DICK MORRIS ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY ANALYSIS
Volume 1, #15
July 9, 2007
HOW BILL WILL PLAY IN 2008
Former president Bill Clinton is emerging as a key symbol for both sides in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. For Hillary and her supporters, he symbolizes her White House experience, a key arrow in her quiver as she faces Senator Barack Obama and tries to paint him as an ingénue who is not up to the daunting task of the presidency.
In a Newsweek poll of July 2-3, 2007, the experience gap is clearly evident: While 70% say that Hillary has enough experience to be president, only 40% feel Obama does.
But Bill has become a symbol for Obama’s supporters as well – a representative of the past and emblematic of the need for new faces and perspectives. So serious has the double edged sword become that Hillary, after campaigning with Bill all July 4th weekend, had to take pains to publicly explain that she did not want to go back to the 1990s but rather to build on its more positive aspects as she moved ahead into the future.
In this Democratic primary, all candidates must observe the dictum that they may not criticize their fellow Democrat or suffer massive retribution from party-loyal Democrats. So each candidate must attack the other in code. Hillary uses the code of her own ‘experience’ to indirectly attack Obama’s lack of a long tenure in office. At the same time, Obama cites the need for change to indirectly attack Hillary’s ties to the ancien regime of her husband.
Gallup polling showed the extent to which Bill looms large over Hillary as both a key positive and a key negative negative factor. In its June polling, Gallup asked voters to describe, in their own words and without prompting, what they felt would be the most positive and the most negative aspect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Among the positive responses were:
She would be first female president 20%
Healthcare reform 10
End Iraq War 9
Her experience 7
Capable, competent 7
Bill would be able to advise her 6
Change from Bush 5
Democratic issue agenda 4
Good for common people 4
Not only do 6% directly cite the fact that “Bill would be able to advise her” but 7% praise her “experience” – an attribute directly related to Bill’s presidency – and 7% allude to her competence, also an accolade that traces back to the White House years.
Among the negative attributes, Bill’s presence is even more extensive:
Liberal, socialist 10
Bill Clinton would be back 10
Not qualified, would not succeed 9
Don’t like her 7
Clinton scandals/ baggage 7
Country not ready for woman 6
Her views on Iraq 6
Dishonest, liar 5
Can’t deal with foreign policy 4
Health care, socialized medicine 3
Hillary’s dilemma is that Bill Clinton is part of both the problem and the solution.
His role in the problem is evident from such responses as “Bill Clinton would be back”, cited by 10% as the key negative and “Clinton scandals and baggage” cited by 7%.
But he is also the solution for such criticisms as “not qualified” cited by 9% and “can’t deal with foreign policy” mentioned by 4%.
(In open ended questions like these, even though a relatively small percentage of voters may mention an issue, it is quite statistically significant and usually indicates that larger parts of the electorate would agree if directly asked if the description is true).
Hillary pounds away at the ‘experience’ theme at every opportunity and makes sure those who endorse her do so by praising her experience in order to hammer the point home:
· The candidate herself said “I believe my experience and qualifications equips me to hit the ground running in 2009 to begin the process of renewing our own nation…”
· Fed his talking points, California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez echoed her words in endorsing Hillary: “The day she gets elected president, she’s going to be able to hit the ground running, Day 1.”
· Clinton surrogate Dana Singiser, had the same words put into her mouth: “she will be ready to hit the ground running January 20, 2009.”
· So did campaign strategist Howard Wolfson who said “People want somebody who can step in on day one and make big decisions and start from strength. And that’s her.”
· And Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) as well: “I firmly believe that Senator Clinton has the experience, strength, and vision to lead our country form her very first day as president.”
· State Senator Roger Steward of Preston, Iowa came up with the same language saying “Senator Clinton is ready to hit the ground running on her first day in the Oval Office.”
· As did the president of the New Hampshire Senate Sylvia Larsen who said could “hit the ground running.”
· And Billy Jean King, the former tennis star who knows a thing or two about hitting the ground running also chipped in: “Hillary can hit the ground running; she’s already lived there for eight years! I mean, c’mon!”
· Illinois State Representative Jack Franks came up with the same words – quelle coincidence – “we need someone who is ready to hit the ground running on day one, and that leader is Senator Clinton.”
Do you think that somewhere that phase “hit the ground running” was tested in a poll and focus group and worked?
And what does ‘hit the ground running’ mean? That she knows where the light switches or remembers how to summon the White House ushers? Because she wasn’t president and she wasn’t heavily involved in any White House policy-making, except for her disastrous health care debacle.
Hillary’s ‘experience’ isn’t really experience at all – it’s entirely derivative of Bill’s. Her Senate tenure has been unremarkable except that she used the time to write and promote a massive national best seller Living History for which she made $8 million – and to raise a record amount of money for herself and for other Democrats. Her Senate record, as such, amounts to nothing. The only legislation she has managed to pass has been largely symbolic laws, renaming post offices and declaring national days of remembrance. Apart from that, her only successes have been legislation on nurse recruitment, dedicating a national park in Puerto Rico, and improving respite aid for Alzheimer caregivers. Beyond that, her only accomplishment was to co-sponsor the 9-11 relief bills with the entire New York State delegation.
So Hillary has to reach deep into Bill’s record to bring out the experience that is emerging as her most important campaign theme.
But as she does so, she opens herself up to vulnerability over the flaws in his record. This problem was evident last week when she was forced to answer questions about the pardons of Mark Rich, drug dealer Carlos Vignali, the FALN terrorists, and the clients of her brothers after she and Bill stupidly criticized Bush over the Libby pardons.
Obama can score well with his change-oriented counter attack. Lagging in the polls, he needs to play ju-jitsu and use the enemy’s power against her. By talking about change and criticizing the politics of the past, he can turn her repeated invocations of Bill against her and tie her to the Clinton/Bush politics of the past.
RUDY RUNS WELL AMONG GOP CONSERVATIVES
The conventional wisdom is that Rudy Giuliani is engineering a takeover of the Republican Party with the support of Independents, moderates, and downright liberals. But the fact is that conservatives form the basis of the Giuliani support in the party.
While 57% of the Republican Party’s supporters describe themselves as “conservative,” so do 52% of Giuliani’s voters within the party, according to the June Gallup polling.
On social issues, while 63% of Republicans say they are “very conservative” or “conservative,” 55% of Rudy’s primary voters fall into those categories.
On economic issues, there is a virtual identity between Republicans as a whole and Rudy backers. While 66% of Republicans say they are “very conservative” or “conservative”, 61% of Rudy’s voters say they fall into these categories.
Even on abortion, Rudy Giuliani is doing very well among pro-lifers. While 61% of Republicans say they are pro-life, 51% of Rudy’s voters agree with them. Giuliani’s voters break 51-44 pro life vs pro choice as opposed to a 61-33 division among all Republicans.
Is it that Republicans don’t know about Rudy’s social positions or don’t care? Our bet is that they know and care but their focus on the terror issue overcomes their interest in social policies and leads them to back Giuliani.
LONDON TERROR THREAT HELPS RUDY
Suffering the effects of a Fred Thompson surge as the former Tennessee Senator summons the gumption to finally announce his candidacy, Rudy Giuliani can expect a lift from the London and Glasgow terror plots which British police managed to abort last week. As the threat of terror looms larger and its danger for the United States becomes ever more apparent, Rudy’s lead on the issue will probably give his candidacy a much needed boost.
In any case, Giuliani appears to be still doing fine among Republicans. An average of the last six polls, all conducted since June 14th, shows Rudy in first place at 26% followed by Thompson at 19%, McCain at 17%, and benighted Mitt Romney stuck at 10%. Tremors went through the political community last week when Rasmussen had Thompson three points ahead of Rudy, but the Fox News poll, conducted over the same period had Giuliani nursing a 14 point lead and the CNN survey, also over the same dates, had him ahead by 11 points.
The Republican race, like the Democratic contest, has shown remarkable stability since the beginning of the year. The only new development, of course has been McCain’s fading strength.
IMMIGRATION BILL KILLS MCCAIN….
John McCain’s candidacy is slip sliding away. Four of the past six national polls have shown him behind Fred Thompson in the trial heat among Republican Primary voters and one showed him in fourth place behind Romney. His fund raising has crashed and he has only $2 million on hand – pocket change in the presidential race.
The two nails in his coffin have been the immigration bill and the emergence of Fred Thompson as a conservative alternative to Giuliani.
McCain’s support of the immigration bill smacked of insider Washington politics and turned off the Republican base massively. His defense of the bill in Republican debates was lame and essentially boiled down to: “I had to compromise to get anything passed so butt out and stop criticizing me.” The fact that the bill paired him ostentatiously with Ted Kennedy as the two prime sponsors did him no good in the Republican primary.
Since a lot of McCain’s support came from social conservatives who gritted their teeth at his liberal positions but backed him anyway as the only pro-life alternative to Giuliani, Thompson’s entrance into the campaign will derail McCain’s campaign even more. Now pro-lifers won’t have to choose between the generally liberal McCain and the flip-flopping Romney but can back Fred Thompson who as always been reliably pro-life and conservative on virtually any other issue, as well.
Will McCain pull out? Probably not until he gets massacred in Iowa, but stick a fork in him. He’s done.
…..AND HURTS THE GOP AMONG HISPANICS
The cost of the defeat of the immigration bill by Republican stalwarts is evident in the recent Gallup polling which shows Hillary Clinton defeating Rudy Giuliani among Hispanic voters by 65-33. This 2:1 Democratic margin contrasts sharply with the relatively even split among Latinos in the 2004 election, when Kerry edged out Bush by only ten points.
Ever since 2004, the Latino vote has been tending Democrat, driven by Hispanic anger at Republican opposition to the proposals for immigration reform. Unless the Republicans can mend their image in the Hispanic community, it threatens to tip to Democratic candidates just as the black vote did in the 1960s after decades of tending toward the Republican Party.
While Gallup only measured Giuliani’s performance, other Republican candidates would likely not even do as well as the former New York City mayor, who was always relatively popular among New York’s large Latino population.
The Latino vote will be critical in the future as their numbers grow, of course, but it is quite important in the 2008 election. Eighty percent of all Hispanic voters live in five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. With Florida in play as the penultimate swing state and Texas a vital cog in the GOP electoral majority, their impact will be felt even in the next election.
…..AND WHAT ABOUT BLOOMBERG????
Will New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his billion dollar checkbook get into the race as an Independent? He certainly seems to be making noises which would indicate that he might.
Our bet is that if the Democrats nominate Hillary (as we think they will) and the Republicans go for Thompson (we still bet on Rudy) that Mike Bloomberg may have a very large opening for his candidacy. Legions of Democrats and Independents will find Hillary too liberal and Clintonesque for their tastes and Thompson too conservative and Bushesque for theirs’. Bloomberg, running as a social liberal and an economic conservative who is tough on crime and has a proven record of stopping terror attacks in the Big Apple, would have a terrific chance not only to run, but even to win.
Bloomberg can boast of a the 28% reduction in crime since he took over and cite his success in thwarting terror attacks on the Brooklyn Bridge, the NY Stock Exchange, the Lincoln Tunnel, the PATH commuter trains, and JFK airport.
If Rudy is the GOP nominee, the opening is less self-evident. While ambition may have closed its icy grip on Bloomberg by the time Rudy is nominated and he may run anyway, it is hard to see how he can differentiate his record from Rudy’s. His strengths are all derivative of Rudy and his appeal – social liberalism alongside a law and order conservatism too closely duplicate Rudy’s positioning to give him running room.
In any case, an Independent can only develop his candidacy in reaction to the nominees of the two major parties. He must allow them to be nominated and wait for an adverse public reaction – a plague on both your houses – to set in. Only then can he begin his candidacy. But the early super-primary of February 5th at which the Democratic and Republican candidates will be chosen and the massive checkbook Bloomberg brings to the race both make it quite feasible for him to wait until the nominations are settled before beginning his candidacy. He’s got enough time.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***