging McCain, perhaps because she wants to get the nomination in 2012 and cannot if Obama is president. Hillary will not be able to stand up to the pressure and will pull out and the race for the nomination will be over before the end of June.
AND CAN MCCAIN BENEFIT FROM THE WRIGHT CONTROVERSY?
Let’s always remember that this is a Democratic year. The recession and the war guarantee an electorate heavily predisposed to vote for the Democrat. Bush will enter election day with an approval rating below 30%. Translated, this means that a successful Republican will draw almost half his votes from people who don’t like bush and disapprove of his performance.
A Republican can still win but his success hinges on two factors:
a) His ability to distance himself from Bush; and
b) The decision America eventually comes to about Barack Obama.
McCain’s job is not to consolidate his base. Obama will do that for him very nicely. Breaths there a Republican with a soul so dead that he is not terrified by Obama? Obama is the best thing that could have happened to the Republican Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign.
His job is to persuade Democrats and Independents that he is sort of like them. He has to narrow the synapse over which they must jump in order to vote for McCain. If they feel that McCain is a right winger in the tradition of Bush, they won’t vote for him even if their fear of Obama is palpable. They may have held their noses and voted for Hillary in the primaries, but to vote for a Bush acolyte would be carrying things too far. But if McCain takes positions on important issues that are acceptable to Democrats and Independents, he can harvest a bushel of votes driven his way by worry about Obama.
McCain needs to run as a populist and be the same kind of candidate he has been a Senator. In the US Senate, it was McCain who, virtually alone among Republicans, battled against tobacco, supported tough reforms of corporate governance that went way beyond what ultimately passed, fought for energy independence, and battled global warming. It was McCain who opposed the use of torture in interrogation of terrorists. This record might have limited appeal for Republicans, but it is the ideal record for a candidate who is in search of Democratic votes.
(Indeed, the reason McCain won the nomination in the first place is that the Republican electorate showed itself to have moved to the left along with the rest of America. It is fortunate for the GOP that they chose a candidate ideally positioned to beat Obama).
But the election will hinge on how we perceive Obama and that will be intimately tied to how he comes out of the Rev. Wright issue. Obama could win 40 states or lose 40 states, all depending on how he handles this mortal threat to his candidacy.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
WHAT’S THE ENDGAME?
Are the Democrats ever going to nominate a candidate?
Will it be before the convention?
Will the Party be torn apart?
Will it be united and harmonious going into November?
Here’s how it will go down:
1. THE REMAINING PRIMARIES
Despite her noisy pretentions to the contrary, Hillary will fall far short of a decisive victory in the late primaries. In fact, she might even lose most of them.
Obama has vastly more money that she does which permits him to outdo her 2:1 or 3:1 or even 4:1 in television advertising. As a result, Obama will close the gap in Pennsylvania and might even eek out a narrow win. In Indiana, the next large state, they will also run about even but Obama should score a decisive win in North Carolina. Only in Puerto Rico (which, oddly, outvotes a lot of states!) will Hillary rack up a big win.
By the time the primaries are over, on June 3, Obama will still lead in pledged or elected delegates by about 150 votes, about the same as his current lead.
At the same time, super delegates will continue their migration to Obama. Since February 5th, he has won almost seventy super delegates while Hillary has gotten fewer than ten. Super delegates, party professionals all, know how to tell a winner from a loser.
After the primaries have run their course, Obama will have more than 1,900 delegates, about 100 short of the 1025 he needs to win. Hillary will only have less than 1,800 delegates at that point.
2. THE PARTY LEADERS INTERVENE
At that point, the elder statesmen of the Democratic Party will consult with one another and emerge, together and separately, to call for an end to the nominating process.
Former Vice President Al Gore, Party Chairman Howard Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and defeated candidate John Edwards will say that the nominating process is splitting the party and handicapping its eventual nominee, giving McCain a free ride while the Democrats tear one another apart. (Former president Jimmy Carter may join this group).
Citing Obama’s lead among elected delegates, all delegates, in the number of states carried, and in the popular vote, they will call on super delegates to fall in line behind the wishes of their voters.
As a result of their prompting, Obama will hold a press conference with a significant number of super delegates, perhaps enough to assure the nomination, and announce their support. The event will include several who are now committed to Hillary Clinton.
The effect of the Obama announcement, coupled, with the pressure from party leaders, will be to accelerate the shift of super delegates to his corner, draining Hillary of any chance at the nomination.
By about mid-June, Obama will pass 2025 delegates and will lay claim to the nomination. After a period of trying to shake the super delegates and failing, Hillary will be forced to acknowledge the inevitable.
The party leaders will then impose a solution on the Florida/Michigan credentials battle under which both states are able to seat suitably diminished delegations, but only within the context of an acceptance of Obama’s nomination.
3. THE DEAL
At that point, Hillary will have two key concerns:
- (a) She will be massively in debt; and
- (b) She will worry about her viability in New York State and in the Senate.
Money will weigh heavily on Hillary’s mind. As of the end of February, 2008, her campaign owed a total debt of $13 million, including $5 million to herself. By the end of March, that debt will likely have grown and should reach up to about $20 million by the time the primaries are over.
While Hillary will have a general election war chest of much more than $10 million, she will have to return that money to the donors or, perhaps, be able to transfer it to her US Senate general election campaign account. But, in any event, she won’t be able to use it to pay off her debts.
Hillary will want to take her own $5 million out of the campaign (and by then she may have kicked in some more) and will be under huge pressure to pay her vendors, many of whom are, even now, starting to complain to the media.
Because she raised her primary funds largely from maxed out donors, she won’t be able to go back to the usual suspects to get more money and there will not be a market of people who haven’t given yet to her campaign who will donate while the ship is sinking.
The prospect of having to pay for the debt herself will terrify both Clintons, nouveau riche and now without anything much to sell, and will pry open their ears to proposals from Obama. Like the issue of how to repatriate POWs after the war is lost, the Clintons’ debt will figure heavily in their post-primary considerations.
The Clintons will try to sell Obama on Hillary for Vice-President, the “dream” ticket, but Obama is too smart to fall for that. Instead, he will say that he will seriously consider Senator Clinton, because of her obvious merits, but will make no commitment to anyone until the convention. Translation: You have to pull out now and I might consider you later.
But Obama will not come empty handed to Hillary. He will offer to help her raise funds to wipe out her debt as the price of party unity. With one click of a mouse, he could turn on his 1.3 million donors (as of the end of March) and generate substantial cash for Senator Clinton. Appealing to the good will of the party and asking his donors to help unite the party, he will offer to try to raise her funds.
The Senator will also be in a position to help her with her other political problem: surviving in New York State and in the US Senate. He will offer to send the word to the African-American community in New York not to take reprisals against Hillary for her opposition to him and will tell her that he will discourage a primary fight when she runs for re-election in 2012. In the Senate, he will offer to work with Hillary and will make appropriately soothing noises which she will appreciate.
By the end of June, look for a unity press conference at which Bill, Hillary, and Obama bury the hatchet and promise to work together cheerfully against McCain. (Bill and Hillary won’t mean it, but they won’t do anything to sabotage Obama’s campaign lest they get caught).
The bitter Democratic battle will fade from view and from mind and the Party will purr with unity as their convention in Denver approaches.
WHO WILL OBAMA PICK FOR VP?
One can never tell who a candidate will pick, only who he should choose. There is always a chance of a Dan Quayle emerging, inexplicably, from the pack.
But Obama needs to use the vice presidential nomination to reassure America about his stability, intentions, and the experience and competence of his Administration.
Oddly, he will find himself in much the same position as Bush was in 2000, facing the far more experienced Al Gore. Needing to send a signal of maturity, experience, and stature, he turned to Dick Cheney for the vice presidency.
Faced with a similar situation in 1988, Dukakis chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, a party elder who brought needed gravitas to the ticket.
Obama should choose a Democratic Cheney or a new Bentsen.
Who? Defeated confreres Joe Biden or Chris Dodd come to mind. Or he could go through the list of Senate and House Old Bulls and come up with a choice knowledgeable in foreign affairs but young enough to be an attractive candidate.
Or, he might choose Bill Richardson. The New Mexico governor, aka Judas (so named by James Carville for his endorsement of Obama) provides foreign policy gravitas and vast governmental experience. He comes from the west and could hasten the Democratic Party’s efforts to convert western states that were formerly bastions for the GOP.
And he’s Hispanic. With McCain running against Obama, the Latino vote is in play. The Arizona Senator’s record in sponsoring comprehensive immigration reform has won him strong support in the Hispanic community and the ugly racial rift between blacks and Latinos has been evident ever since Spanish speaking voters came out massively for Hillary in California.
Putting Richardson on the ticket could solve a host of problems for Obama.
HAS ANYBODY HEARD FROM JOHN McCAIN?
Meanwhile, the man-who-isn’t-there, John McCain, finds himself marginalized in the media coverage. Not that he’s all that unhappy because all the polls show him ahead of either Obama or Hillary. But he ought to be unhappy. Once Obama is the nominee, the party will unite behind him and he will move ahead of McCain in the polling and could stay there for the rest of the election if McCain doesn’t take steps right now to head that off.
All of Hillary’s voters will go to Obama, despite what they now say to pollsters. They are older, party-line, union, pro-choice Democrats who will come out when the fire bell rings like the old party war horses they are.
But McCain can use this period to define his brand in such a way as to get independent and swing voters.
Unfortunately, Republican Party orthodoxy stresses the need to nail down “the base” before venturing out to get swing voters. But, while the base was enough to win the election of 2004, it is totally inadequate to the new high turnout environment of 2008. Based on the record-setting turnouts in the primaries and caucuses, especially on the Democratic side, it is likely that more than 140 million people will vote in 2008 – 20 million more than in 04 and 40 million more than in 08. Since most of these new voters are downscale, female, single, and minority voters, McCain cannot just stay in the pocket and appeal to the base. He has to venture out.
McCain’s attractiveness to Democrats and Independents has always been based on his populist positions on issues like campaign finance reform, Congressional earmarks and ethics, tobacco regulation and corporate responsibility. Now is the time for him to strike out and articulate some of these positions, making him viable for Democrats and Independents.
The Rev. Wright controversy guarantees a certain level of voter uneasiness with Obama, a kind of cultural alienation and doubt. McCain can capitalize on this worry by being a reliable alternative to Obama and by speaking out on issues that are attractive to Democrats and Independents.
Particularly with the Democrats vying with one another to provide relief for homeowners, McCain can speak about holding those who got us in this mess responsible. Just last week, the former CEO of Countrywide, the leading purveyor of subprime mortgages, announced that he has a new company – dedicated to refinancing mortgages that are in trouble. So he tried to fleece people on the way into debt and now wants to finish the process. And make money both times.
McCain needs to attack the corrupt lenders and brokers who have made billions by lending money to people who they know can never repay it and then by packaging the loans onto the secondary mortgage market so their cancer of bad debt spreads to the entire global economy.
But so far, McCain seems content to do soft-core events designed to showcase his biography and to float stories about who he is considering for VP. He seems to be doing anything to get attention but actually saying the kinds of things he has to say to have a chance to win.
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #27
March 25, 2008
THE SUPER DELEGATES WON’T STEAL IT
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll asked the key question: If Hillary Clinton isn’t among pledged delegates who were elected by the voters but prevailed with the help of super delegates, would that result be flawed or unfair? By 55-37, Democratic primary voters agreed that it would be flawed or unfair! Seventy-seven percent of Obama voters agreed that it would be unfair, but so did 28% of Hillary’s voters.
If Obama leads among elected delegates by the time the primaries are over – and he will – it would be unthinkable for the super delegates to reverse that judgment and give the nomination to Clinton. It would cause so deep a rift in the Democratic Party that they would blow a likely chance of winning in 2008 and alienate blacks and young people from the party for decades to come. It would represent a total reversal of the principles laid down in 1971 after the disastrous convention of 1968 and would turn the party back to the days of boss domination. It won’t happen.
And Obama will enter the convention with a very significant lead among elected delegates. Obama now leads among them by 168 votes and trails among super delegates by 35 for an overall lead of 133 votes. With only 566 delegates remaining to be chosen, there is no practical way that Hillary can catch up among elected delegates. Even if she were to win all the remaining primaries by twenty points, she would still trail among pledged delegates by 56 votes!
And she won’t win by anything like that margin. Here’s my guess as to the likely outcomes:
|Pennsylvania||(4/22)||158 delegates||Hillary by 20|
|Guam||(5/3)||4 delegates||Obama by 2|
|North Carolina||(5/6)||115 delegates||Obama by 12|
|Indiana||(5/6)||72 delegates||Hillary by 5|
|West Virginia||(5/13)||28 delegates||Hillary by 5|
|Oregon||(5/20)||52 delegates||Obama by 5|
|Kentucky||(5/20)||51 delegates||Hillary by 8|
|Puerto Rico||(6/1)||55 delegates||Hillary by 15|
|Montana||(6/3)||16 delegates||Obama by 3|
|South Dakots||(6/3)||15 delegates||Obama by 3|
Hillary by 25
If this comes to pass, Obama will still enter the convention with a lead in elected delegates of 143 votes. With 334 super delegates yet to commit themselves, Hillary would have to carry them by 238-94, a margin of 2.5-1 in order to prevail. No way!
THE WONK, THE LEADER, AND THE MENSCH
The voters are getting it right. The most recent Gallup/USA Today survey (taken March 14-16, right at the time the Pastor Wright scandal was breaking) asked voters to rate the three remaining presidential candidates on a series of phrases.
Obama emerged as the Mensch (for my less Yiddish-fluent readers, that means, literally, a "man", but really means a "good guy" or a "regular guy"). He won the following categories: he cares about people like me, he shares my values, he understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives, would work well with both parties in Washington to get things done, and I would be proud to have him as president. The mensch.
McCain was the leader. He won these categories: strong, decisive leader, honest and trustworthy, and can manage the government effectively. The leader.
And Hillary won: has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems and has a vision for the country’s future. The wonk.
Ratings of the Candidates
Source: USA Today/Gallup
|Cares about the needs of people like you||66%||54%||54%|
|Shares your values||51%||45%||46%|
|Understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives||67%||58%||55%|
|Would work well with both parties in Washington to get things done||62%||49%||61%|
|Is someone you would be proud to have as president||57%||47%||55%|
|Is a strong, decisive Leader||56%||61%||69%|
|Is honest and Trustworthy||63%||44%||67%|
|Can manage the government efficiently||48%||51%||60%|
|Has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems||41%||49%||42%|
|Has a clear vision for the country’s future||67%||68%||65%|
Interestingly, the adjectives and phrases Obama wins are those that would normally be won by the female candidate – caring, understanding, working with everyone, sharing values. But Hillary’s hard, harsh image makes it impossible for her to carry these catagories which are the normal underpinnings of a woman candidate.
The perception that Hillary has clear plans and ideas for the nation, comes from her wonkish performance in the debates, but does her little good in the face of a deficit of almost twenty points on honesty and trustworthiness. Ultimately, people are seeing through Hillary Clinton. Democracy works!
Hillary leads Obama in her perceived management skills but only by 51-48 and as a strong leader but again only by 61-56. Neither of these margins is nearly enough to overcome the trust and honesty issue which really disqualifies her from further consideration by the great mass of voters.
The data is most interesting, however, in the perspectives it offers on how McCain should run against Obama. In two crucial areas, Obama shows real weakness. He lags 13 points behind McCain on being a "strong, decisive leader" and 12 points back on his management skills. And McCain has a clear advantage in the perception that he is honest and trustworthy where he leads Obama by 4 points and Hillary by 23.
McCain needs to stress that both he and Obama share good intentions, but that he can translate these hopes into deeds and accomplishments.
By identifying with Obama’s good intentions, McCain can bask in that now shines of the Democrat only – his compassion, understanding, and values. Now, Obama beats McCain on caring by 12 points, on understanding people’s problems by 12 points, and on sharing your values by 5 points. For a Republican not to be perceived as caring or understanding is the kiss of death. McCain must close the "heart" gap before he can let issues of the "head" triumph.
If McCain embraces Obama’s good intentions and emphasizes their agreement on issues like global warming, ethics reform, energy conservation, economic stimulus, reform of corporate governance, protecting people’s pensions, fighting tobacco, and the other causes their legislative records indicate they share, he can close the compassion gap, an essential pre-requisite for being able to win the election.
To pull ahead of Obama, McCain needs to underscore his strength and administrative competence while contrasting it with Obama’s perceived weakness. The sweet reasonableness of Obama’s image and his insistent refusal to trade punches with Hillary Clinton has left him seeming weak in the eyes of the voters. For a Democrat, in a time of war, this could be a fatal defect.
McCain needs to pose issues over which Obama will seem weak – such as in his handling of Pastor Wright and in his fudging the question of whether he will keep his promise to take public financing and abjure private funding for the general election. By throwing balls like these into Obama’s court, McCain lets Obama show weakness, something he can exploit as the campaign unfolds.
Pastor Wright’s Impact
Clearly Obama has survived the Wright scandal in good enough shape to assure that his march to the Democratic nomination will not be suddenly interrupted and derailed.
The realclearpolitics.com average of the last five polls shows Obama with a 3 point lead among Democratic primary voters. Four of the last five polls, all taken after the Wright story broke, have Obama ahead.
The Rasumussen Daily tracking polls, the best of the polls out there, shows the following results in the days since the Wright scandal among Democratic Primary voters:
Obama v. Clinton Democratic Primary voters
|March 13||Obama by 7|
|March 14||Obama by 8|
|March 15||Obama by 1|
|March 16||Obama by 3|
|March 17||Obama by 2|
|March 18||Obama by 1|
|March 19||Obama by 3|
Obama’s speech and his swift repudiation of Wright’s remarks, if not of the Pastor himself, reassured Democratic primary voters. But it left general election voters wondering. Obama has clearly slipped among general election voters and his speech failed to reverse the decline.
Obama v. McCain
|March 14||McCain by 1|
|March 15||McCain by 5|
|March 16||McCain by 4|
|March 17||McCain by 6|
|March 18||McCain by 6|
|March 19||McCain by 7|
|March 20||McCain by 7|
But Rasmussen’s data also indicated a slide in Hillary Clinton’s ratings as well, so McCain’s growth my reflect positive fallout from his Middle East tour in addition to Pastor Wright’s remarks:
Clinton v. McCain
|March 14||McCain by 2|
|March 15||McCain by 4|
|March 16||McCain by 3|
|March 17||McCain by 6|
|March 18||McCain by 6|
|March 19||McCain by 6|
|March 20||McCain by 10|
With McCain running even more strongly against Hillary than he does against Obama, she can scarcely use electability as her key issue in persuading the super delegates to back her.
But the fallout from Wright may take several forms as the general election develops. Since Obama is clearly seen as weaker than McCain and the Republican is viewed as the stronger leader (see section above), Obama’s hair splitting difference between hating the sin and forgiving the sinner may come across as less than strong. The more Obama has to bounce around with the racial issue, the more he comes across as weak and possibly as indecisive.
McCain could also use the Wright issue to criticize Obama’s judgment in the people he hangs out with. He might use the controversy surrounding William Ayers, Obama’s Chicago political ally and friend who bombed the Pentagon and then bragged about it. If McCain seeks to portray Wright’s comments as being indicative of Obama’s views, he will be going too far and his attack won’t be credible. But if he uses the incident to underscore weakness in Obama and lack of judgment about people – perhaps too hopeful a judgment which lacks realism – he can use the issue to score.
THE NADER FACTOR
And don’t forget Ralph Nader. Recent polls have him winning 6 percent of the general election vote, votes that come directly out of Obama’s total. Asked if they would consider voting for Nader, one quarter of the nation’s voters responded positively.
One can imagine a scenario in which Obama moves to the center on issues of terrorism, the Patriot Act, and even whether we ought to keep troops in Iraq for anti-al Qaeda missions, and Nader calls him on it. The gadfly could emerge as the only pure anti-war candidate running and he might well be able to cream off more than a handful of votes.
In fact, Obama has left himself open to just such a situation. Asked if he felt the US had any residual mission in Iraq, he said that troops would remain in Iraq "to protect US bases and US civilians, as well as to engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq." That answer might give Nader the running room he needs to paint McCain and Obama as Tweedledum/Tweedledee on the war.
Evangelicals No Longer Automatic Republicans; Should McCain Choose Huckabee for VP?
In the aftermath of his nomination, McCain has faced pressure from conservative Republicans to choose Mitt Romney as his running mate, presumably to shore up his credentials with the fiscal conservatives. But the real strength in the Republican Primary came not from the low-tax crowd, but from the Evangelicals. With Romney spending tens of millions for a handful of delegates, Huckabee spent almost no money and wound up with more than 200 votes at the convention.
And the Evangelicals are not, as often thought, in the GOP’s pocket. Exit polls in Tennessee, found that one in three self-described white evangelicals voted in the Democratic primary and a recent survey by the Barna Group found that 40% of all "born again" adults said they plan to vote Democratic while only 29% said they would back Republicans (almost exactly the national numbers for party identification these days).
Mike Huckabee’s run for president showed how the Evangelical movement is widening its concerns beyond the traditional signposts of opposition to abortion and gay marriage and support for prayer in schools. While still clearly committed on these issues, the Evangelicals are talking more and more about global warming and poverty, evoking the idea of stewardship of God’s planet and tapping into the focus on helping the poor that runs through the Gospel.
This new relevance to a host of modern issues makes Evangelicals fair game for both parties while the broadened concerns of the movement expand its membership exponentially. It is to these voters that McCain must make his pitch if he wants to carry a united traditionally Republican base into the election.
America’s Hispanic voters are increasingly turning to the Evangelical churches. Now, one Latino in three who lives in the United States is a member of a Pentecostal, Charismatic Catholic, or other Evangelical church. With Latino antipathy to Obama and empathy with McCain for his efforts at immigration reform, he could stand to pick up large numbers of Hispanic voters who usually would vote Democrat. Adding Huckabee to his ticket would make it far easier to bring them – and other "born again" voters – into his fold.
Fiscal conservatives have no reason not to back McCain, who wants to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent, in a race against Obama, who wants to raise the top bracket to 40%, tax all earnings for Social Security, double capital gains and dividend taxes, and lower the threshold again for estate taxes. But Evangelicals, with their new focus on environmental and social policies, are definitely in play and adding Huckabee to the ticket could bring their votes to McCain.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
1. THE DEMOCRATS
The Race is Tied Now, but Obama Will Win
I believe that Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination for president.
Since 2004, I have predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the inevitable nominee, but I now believe that she will most likely lose to Obama.
After the Maine caucuses on Sunday, February 10th, Obama leads Hillary by three delegates, 1134 for Obama and 1131 for Hillary, according to CBS News. And the gap between them is going to widen.
Hillary has shown an inability to win states without large immigrant and Latino populations. Since 75% of all Hispanics are in five states which have only a third of the nation’s population (Cal, NY, Ill, Fla, Tex), the other quarter are lightly distributed around the other 45 states, rarely constituting more than a tenth of their population. Not enough to give Hillary an edge.
Based on their performance so far, here’s how I stack up the remaining primaries and caucuses:
|2/12||Virginia (101)*||Obama by 10|
|2/12||Maryland (99)**||Obama by 10|
|2/12||DC (38)*||Obama by 15|
|2/19||Wisconsin (92)*||Obama by 20|
|2/19||Hawaii (29)**||Obama by 5|
|3/4||Texas (228)*||Hillary by 30|
|3/4||Ohio (161)*||Obama by 20|
|3/4||Rhode Island (32)*||Hillary by 5|
|3/4||Vermont ( 23)*||even|
|3/8||Wyoming (18)**||Obama by 5|
|3/8||Mississippi (40)*||Obama by 10|
|4/22||Pennsylvania (188)*||Obama by 30|
|5/6||North Carolina (134)*||Obama by 40|
|5/6||Indiana (84)*||Obama by 15|
|5/13||West Virginia (39)*||Hillary by 10|
|5/20||Oregon (65)*||Obama by 20|
|5/20||Kentucky (60)**||Obama by 20|
|6/3||Montana (24)*||Obama by 5|
|6/3||South Dakota (23)*||Obama by 10|
|6/7||PuertoRico (63)*||Hillary by 30|
* primary state
** caucus state
This process nets out to an Obama margin among elected delegates of 236. Hillary’s current lead among super delegates puts her at a pace to win them by about 160, not enough to offset the Obama advantage.
I also seriously doubt, knowing the nature of the political species, that super delegates, mostly Congressmen, Senators, and Governors, are going to vote all that differently from the constituents who elected them. IOUs in politics do not require one to commit suicide.
Obama will, as these predictions suggest, add delegates upon delegates until he slowly but surely wins the nomination.
Here’s why Obama will win:
Hillary Depends on Immigrants and Latinos
Hillary won California and Arizona even though she tied among whites and lost blacks because she carried Latinos by 2:1. With Hispanics making up one-third of the vote there, her edge among Latinos propelled her to victory. She also did well with Asians and, especially in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, among immigrants.Meanwhile, Obama was winning in states with few Latinos, carrying Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Alaska, and Kansas.
But with Hispanics concentrated in just five states, only in Texas have they yet to play their role.
Hillary’s strength among Latinos is probably due to Bill’s record on NAFTA, the Mexican Tequila Crisis bailout, and the FALN pardons. Obama might be able to make inroads by running ads touting his support for drivers licenses for illegals (which Hillary, at latest count, opposes).
But with most of the forthcoming primaries and caucuses in the heartland now that the coasts have largely voted, Obama has a clear edge.
Independents and Republicans Will Enter Democratic Primary to Torpedo Hillary
Hillary’s partisanship and the unique rancor that she arouses in Independents and Republicans will now probably come back to bite her. No one is falling for the phony – and temporary – alliances with Congressional Republicans. In many of the upcoming state primaries – like Texas – anyone can vote in either primary. Now that McCain is all but crowned as the Republican nominee, there is no reason for them to turnout in the GOP contest. All the attention will focus on the Democrats and we can expect them to cross over in the hundreds of thousands to vote against their favorite villain.
In Texas, where hostility to Hillary runs especially high in Republican circles, Mrs. Clinton is doubtless banking on a large Hispanic vote to power her to victory. But the crossovers may be so numerous that they nullify her advantage and make it hard for her to win Texas with its second largest block of delegates at the Convention.
Hillary is Running Low on Money
Obama is outraising Hillary because he bet on the Internet for his fund raising, while she relied on large donors and PACs. About half of Hillary’s money in the fourth quarter of 2008 came from donors whose contributions maxed them out, making it illegal for them to give more. But only 17% of Obama’s contributors were maxed out donors. By contrast, half of Obama’s donors were contributors giving less than $200. Only 17% of Hillary’s contributors fell into this category.
So while Hillary has to go back to her rolodex to see if there are any fat cats she ignored the first time around, Obama has merely to aim his mouse and fire to reload his war chest. It is a case of the machine gun vs. the breech loading rifle. With fewer maxed out donors and twice as many contributors, look for Obama to widen his supremacy in fund raising as February and March roll on.
The greater cash will count heavily in the half of all states that have yet to vote begin to do so. It will let Obama advertise in them all for longer periods than Hillary can. The effect will add to the week after week lead that Obama will probably pile up as the caucuses and primaries are held.
In Louisiana, where Obama ran ads and Clinton did not (because her campaign was broke), he beat her by 2-1. Exit polls showed a huge percentage of his voters saw his ads.
Obama’s College Kids
Exit polls have repeatedly shown that Obama does expecially well among voters under 24. With turnout a key factor, his ability to mobilize on campuses and turn out the college vote will stand him in good stead. A friend reports from Minnesota that the polling site near the college campus had to stay open two hours after its official close to let kids who were already on line in to vote. And Obama carries young voters by 3 or 4 to one. For the first time since the voting age was lowered to 18, college students are making a real difference in political outcomes.
The Race Issue is Dead
Obama’s convincing wins in states with virtually no black population have reversed the impression left by South Carolina of racial polarization. The Clintons now have the worst of both worlds: They suffered repudiation for invoking race to win the election and now race has faded as a factor in supporting her candidacy ( a development for which she, of course, neither deserves nor gets credit)
Hillary Has Nothing New To Say
Her campaign themes of being “ready on Day One to hit the ground running” and of her experience in dealing with foreign leaders have fallen flat in the face of Obama’s battle for change. It is evident that she has nothing new to say.
And she has no new negatives to throw at Obama. Obviously, if she had dirt on him, she would have used it in the leadup to Super Tuesday, so she probably has none. And don’t think she and her operatives haven’t been searching in every dark corner to find something.
And she seems incapable of developing new campaign themes. Obama, by contrast, is only now getting full traction from his message of repudiating lobbyists and special interests as his financial base increasingly centers around small online donors and hers’ around maxing out special interests. Obama, plainly a better speaker, also has more to say while Hillary’s prosaic rhetoric and annoying voice drains whatever excitement there once was out of her campaign.
This contrast was in evidence on Saturday night at the Virginia Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, where both spoke. Mrs. Clinton approached the stage with polite applause, read a boring speech from a pad, and left to chants of OH BAM A! OH BAM A!
In marked contrast, Obama was surrounded by supporters and admirers who continued the chant. His uplifting, refreshing, and inspiring speech about the importance of hope roused the crowd as he politely – but pointedly criticized Hillary’s cynicism.
That tangible difference in style, in message, in support, and in inspiration will repeat itself throughout the next few weeks.
But What About Super Delegates?
Hillary’s possible lead in delegates will now be exclusively based on a possible advantage among super delegates – ex-officio delegates who hold their positions due to public or party office and who are free to back whomever they choose. Since she has spent six years giving funds to public and party officials in the hopes of getting their votes at the Convention, her lead among these insiders is substantial.
But can Hillary get nominated by super delegates even when the elected delegates back Obama? For the Democratic Party to go this route would be to risk a repetition of the tear gassed streets of Chicago in 1968 outside their convention hall.
By convention time, Obama will probably have a significant lead among popularly chosen delegates. His lead may be so great as to make the votes of super delegates irrelevant. But if these unelected delegates obfuscate the clearly expressed will of the voters by backing Hillary, there will be hell to pay and they know it. Since many are public officials – Congressmen, Senators or Governors – they will not lightly risk wholesale rebellion against them in their home states and districts from Obama loyalists who want revenge for being cheated out of the nomination.
Obama will begin stressing how inappropriate it would be for super delegates to nullify the will of the voters and his comments are likely to string a responsive chord among party voters and elites alike.
One more factor – Harold Ickes is apparently in charge of rounding up the superdelegates for Hillary. This could really clinch it for Obama. With Harold’s thug-like demeanor and absolute lack of any charm whatsoever, his targets are more likely to run screaming.
And What About Michigan and Florida?
These two truant-states where punished by the Democratic National Committee for holding their primaries before Super Tuesday. Candidates were instructed not to campaign there and, in deference to the party’s admonition, Edwards and Obama both withdrew their names from the ballot in Michigan and stayed out of Florida. Hillary, however, stayed on the Michigan ballot and won the primary against a slate of uncommitted delegates and campaigned in Florida in violation of the party’s injunction. She won Florida by 2:1, although the turnout was significantly smaller than that in the Republican Primary because most Democrats stayed home.
Now Hillary will likely challenge the convention credentials process and ask that both state delegations, Hillary delegates all, be seated. Her efforts will cause a huge furor as the convention approaches.
The most likely and most just solution would be to hold new primaries in these two states, particularly if they would make a difference in the outcome (which they probably would). The Democratic Party has ordered such solutions in the past and may do so again.
But to merely seat the almost unanimously pro-Hillary delegations would be an offense against fairness. In a real primary, Obama would have doubtless won his share of delegates in Florida and might have won outright in Michigan.
How the Credentials Committee stacks up will have a major bearing on the outcome of this fight. But any disagreement must be referred to the Convention floor where the two states could not vote while the Convention deliberates on their right to be seated. Still, some pro-Hillary super delegates might feel free to back her on the procedural motion while bowing to the will of their home state voters in supporting Obama on the first ballot. This might be enough to seat these two delegations with their top heavy Hillary votes.
Changing Campaign Managers Won’t Make Any Difference
Hillary announced on Sunday that she was dumping Patti Solis Doyle, her long time aide-de-camp and her Campaign Manager since her announcement last January. In her place will be Maggie Williams, Hillary’s former chief-of-staff in the White House. This change will make no difference in the campaign.
No one believed that Solis Doyle made policy, decided strategy, or did anything but make the trains run on time.
Maggie Williams will do the same. She is a very nice person, loyal to Hillary, but without any political experience at all. She’s never been involved in a campaign before and this is not the time to learn.
Forget About the Right. McCain Must Move to the Center
McCain is under heavy pressure from the noisy forces on the economic right of the Republican Party to move in a conservative direction and do penance for his liberal apostasy. But it is precisely his support on issues like climate change, environment, post-Enron reforms, regulating tobacco, immigration reform, banning waterboarding, the patient’s bill of rights, and campaign finance reform that attracts Independents and Democrats to his cause and make him electable.
If Obama is the Democratic candidate, he will get all of Hillary’s votes. Her supporters are dogmatic Democrats who will not sway from the party line. He might have difficulty getting all of the single women out to vote, but those that do will vote straight Democratic tickets.
But if Hillary wins, don’t look for all of Obama’s support to switch to her so easily, even if she puts Obama on her ticket for Vice President. Particularly if she uses super delegates or a credentials fight over Florida and Michigan to win the nomination, the bitterness that such tactics will leave in their wake will be so profound as to make it very hard for her to pick up Obama voters. The poisonous atmosphere of 1968 will be back when hatred of Johnson and distrust of Humphrey led many liberals to vote for Nixon.
And McCain is no Nixon. He has always been the Democrats’ favorite Republican (just as Lieberman has been the Republicans’ favorite Democrat).;
Now is the time for McCain to show that he deserves Democratic and Independent support by moving to the center.
The right wing has no place to go. And, particularly if Hillary is the Democratic candidate, they will be standing in line in the rain for hours before the polls open to be sure to vote against her. It’s the center McCain needs to win.
Huckabee’s Next Move
Under the winner-take-all rules of most Republican primaries, John McCain will doubtless win the nomination by carrying most northeastern states. But Huckabee will score win after win in the South, border areas, and the Midwest where his evangelical base will be strong. McCain voters will tend to stay home or, where possible, vote in the Democratic primary to stop Hillary, while Huckabee’s people will brave winds and fire to vote for their guy.
As a result, Huckabee will probably show up at the convention with a quarter or a third of the delegates and he will embarrass McCain by beating him in state after state after state all throughout the winter and spring. McCain can’t make Huckabee withdraw (except by offering him the VP) especially as his rival begins winning states, as he did on Saturday in Kansas and Louisiana. If Huckabee was able to carry five Super Tuesday states even though he spent no money (and he came close to carrying two more), his revived fortunes are likely to animate his candidacy still further.
Eventually, McCain will no longer be able to ignore Huckabee and must make some gesture to him. My bet is that it’s the vice presidential nomination.
HILLARY V OBAMA
Three major factors dominate the Democratic contest: gender, age, and race.
Hillary’s surprising victory in New Hampshire placed gender squarely back at the center of the contest. Women voters were the ones who made the big difference: Hillary carried single women by 16 points and married women by 11, while losing men by 13%.
For the last year, Hillary ran as a kind of androgynous front runner, but now she has re-emerged as the first woman candidate for president. Look forward to hearing more and more about how her candidacy is historical and how her experience as a daughter, sister, wife, and mother will make her a unique president.
Her new focus on seeing the “invisible” people and hearing their voices and their needs strikes just the right tone to develop her gender-based victory coalition in the primaries. No doubt it was carefully poll tested and focus grouped. She is now forcefully stressing the issues that are important to her female constituents, who are generally poor and old. Amid all of the talk about experience vs. change for the last year, Hillary had switched her attention away from her core issues, but now concerns that are important to women and their families are directly back in her sights.
This re-emergence of gender as the key factor in the Democratic contest is the single reason for her incredible comeback in New Hampshire. With at least 55% of the vote cast by women, their voice will be decisive in determining the winner and Hillary is playing them just right.
By the way, we really don’t know what proportion of the New Hampshire vote was actually cast by women. Pollsters always pre-determine how many men and how many women they will interview because women are much more likely to answer the phone than men. Unless you predetermine the correct quota for women, they will end up accounting for two thirds of your sample. So the female turnout may have been very much higher than the pollsters thought, accounting for some of the error in the pre election polls.
While women are coalescing around Hillary, young people have emerged as a decisive electoral force for the first time in American history. And they are overwhelmingly for Obama. (In the 60s, with a 21 year old voting age, they were a strong presence on the streets but not at the polls). Obama carried voters aged 18-24 by 3:1 over Hillary. But, surprisingly, his lead didn’t continue as the voters got older – even by only a few years. Among those 25-29, the race was tied!
And, more importantly, the turnout among 18-24 year olds was twice that of the overall population. 11% of the vote was cast by this age cohort, compared to only 5% by the next highest one – 25-29 year olds.
Obama is generating a youth rebellion, fueled by the rock star excitement and inspiration that his candidacy is generating. And, as the generation least likely to be racially prejudiced, they are backing him in incredible numbers.
Hillary, by contrast, draws most strongly among voters over 50 and particularly among senior citizens.
If Hillary’s grip on female voters falters, age could reassert itself as a key factor in the contest.
It is almost inevitable that African-American voters will now rally to Obama and desert the Clintons in droves. The controversy over the Clintons’ use of the race card is only going to continue to escalate – especially since Bill and Hillary are shamelessly blaming Obama for their questionable remarks.
More and more, Bill and Hillary will suggest that Obama cannot win the general election, leaving the argument that it is because he is black unsaid but understood. This will provoke a greater and greater backlash among blacks and will deliver the black vote to Obama in future contests – and most likely with a huge turnout.
On the strength of the black vote, Rasmussen has Obama 12 ahead in South Carolina.
But Nevada and South Carolina, while pivotal in the still emerging Republican field, count for little in the Democratic contest. The two way race between Obama and Clinton is already set and neither of these early contests will end the process.
But a decisive swing to Obama by blacks, and a high turnout along with it, could be very important in key states like New York and California, which ballot on Super Tuesday and in Florida the week before.
If the Clintons continue their Obama bashing, they risk ever more alienation from black voters and black leaders.
THE DEBATE BETWEEN HILLARY AND OBAMA
The battle of Hillary is largely over. She has survived her storm of fire and overcame it with a win in New Hampshire. Now the battle of Obama has started. On a par with Hillary for the first time as a co-front runner, Obama now will face every negative the Clinton machine can throw at him.
As noted, race will play a key role. The essential Clinton argument will be that Obama cannot win. They will leave voters to conclude that it is his race that makes his victory less likely.
But they will throw at Obama every other negative they can find. They will scour his comments as a constitutional law professor and a community organizer. They will get friendly media outlets to renew questions about his father’s and step-father’s Muslim affiliation. They will get journalists to question the timing of his cocaine use. These articles will ask whether he used or dealt the drug.
All of these negatives will serve a double purpose: They will, of course, discourage people from backing Obama, but they will reinforce the idea that he can’t win making even more defect.
For his part, Obama needs to open up important substantive disagreements with Hillary to weather this firestorm.
The most likely is over Iraq. Her recent statements that she will withdraw from Iraq as soon as is “reasonably” possible opens her up to the charge that she will continue combat missions there. Her comments to the NY Times in March of 2007 suggest that she contemplates keeping troops there to provide logistical, air, training and intelligence support to the Iraqi Army, to keep Iranians out, and to hunt down al Qaeda. These missions will call for a large commitment of manpower. The New York Times cited estimates of 75,000 soldiers. And the presence of a large troop commitment will impel the need to add more to protect them.
Obama needs to pin Hillary down on this issue and set up a clear distinction between them.
Obama should overtly press Edwards to withdraw and endorse him. He should use the North Carolinian’s emphasis on their joint identification with change against the status quo to call on him to consolidate the forces of change behind Obama.
It is might even be a good idea to embrace Edwards as a VP candidate, again!, as part of his withdrawal from the race.
Obama needs to end the division of the anti-Hillary vote in order to stand a chance to prevail. Edwards, who has now fallen far behind in the national polls, can’t be raising much money and may find it necessary to pull out before he becomes a trivial afterthought. The CNN poll of January 9th has Hillary ahead 46-35-15. At 15% of the vote, Edwards is way too far back to score impressively. Even in next door South Carolina, he is only at 15% with Obama in first place at 42% and Hillary at 30%. He needs to pull out.
SO WHO WILL WIN THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION?
Too soon to tell. My bet is still Hillary, unfortunately, but Obama could put it together. The key question is: Will Edwards stay in?
RUDY’S MISCALCULATION = MCCAIN SURGE
Rudy Giuliani believed that he could avoid the early primaries and cash in on his star power, jump directly into the Florida primary, and surge to the top of the field. Wrong. He didn’t count on McCain seizing center stage and replacing him in the affection of moderate Republicans and Independents.
The latest www.realclearpolitics.com average in the national polls is: McCain 25%, Huckabee 22%, Giuliani 16%, Romney 14%, Thompson 10%. So Giuiliani’s boycott of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests has led him to swap places with John McCain and totally erase the lead he had built over the Arizonian in 2007. The latest poll is a national sample by Scott Rasmussen, one of the best of the pollsters, which has Rudy even further down the tank: McCain 24%, Huckabee 19%, Romney 16%, Thompson 13%, and Rudy at 9% just above Ron Paul!
And Florida? The numbers there aren’t much better for Giuliani. SurveyUSA, polling on Jan 9-11 (after New Hampshire) has McCain leading with 27% followed by Giuliani with 19%, Huckabee and Romney with 17% each, and Thompson at 8%.
If McCain wins in Michigan, as he did in 2000, his lead over Giuliani could become almost insurmountable.
Why did Giuliani let this state of affairs develop? He correctly judged that his reputation was strong enough so he didn’t have to compete in the tiny states that hold the first contests. But he didn’t realize the extent to which McCain would replace the need for Rudy.
McCain satisfies Republicans who believe national security is the top national priority and who are concerned about nominating a candidate – like Romney, Huckabee, or even Thompson – who has only limited experience with foreign affairs. He also has a broad record embracing campaign finance reform, opposition to tobacco, corporate governance reform, energy independence, curbing earmarks, and fighting global warming.
So the question everyone is asking is: Can Rudy come back? But that’s the wrong question. The right one is: Will McCain stumble? The semi-final contest between Rudy and McCain for the moderate GOP nomination is now in the control of the Arizona Senator. It is now his to lose. Unless he makes a major misstep or betrays his age in one of the debates or has renewed health problems, it is unlikely that Giuliani can come back.
McCain is hard to attack. His POW background arouses instant sympathy if anyone hits him. His identification with the surge in Iraq, and with its success, makes him immune on the issue. A right winger could hit him on his partnership with Kennedy on immigration reform or with Feingold on campaign finance or with Lieberman on global warming, but Rudy would have a hard time mounting such an attack since he holds similar positions on these issues.
Besides, there is evidence that Rudy has spent so much money treading water that, even though he did not fight in New Hampshire, Michigan, or Iowa, he is short of funds. He is laying off some of his staff and not paying others to scrape together enough money to compete in Florida.
Can Rudy surge ahead? He could, but don’t count on it.
AND ON THE GOP RIGHT?
Huckabee’s surge is animated by much more than his base on the Christian right. He is tapping into the votes of Reagan Democrats who value his downscale, populist focus. His tag line in his Michigan ads is classic: “I think voters want a president who reminds them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off.”
If Huckabee is attracting the social conservatives and Reagan Democrats, Romney (the guy who laid you off) is appealing to the economic conservatives – the Fortune 500, Wall Street traditional base of the Republican Party.
Not since Goldwater faced Rockefeller has there been so dramatic a split in the Party between its upscale and downscale wings. Just as the 1968 divisions between the left and right of the Democratic Party cracked the FDR coalition, the Reagan coalition of tax cutters and social conservatives is fracturing this year.
With Giuliani and McCain winning the votes of those who prioritize national security issues, the Romney v Huckabee division is a battle for the Party’s soul between the bi-coastals and those who live in “fly over country.”
Romney, of course, has the advantage of an unlimited checkbook and, therefore, will never drop out of the race. But he faces a bit of a tag team match in Huckabee and McCain. Huckabee beat Romney in Iowa. McCain beat him in New Hampshire and appears likely to do so in Michigan. Huckabee probably will prevail in South Carolina.
Blocked from victory by the Bobsey Twins, Romney may falter in Florida and on Super Tuesday.
Can McCain satisfy the Wall Street types? Can his brand of conservatism attract enough support from upscale voters to make Romney unnecessary? If McCain succeeds in combining the economic and national security conservatives under his banner, he will win the nomination.
Fred Thompson, at death’s door, made a spirited comeback in
Thursday’s GOP debate in South Carolina. He showed a bounce in the national polls as a result, but he is still nowhere in Michigan or South Carolina, so he faces yet another anemic showing and will probably be forced out of the race unless he can pull off an upset in South Carolina.
SO WHO WILL WIN THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION?
At this point, it looks like John McCain. Acceptable to social conservatives and economic Republicans and the enthusiastic candidate of national security voters, he is the likely winner.
But, at 71, he is scarcely the candidate to run during the youth revolution that is happening in American politics. Against Hillary, he could get traction, trumping her experience and only a decade older than she is, but against Obama, the generational factor would likely dominate.
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #23
December 21, 2007
WHAT‘S WRONG WITH HILLARY?
Barring a last minute change in the polls, Hillary Clinton now seems headed for the rocks in both Iowa and New Hampshire. In each state, she is trailing Barack Obama by three points or more in recent polls, despite having held double digit leads less than a month ago.
And she doesn‘t show signs of getting well any time soon. She‘ll win the Michigan primary, one week after New Hampshire, but only because Obama and Edwards took their names off the ballot in deference to the decree of the Democratic National Committee to punish the state for moving its primary up early by staying out of the race. Hillary, who entered anyway, now has no real opposition there.
But after Michigan comes Nevada and South Carolina. She may do well in Nevada, but South Carolina blacks are likely to be energized by seeing Obama‘s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and may swamp Hillary‘s forces.
Can she recover when Florida votes on January 29th or when the rest of the big states ballot on February 5th? Perhaps, but she‘s dug herself into a deep, deep hole.
What‘s going wrong? Let us count the ways.
Experience Doesn‘t Work; Change Does
Her biggest blunder is her embrace of experience as her theme song, vacating the theme of change for Obama and Edwards. By tying herself to the past, she let them co-opt the future.
The campaign realized its error in the past week and Bill Clinton, appearing on the Charlie Rose show, explicitly reversed course and called his wife an "agent of change." But voters are doing Hillary the massive disservice of listening to what she and her surrogates have been saying to months – that she can "hit the ground running from day one" because she has been there, in the White House, helping to run the country.
While she has been trying to persuade voters that it was really Hillary that piloted the nation to prosperity in the 90s and Hillary who negotiated the Irish peace accords and Hillary who balanced the budget and Hillary who was the "face" of the Clinton Administration‘s foreign policy, Obama and Edwards have been identifying with the need for change. She‘s in the wrong place in the wrong primary to run on experience. It is Republicans, with their cautious conservatism, who value experience. Democrats are the party of change.
But both words – experience and change – are really codes for negative attacks on the other side.
When Hillary touts her experience, she is hitting Obama‘s in experience. Sensing that his Achilles heel is his limited service in the Senate, Hillary (who has served only four more years in the Senate) stresses her tenure as a way of highlighting Obama‘s lack of it. But Hillary, pressed for specifics of her experience, doesn‘t talk about her time in the Senate. Instead she seeks to co-opt Bill‘s presidential record, looking phony in the process.
But by trying to sell the idea that she was co-president in the 90s, she runs right into the buzz saw Obama and Edwards have created by using their own code word – change. Change means breaking the dynastic alternation of Bushes and Clintons. It means not going back to the 90s, however nostalgic and misty eyed Democrats may get for the good old days. So by wrapping herself in experience, Hillary makes herself part of the past and the dynastic alternation, further digging herself into a hole.
Stupid Attacks On Obama
There‘s nothing wrong with negative campaigning, but Hillary is breaking all the rules about how to do it:
- If you are going negative, make the shots count. Running negatives exacts a high price both from the victim of the attack and from its author. Told that a candidate is a horse thief, voters are less likely to back him, but are also turned off by his opponent for throwing the accusation.
So if you are going to get the rap for being negative, you better make sure that the shots hit hard, preferably with lethal impact. Don‘t leave the other person still standing.
But Hillary has been throwing trivial negatives. She criticized Obama for plotting a presidential run in kindergarten. She had her surrogate say that he may have used cocaine later in life than he has admitted. She said his health care plan will leave some uncovered (about 5% of the country). These are not negatives which will knock anyone out. The price of throwing them isn‘t worth their impact on the target.
- And she‘s throwing the negatives herself. Attack your opponent in ads with an announcer gravely intoning about his sins. Use a spokesperson. Use those who endorse your candidacy. Don‘t do it yourself. Especially not if you are a woman and more so if you are known as ruthless and strident. But Hillary has been hitting Obama herself, day after day. She looks bad doing it and she cuts against her media campaign to warm her up by featuring her Mom‘s testimonial to what a great person she really is. She looks awful making the attacks.
- When you hit with a negative, you can never tell where the rebound goes. If candidate A attacks candidate B, both get hurt. Candidate C will likely benefit. And, sure enough, John Edwards has been moving up steadily in national polls from the low teens to the mid teens. You don‘t throw negatives in an eight way race. It is only in a two way contest that they make political sense. You may look bad for going negative, but your opponent looks worse after people hear your charges against him. And, in a two way race, there‘s noplace else for the voters to go but back to you.
The Bill Clinton Fallacy
Hillary‘s solution to her fall has been to bring out Bill to fight for her. But in doing so, she has triggered a range of unintended consequences that have weakened her further.
- She looks weak depending on her husband. Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher getting her husband Dennis to criticize the Argentine Junta on her behalf? Hillary‘s big advantage has always been her strength and outspokenness. Voters see her as a fearless warrior. But by hiding behind her husband, she kindles doubts about whether she has the starch to be a strong president on her own.
- And it hurts Bill Clinton‘s image to come out swinging. His high ratings now are based on his above-the-battle statesmanlike efforts to help AIDS patients in Africa, mitigate the damage of the Tsunami, and rebuild the Gulf after Katrina. His new book, Giving, seeks to put him on this lofty perch. But when he leaves it and comes down into the gutter to punch out Hillary‘s rivals, he lowers his ratings and loses his ability to help her.
- Finally, by bringing Bill into the race, Hillary reminds us of the worst of the Clinton years. Their dysfunctional marriage, his parsing of the language to dodge and weave through controversy, his tendency to get down and dirty in fighting opponents are all unattractive and do him..and her..no good.
Can She Recover?
Unfortunately, yes. By losing New Hampshire and Iowa, Hillary moves out of the spotlight. She is no longer the story. The focus will shift to Obama. And Democratic doubts about his political viability in a general election will haunt his candidacy.
Democrats pride themselves on not being racist. But they don‘t trust others not to be so. Plenty of party loyalists will wonder if they should back the first African-American to run for president with the White House on the line.
Of course, neither Hillary or Bill would be caught dead exploiting this vulnerability. But they‘ll do it in a way they won‘t get caught.
Bill will criticize Obama – as he did on Charlie Rose – as a "roll of the dice." He‘ll raise the spectre of his limited experience and call his candidacy a "risk." He will pretend to be speaking about Obama‘s recent arrival on the national stage, but his words will be code for race. The roll of the dice won‘t be on whether a man can be president having only served four years in the Senate. It will be whether the Democratic Party can entrust its national fate to a black candidate.
It will be the perfect negative – sufficiently politically correct to be useable but also dirty enough to be effective.
From every quarter of the Democratic Party, Senators and Governors will pay off their debt to Hillary for having raised them campaign funds over the past eight years (which is what she has really been doing in the Senate) by questioning if Obama is too risky. The word risk will permeate the dialogue as super Tuesday looms and will take big chunks out of Obama‘s vote.
Also, we can‘t count out Edwards. He‘ll do well enough in Iowa to stay alive and might survive New Hampshire too. With the North Carolinian still in the race, the anti-Hillary vote will be split, which could help her to recover.
Can she recover? Of course she can. But will she? Right now, it‘s a 50-50 bet. I want to say no, but don‘t ever count these folks out.
And For The Republicans… Can Rudy Recover? Is Huckabee For Real? Is McCain Coming Back? And Is Romney Still In it?
Yes to all of the above.
The most likely scenario is for a very crowded Republican field that only begins to sort itself out on January 15th when Michigan votes and only anoints a winner on Super Tuesday – if by then!
The opening rounds will likely be a split decision with Huckabee winning Iowa and Romney winning New Hampshire. Michigan will be the tie-breaker. Pundits will wonder if Huckabee can win outside of a small, Midwest state like Arkansas or Iowa and if Romney can win far from his Massachusetts home. Michigan will give the answer. Unless they finish tied, or virtually so, only one will emerge standing.
Which one? Hard to tell. But Huckabee gets the edge. He‘s the only social conservative running. Rudy is pro choice. Romney was pro choice two years ago. McCain alienated the pro lifers by his campaign finance reform. And Thompson lobbied for abortion rights in the 90s.
The dominant emotion on the right is fear of Giuliani, concern that the party may be captured by its old Rockefeller-Ford wing, trampling Reagan‘s legacy.
The battle between Romney and Huckabee is really a clash of the economic Republicans against the social conservatives. Wall Street battles Main Street; the boardroom squares off against the pulpit; the country club fights the bowling alley. An attractive latter day Steve Forbes goes up against an articulate latter day Gary Bauer.
In a two way fight, Romney would probably prevail. But there is now a third wing of the Republican Party – the National Security conservatives who worry more about terror than taxes or abortion. Rudy Giuliani is their quintessential candidate and McCain is a good backup. With them skimming off votes that would otherwise go to Romney, Huckabee – who will increasingly win the religious vote – probably prevails.
Rudy Giuliani will lose Iowa and New Hampshire. But his problems won‘t end there. John McCain is gaining in Iowa, propelled by the Des Moines Register endorsement. The latest polls have McCain at 6% and Rudy at 10%. If McCain passes Giuliani in Iowa, he probably can beat him in New Hampshire too. The Arizona Senator is now two points ahead of Rudy there, capitalizing on his residual popularity in the state that gave him his primary victory in 2000.
The John McCain of 2008 is not the same as the McCain of 2000 because he is stripped of his most potent weapon – the Independent voter. In 2000, it was his ability to carry Independents that pushed him to the win in New Hampshire. He lost Republicans to Bush. But now Independents are all voting in the Democratic Primary, for or against Hillary Clinton. If Hillary loses in Iowa, you can bet none of the Independents will stray into the Republican contest. Hillary is too polarizing and Obama too interesting.
If Rudy beats McCain in Iowa, he‘ll probably pass him in New Hampshire. Even if he loses these first two primaries, he can likely come back and do very well in Michigan. Even if Huckabee or Romney beat him there, a good second place finish will let him continue down the road to Florida. And in the Sunshine State – and in the Super Tuesday states – Rudy can definitely come back.
But don‘t count out the winner of the Romney/Huckabee semi-final. Whichever one wins, he will be a formidable opponent to Giuliani and will win a lot of states (read: Texas, the rest of the south, and maybe California). Rudy probably wins anyway but it could be tough.
But Rudy may not finish above McCain in Iowa. And therefore he may not beat him in New Hampshire. Rudy is too strong to die or be knocked out by these early defeats, but he may end up with a three way race on Super Tuesday with McCain draining his votes.
For that matter, Romney, who can write any size check he wants, might not drop out even if Huckabee beats him in Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina. He may reason that Huckabee can‘t get enough money fast enough to offset his bottomless check book, giving him a big advantage when all thirty states vote at once on February 5th.
So there is a good chance of a four way race on Super Tuesday. The candidates could be: Huckabee, coming off a string of primary wins, Romney, with a New Hampshire win under his belt and a big checkbook at his disposal, Giuliani, the residual 9-11 favorite, and McCain, still standing after strong showing in the early primaries.
That could lead to a real convention fight down the road. Were the calendar longer and the primaries more stretched out, there would likely be time for a consensus winner to emerge. The losers would face night after night of concession speeches whose cumulative effect would be lethal. But with everybody voting at once, momentum may not have time to assert itself and you could have four candidates duking it out on the floor of the convention.
(Or, more likely, a 1976 Ford v Reagan scenario where the later primaries in the final fifteen or so states – and the statutory super delegates — determine the nominee.)
Either way, this is shaping up as the most interesting presidential race in decades.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #22
November 21, 2007
Have a very happy Thanksgiving! With all of the political fighting going on, let’s take a minute to give thanks for this wonderful country.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TO HILLARY?
Has Hillary’s candidacy just hit a bump in the road or is she seriously decomposing? It’s
still too early to tell, but there’s definitely something big going on.
She’s lost her lead in Iowa.
According to The Washington Post/ABC poll, she’s down 4 points, with Obama in first place. (It’s
Obama 30%, Hillary 26%, Edwards 21%).
And in New Hampshire, CNN reports that she has lost the commanding 23 point lead she had in
September and has crashed down to an 11 point lead today.
This is not good news for Hillary.
And there are signs that her slippage has seeped through to her base. While national polls
show that she still leads among women by twenty points, in Iowa, she is actually only tied with Obama among female Democrats!
This is a big change.
What happened? How could her debate performance cause such unraveling?
To grasp what is happening to her, one needs to explore the various levels of reaction to her bad
debate three weeks ago and her tepid performance last week.
Level One: She Won’t Answer Questions
The first and most obvious reaction of voters to Hillary’s dodging and weaving in the debates is that she is trying to take both sides of various key issues. Like Bill Clinton during the early years of his presidency, she is trying to have it both ways.
She’s tapping into a collective memory of just how unattractive and ‘clever’ the Clintons can be.
She has a specific plan for saving Social Security…but she won’t discuss it until we achieve -fiscal responsibility.”
She understands why governors are moving to give illegal immigrants drivers licenses – and thinks it’s a good idea. It makes sense — but she’s against it.
We need to pull troops out of Iraq, she says, but still need to leave them there to stop Iranian infiltration, hunt al Qaeda, and provide support to the Iraq Army.
And so forth…
Caught in the brazen contradictions of her own positions, she has floundered during the debates.
In the debate on October 30th, Obama, Edwards, Dodd and questioner Tim Russert were alert to her dodges and had no hesitation in pouncing on her doublespeak. “I believe Mrs. Clinton just gave too two different positions in the space of about two minutes,” Edwards jabbed. “You just said you were for it,” Dodd noted as Hillary was trying to worm out of endorsing drivers licenses for illegals.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was much kinder to her in the Nevada debate last week, but it appears not to have done her much good.
A lot of voters, particularly recent converts to Hillary, were shocked by her equivocations and double talk.
But many Democrats didn’t mind her dance around the issues because they are so determined to defeat the GOP that they don’t want their candidate to be pinned down to commitments which would make her easier to beat in the general election. For these voters, victory is the goal at any cost and a good dancer is a good candidate.
Is She Too Weak to be the Democratic Candidate?
Then Hillary compounded the problems raised by her debate flaws by implying that the men were ganging up on her. She flew to her old college, Wellesley, and complained that the all-male club of debaters and journalists had treated her harshly, drawing a contrast to the environment that had prevailed at the all-woman school she had attended.
Then she brought in her husband to fight for her. Bill Clinton openly attacked Russert for biased questioning and said Hillary’s rivals had “swift-boated” her during the debate. After much criticism, Clinton later claimed he was talking about the largely silent Republicans.
All his self-defense and self-pity roused concerns about Hillary’s strength as a president, but, more important to Democrats, as a candidate. For months, Hillary has been basing her campaign on her ability to defeat “the vast right wing conspiracy” and the “Republican attack machine.” She said she would “deck them.” While posturing about her White House experience, it was really her campaign experience that she was touting. The woman who had helped lead the battle to win in 1992, win in 1996, prevail in the impeachment battle, and win the Senate seat in New York, was the experienced warrior the Party needed.
But now, as she ran for cover, hiding behind her gender and her husband, she did not look so tough or formidable.
For the Democrats, the primary is a play within a play – a contest between potential presidents to be sure but also a mock election to see who would do best at the real thing come November of next year.
Hillary’s excuses for her debate weakness looked, themselves, weak and further eroded her support.
Obama and Edwards are Empowered
After one of the early Democratic debates, pollster Frank Luntz, monitoring his focus group’s reactions to the contest, said that Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment (“Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican”) was now applying to the Democratic contest. This Party, reputed to form firing squads in circles, was suddenly so focused on defeating the Republicans, that they reacted badly to attacks by one Democratic candidate on another, particularly against any criticism of the likely nominee-Hillary.
But after scorching her in the debate, Edwards and Obama both saw their poll numbers rise. Some polls had Edwards moving up by about three points and Obama by five. Their gains, which rewarded rather than punished their aggressive debate strategy, brought with them an impunity which is letting them continue the attacks on Hillary.
Can Hillary Win?
With victory in the general election the only goal of most Democratic primary voters, Hillary’s sag in the polls is creating its own question: Is she really a winner? Willing to overlook a host of faults in order to choose someone to take the Republicans down, they are not willing to forgive the one cardinal sin: losing.
So with each drop in the polls, Hillary’s reputation as a winner, vital to her standing in the Party, has gotten weaker and her hold on the voters loosened.
And the questions her debate performance raised are, themselves, raising new questions, particularly as John Edwards – the more aggressive of Hillary’s two main rivals – zeroes in on her contradictory statements about Iraq. Pressing her to say how many troops she’d leave there and what they’d do and how long they’d be there, Edwards is backing Hillary into a corner. And her old dodge – I won’t negotiate against myself – holds less and less credence as the chances of her winning decline.
What About Iowa?
All these developments are being played out on the stage of a tiny state – Iowa – whose caucuses on January 3rd are the first real forum for the contest. The importance of the Iowa race is heightened by the fact that the Democratic and Republican nominees are likely to be chosen by February 5th, just thirty-three days later.
While Hillary has a big financial advantage over Edwards and a bit of a lead over Obama, Iowa is too small for money to be a decisive advantage. A heavy week of advertising costs only about $200,000 there. Spending on field organization can rack up the cost, but no candidate is too poor to run in Iowa.
Also, the very format of a caucus, where voters must attend meetings rather than just nip around the corner to their polling place, encourages only the committed to vote. Rather than just ducking into the voting booth and pulling a lever, voters must spend hours at a meeting, often casting tactical votes to help their candidate.
So the marginal primary voters don’t show up. And the most committed element of the Democratic Party is, of course, its left wing, now increasingly disenchanted with Hillary’s squishy and inconsistent position on the war.
Indeed, the Washington Post/ABC poll showed that only half of Hillary’s voters have attended caucuses previously in Iowa. By contrast, 57% of Obama’s have and 76% of Edwards’ supporters have been to a caucus in earlier years. If we assume that only those who have already attended a caucus will show up this time, Hillary plunges to third place with Obama and Edwards tied for first.
If Hillary can pull out a victory in Iowa, it will so reinforce the view of her inevitability that voters in the remaining primaries that follow Iowa will be reluctant to weaken their future nominee by voting against her. The perception will harden that Hillary is the winner, both adding to her vote share, and cutting into support for her opponents.
But, what if she loses?
What If Hillary Loses Iowa?
If Hillary fails in Iowa, does she have the hardened support the next contest — in New Hampshire – to prevail in the face of an Iowa upset? Already, with her bad debate performance, Hillary has lost half of her lead in New Hampshire.
It is not so much that Hillary would falter after an Iowa defeat, but that Obama would surge after a victory. Suddenly, the potential of a black president, which has seemed to fade as Hillary’s lead continued to grow, will galvanize the nation and capture its imagination. Obama, attractive and compelling, will develop huge momentum from an Iowa win and probably will carry New Hampshire as well.
And What then?
Hillary’s national strength is such that she can’t be knocked out by one or two caucus or primary loses. To defeat her, a candidate must battle in all fifty states, taking her on delegate by delegate, winning in the big states. Symbolic defeats in Iowa or New Hampshire with only a handful of delegates at stake won’t derail Hillary. But they will make it harder.
But Obama does have the financial resources to fight a fifty state battle with Hillary, and, with his Internet based fund raising, has the ability to reload his coffers rapidly after a victory.
If Hillary loses Iowa and New Hampshire, the nominating contest could go either way. Obama’s chances at winning would rise, but only to 50-50. Suddenly, women would grow concerned about having the presidency snatched from their grasp and loyal Democrats would wonder if they can win a general election behind an African-American candidate. The Party establishment would not let go of Hillary easily and her IOUs from Democratic office holders and party officials – for whom she has raised boatloads of money – would hold many of her super-delegate votes in place.
But if Hillary loses in Iowa and then loses New Hampshire too it would become a contest.
REPUBLICANS: THE BATTLES WITHIN
On the Republican side of the fence, the Iowa battle is even more interesting. After leading for seven months, Romney suddenly has a problem on his hands. It’s not the problem he thought he’d have – Giuliani or Thompson. It’s Mike Huckabee. From nowhere, Huckabee is now hot on Romney’s tail. The average of the past five polls (always available on www.realclearpolitics.com) shows Romney at 28%, Huckabee at 20%, Giuliani languishing behind at 14%, Thompson crashing at 11%, and McCain at 7%.
So what happens if Rudy loses Iowa?
It depends on four questions:
|1. By how much does he lose?|
|2. To whom does he lose?|
|3. How does Hillary do in Iowa?|
|4. And how does he do vis-Ã -vis McCain?|
If Rudy is wiped out in Iowa, as the polls currently suggest, he is in for a long hard battle to get the nomination. His consistent lead in the national polls means that if he won in Iowa, he could end the contest right there (just as Hillary could).
But if Rudy is humiliated in Iowa, it opens the door to the argument that the base just won’t buy his social liberalism and may lead for many to hunt around for an alternative.
Which raises the second question: Who does he lose to? If he loses to Romney, it is a disaster. Romney has a built in advantage in the next two states on the calendar – New Hampshire and Michigan.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney was on Boston television virtually every night and 2/3 of New Hampshire voters watch Boston TV. New Hampshire television reaches only about 1/3 of the state. So New Hampshire is virtually Romney’s home state. The average of the last five polls has him ahead there by a lot. Its Romney 33%, Giuliani 18%, McCain 16%, Huckabee 7%, Thompson 5%.
And in Michigan, Mitt’s father George was the Governor (he ran for president against Nixon in 1968 but was wiped out when he said he was “brainwashed” in Vietnam). A Detroit News poll from earlier this month has Romney at 28%, Giuliani at 25%, Thompson at 13%, McCain at 12% and Huckabee at 9%.
Rudy could overcome Romney’s lead in both New Hampshire and Michigan, but not if Romney wins in Iowa. The momentum he would get from the first caucuses would be so huge that he would likely win both states.
And, in South Carolina, a conservative bastion, it would be wishful thinking to believe that Giuliani could come back if Romney built up a head of steam. Realclearpolitics.com has Romney and Rudy tied at 21 there.
So, if Romney wins Iowa, he’ll likely do a sweep, winning New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina. Then, the question will be whether Rudy can stage a comeback in Florida where he now enjoys a solid lead. It will be tough but it is possible.
But the silver lining for Rudy is that Huckabee, who has surged in Iowa, could beat Romney. Mike has gone from invisibility to second place through dogged, one-on-one campaigning in Iowa and now has enough money to do some paid television advertising.
Can Huckabee beat Romney in Iowa? Maybe yes. After all, most of Romney’s support is really fear of Rudy and his social liberalism. If you are going to vote for a social conservative, why not vote for the real thing rather than a recent convert?
If Huckabee beats Romney, it sets up a three way race in New Hampshire and Rudy’s chances may depend on the third question: How did Hillary do in Iowa?
If Hillary wins in Iowa, the Democratic race is functionally over. That will free independents to enter the Republican primary and will give Rudy or McCain a big boost.
But if Hillary loses in Iowa, you can bet that Independents will stay in the Democratic primary, turning the GOP contest in New Hampshire into a confrere of the party faithful who will support Romney or Huckabee.
Remember that in 2000, it was Independents entering the Republican primary that boosted McCain to victory over Bush. And note also that in the current polling, 80% of the independents are voting in the Democratic primary – to elect or defeat Hillary. But if she is not in play by New Hampshire, having won Iowa and the nomination, then they may enter the Republican primary and deliver it to Rudy.
If Rudy is the moderate at that point. And that leads to the fourth question: How will McCain do?
Rudy appeared to have knocked McCain out of the race when he entered the Republican contest in January of 2007. Before that, McCain was trailing Rudy only slightly, but when Giuliani entered the race, he immediately racked up a big lead over McCain. And when the immigration debate heated up, McCain paid a heavy price for his support of the Bush reform plan which conservatives attacked as amnesty.
But lately, McCain has been doing well. Nationally, he is sluggish. The realclearpolitics.com average has him at 13% in fourth place behind Rudy (28%), Thompson (15%), and Romney (13%). But in New Hampshire, McCain is hot on Rudy’s trail. Romney leads at 33% but Rudy is in second at 18% and McCain third at 16%.
It depends on Iowa. Right now, Rudy is at 14% in Iowa and McCain is down at 7%. But if McCain could come up – and he is working Iowa very hard – passing Rudy there, combined with a strong base in New Hampshire left over from his 2000 triumph there, could give McCain an edge over Giuliani reversing the pattern of the past year.
So….on the right, its either Romney or Huckabee. Our bet is that Huckabee wins in Iowa and sets up a tough three way fight in New Hampshire.
And…on the left, its Giuliani or McCain, more likely Rudy. But how damaged with Rudy be after Iowa. He better hope that either he does better or that Huckabee wins.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***
DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
Volume 1, #21
October 26, 2007
WHAT SHE’D DO: HILLARY’S HIDDEN AGENDA AND HOW MUCH MORE IT WILL COST YOU
When a major presidential candidate refuses to reveal the specifics of her campaign program, taking the position that she “won’t answer hypothetical questions,” how are we to gauge her candidacy and intentions?
There’s only one way: We must become detectives, reading her statements – particularly between the lines – to figure out her ideas and likely governing philosophy. And we also need to examine the agenda being formulated in Congress by the left wing of the Democratic Party to help us to fill in the blanks in assessing Hillary’s true intentions.
She’ll never tell us.
The headline to this article is intentionally conditional (“what she’d do”, not “what she’ll do”) because, despite her front runner status, she is, thankfully, not inevitable. But we can’t ignore her commanding lead in the Democratic Primary (Rasmussen has her at 46% with Obama at a puny 18% and Edwards out of sight at 11%) and her strong showing in general election matchups (she beats everybody but Giuliani).
So it is definitely appropriate to read the tea leaves and project what President Hillary would do if elected.
The answer is not pretty. If she is elected, as it looks like she will, there is a very good likelihood that she will bring with her a heavily Democratic Senate. With four Republican incumbents endangered (Coleman, Minn; Sununu, N.H.; Smith, Ore; and Collins, Me) and four open seats likely to go from Republican to Democrat (Virginia, N.M., Colorado, and, possibly Nebraska), she could have 58 Democrats at her beck and call, making a filibuster unlikely.
That highly Democratic Congress and President Hillary would likely combine to enact legislation so far reaching and ideologically polarizing as to be a rare turning point in American history. One has to think of Woodrow Wilson’s first two years, FDR’s first term, Lyndon Johnson’s first two years as president and, on the right, Reagan’s revolution to find anything comparable in scope and extent.
It’s a frightening thought.
Start with her tax policies.
Hillary makes no secret of her intention to roll back Bush’s tax cuts on the ‘wealthy.’
But her definition of ‘rich’ is sufficiently inclusive so as to encompass everyone with a family or household income over $200,000 a year. Clearly she would include the following in the tax cuts she will repeal (or allow to sunset):
- She’d raise the top bracket of the federal income tax, restoring it to 39.6% from its current 35% level.
- She’d increase the capital gains tax, restoring it to 20% – or maybe even go higher. My bet is that she will increase it to 30% or even eliminate special treatment for capital gains altogether, taxing gains as ordinary income (at 40%).
- Hillary will almost certainly roll back much- if not all- of the estate tax reductions of recent years, lowering dramatically the size of estates subject to the levy.
- She’d restore the tax on dividends to 30% from its current 15%.
But her agenda will doubtless go further. She will be much more radical in raising taxes than Bush was in cutting them.
SOCIAL SECURITY TAXES
One of her most important steps will probably be to raise Social Security (FICA) taxes. She won’t raise the rate since that would impact her liberal base. Instead, she’ll raise the threshold of income that subject to taxation, now limited to the first $97, 500 of income.
At a recent candidate forum in Iowa, Hillary played it cute. First, she told the audience that she had nothing ‘on the table’ about Social Security taxes. Then, after the meeting, she privately told Todd Bowman, a schoolteacher who was in the audience, that she would consider imposing FICA taxes on all those who earn more than $200,000. She told Bowman that she would probably keep the current threshold at $100,000, skip the next hundred thousand of income, and then tax all income over $200,000 for Social Security.
So, look forward to some big changes there.
(Of course, she will not remove the cap on benefits, just on taxes).
Her remaining tax increases will likely relate to ending the capital gains treatment of carried interest in partnerships. Managers of real estate, energy, or private equity partnerships pay capital gains taxes on their management fees or their share of the profits even though their payments have nothing to do with any capital they may have directly invested.
Hillary will dress up these tax increases (the biggest in history) as tax relief for the middle class! She’ll maintain this fiction by using the bogyman of two largely theoretical tax increases which might eventually confront middle class taxpayers.
EXTENDING THE BUSH MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUTS
First, she’ll take credit for renewing the Bush tax cuts in the middle and lower income tax brackets. Projected over ten years, this will come to a tidy sum of “tax relief” she will offer to the middle class. Since these cuts are slated to expire in the early years of the next president’s first term, their extension could be billed as a middle class tax cut.
THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX CUT
Second, she’ll change the nature and structure of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) so it does not affect the middle class as drastically as it will if left unchanged. This legislation, enacted more than a decade ago, was designed to subject all high income taxpayers to a minimum proportion of their income they had to pay in taxes regardless of which deductions or shelters they claimed on the tax forms.
But inflation and increased prosperity has now moved 23 million Americans into a position where the AMT would apply to them.
Hillary never mentions that it was her husband who vetoed the repeal of the AMT in 1999. No, it’s all the Bush Administration’s fault.
In recent years, Bush and the Congresses have chosen to adopt one year patches to postpone the effective date of the expansion of the AMT to the middle class. They did so because they didn’t want to have to account for the ten year projected revenue loss repealing or modifying the AMT would entail.
But it’s a game. Nobody expects the AMT to take full effect, ever. However, the amounts involved are so stupendous that Hillary can take credit for all of it, over ten years, as part of her “middle class tax cut.”
By cutting the two theoretical tax increases – renewing Bush’s middle income cuts and reforming the AMT – she can show the biggest net tax reduction in history at the same time that she is, in fact, legislating the largest net increase in history.
Having once been wounded and left for dead by her signature issue, she is very carefully deceiving us about what she would actually do as president in changing health care. She pretends that she would simply move to cover the 45-50 million uninsured and would leave everybody else’s health care insurance in tact.
But her pretensions are nonsense. If Hillary extends health coverage to 50 million Americans, she will drastically increase the demand for all manner of health and hospital care services. The fact that most of those who will be newly covered are illegal immigrants or other people living just below or just above the poverty level indicates an especially high rate of increase in demand for services. But the supply won’t go up. There will be no sudden increase in the number of doctors, nurses, or hospital beds.
With a constant supply and a rapidly increasing demand, prices for health care will skyrocket. But with 16% of our GDP currently going to health care, how much more can we afford? No other country has more than 11% of its economy devoted to the medical sector. The Administration will have to resort to price controls or limits on health care utilization to temper the increase in health costs.
That means one absolute change that she’s keeping quiet about: health care rationing by the government. Hillary will say that it is fairer to ration health care based on merit than on price as it is now done. But the fact remains that “no, you can’t” will be heard more and more by those seeking health care.
This impact will be especially great on the elderly, where life and death decisions must be made with a view to balancing costs with benefits. While every elderly person is already covered by Medicare, of course, the aggregate increase in demand caused by the inclusion of 50 million new people in the system will drive up costs for all and require rationing for all. And it is easiest to ration medical care to the elderly. Half of all Medicare spending is during the final year of the patient’s life. We will see a revisiting of the “duty to die” ideas of former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm.
The long term effects of Hillary’s health care reforms will fundamentally change the entire nature of our medical system. The utilization controls and cost limits will make the current private insurance system a cover and a front for increasing government regulation.
In the area of prescription drug costs, which account for 10% of all health care spending, we can anticipate major efforts to reign in costs, requiring generic drugs on all Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions, cut backs on pharmaceutical advertising, and limits on drug company reps who push their medicines on doctors.
The taxes Hillary will raise can always be repealed. But her health care changes are forever.
Hillary will likely follow the lead of Congressman George Miller, Chairman of the House Education Committee, in weakening the essential provisions of the
No Child Left Behind Act. Under its current provisions, schools and students are rated based on objective test scores. Miller’s proposals, which Hillary will probably adopt, call for using graduation rates as a substitute for testing in assessing student and school performance.
The difference is crucial. It means that subjective grading by the teachers themselves will be used to asses the success or failure of their teaching. A system designed to bring higher standards to schools will bend to accommodate mediocrity as a result of pressure from the teachers unions.
Hillary is co-sponsor of two key bills: The SOLVE Act and the DREAM Act. These two acronyms describe legislation which would give every illegal immigrant, and their children, legal status if they have lived in the United States for five years.
To earn this amnesty, they will not be required to learn English, have a job, stay arrest-free, pay taxes, or jump through any of the hoops set up by the Bush Administration. They would simply have to live in the U.S. for five years without getting caught.
These laws also guarantee in-state tuition for all children of illegal immigrants who have lived here for five years.
And, since the illegal immigrants would now get legal status, they would be eligible for another of Hillary’s campaign promises – free health insurance for all citizens and legal immigrant children.
So, here’s the deal: Come here illegally. Dodge the cops for five years. Then you can get legal status, a path to citizenship, health insurance for your kids and in state tuition at their local state university.
One of the most novel of Hillary’s ideas (and perhaps the most pernicious) will be the extension of government largesse to the middle class.
Hillary realizes, as Bill once told me, that any government entitlement for poor people can be easily repealed since they lack political power and practical voting strength. But middle class entitlements, once granted, last forever – see Social Security and Medicare and rent control in New York City.
So Hillary will pioneer entitlements and grants for middle class families, making them at once dependent on government aid, winning their political gratitude, and giving them a stake in benefit programs that also help the poor.
She will bring us much closer to the Swedish, French, and German model where everybody gets
a check from the government, regardless of their wealth or income, making it impossible to criticize the program.
Already she has floated three ideas along these lines:
- She proposed a $5,000 baby bond to each newborn in the U.S.. After public mockery, she backed off the idea, but it likely remains on her agenda.
- She suggested government grants to the states to fund seven paid days of sick leave for all employees, public or private.
- She favors extending the coverage of the Family and Medical Leave Act to all businesses of 25 or more employees, down from the current exclusion of all firms with 50 or fewer workers.
But these programs are but the tip of the iceberg. Her presidency would bring with it a major expansion of government benefits, particularly in those flowing to the middle class. The potential of such legislation is to transform us into more of a European style nanny state social democracy and less of a free enterprise country based on self-reliance.
Look for her to curtail the wiretapping without warrants by the NSA and to weaken the Patriot Act in important respects. Hillary will have to respond to the demands of the left to curtail programs like Guantanamo and aggressive interrogation techniques even though these steps would make us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
But don’t think Hillary would withdraw from Iraq! She won’t. If anything, she may increase our commitment there and extend it for many years.
As president, Hillary’s most pressing concern will be to show the world and her domestic audience that she is tough. Overcoming misconceptions of how a woman might govern, she will be at great pains to demonstrate her strength and firmness. These concerns, plus her own views on the Iraq situation, will keep us in Iraq for most of her first term.
Before Obama entered the Democratic primary and transformed a cakewalk into a potentially tough fight, Hillary was quite plain about her belief that our involvement in Iraq “entailed significant residual security commitments” that she felt bound to honor. Interviewed by the New York Times in March of this year, she suggested several of the missions she felt would have to continue under her presidency:
- Policing the border with Iran
- Hunting al Qaeda in the provinces
- Providing intelligence, logistical, air, and training support to the Iraqi Army as needed.
While she refuses to elaborate or to speculate on the size of the troop commitment which would be required, one can easily see her becoming committed to a policy of ongoing troop presence. And once we have troops in Iraq, we might have to send in more to protect the ones we have there.
It will be interesting to see how the Democratic liberal base takes to her Iraq policy. It is easy to see her becoming subject to the same kind of abuse and criticism as Lyndon Johnson was when he escalated our troop commitment to Vietnam after winning the 1964 election on a peace platform.
We hope it won’t happen. But if she does win, this outline will likely prove prescient – and depressing.
Hold on to your wallets!
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***