DICK MORRIS’ ‘08 PLAY-BY-PLAY
August 13, 2007
Volume 1, #17
FRED THOMPSON IN FREE FALL
He may become the only presidential candidate in history to lose before he ran. With no declaration of candidacy behind him or in the immediate future, Fred Thompson’s staff shakeups, nepotism, and indecision about running are already costing him the surge of support which initially powered him to parity with Giuliani in Scott Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking polls. While other pollsters always had the former Tennessee Senator in second place, at least ten points behind, Rasmussen has had Rudy and Fred neck and neck during the past month. But no more.
Now even Rasmussen agrees that Thompson is in bad shape. On August 7, 2007, Scott had the two GOP front runners in a dead even 25-25 tie. By August 8th, it was 24-23 Rudy. On August 9th, 26-21 Rudy and on August 10th, the most recent poll as of this writing, the race was: Giuliani: 28%, Thompson 19%. (Rasmussen’s polls are based on a moving three day average).
The main culprit, oddly, does not seem to be Fred himself but Jeri, his wife. Insisting on her skills as a political consultant (although those credentials remain obscure to many in the biz), she instigated the firing of Tom Collamore, her husband’s campaign manager. She was right. His baggage as former vice president of Altria (the soothing new name for Phillip Morris Tobacco) would have weighed heavily on the campaign. But she got her name in the newspapers in firing Tom, a no-no for a would be presidential spouse.
Almost every major newspaper in the country has carried highly negative stories about Mrs. Thompson and her heavy involvement in the ‘campaign.’ From taking attendance at the headquarters to making hiring, firing, and tactical decisions, Mrs. Thompson is clearly in charge. And the result has not been a good one. Stories about her old boy friends, old debts, and low-level jobs in politics are everywhere. What’s nowhere is a single story about Fred’s plans for the country.
After Collamore walked, Fred hired former Senator and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to replace him. That was also a no-go. Abraham has a long history of backing immigration and teaming up with Ted Kennedy to offer amnesty to Nicaraguan and other immigrants. His bona fides as a supporter of Israel and opponent of terrorism were also questioned by many bloggers.
Amid all this turmoil, the campaign managed to raise only $3.4 million by July 31st, more than enough for a Congressional race but a bit wanting when you have to run for president in a national primary a few months hence. They have only a little more than $2.5 million on hand. That’s not going to go far.
And then, finally, there is Fred’s diffidence. Is he or isn’t he running? This ambivalence isn’t playing well with the right wing social conservative base which wants a fire eater to go out there and slay first Rudy and then Hillary. An on-again, off-again candidate doesn’t suit their tastes.
If Fred ultimately runs, he’s going to have to explain his own lobbying background, where he represented the likes of Toyota and Equitas, an insurance company trying to minimize its payments to asbestos victims. He will also have to explain why he hired his son, Daniel Thompson at his Political Action Committee after he left the Senate and, to all appearances, left politics for good. He paid Daniel $170,000 over four years to do virtually nothing. The PAC had no office, no telephone and, other than Daniel, no staff.
Maybe Fred will skip the race entirely, paving the way for….NEWT!
HILLARY UP, HILLARY DOWN
In July, Hillary hit her groove by wrapping herself in Bill’s record. Glombing onto her husband, she schlepped him around Iowa and New Hampshire and injected him, big time, into her campaign.
The gambit worked. Her poll ratings rose from the mid and high 30s to the mid and high forties, peaking at 48% in some polls, an amazing number in a seven way race.
Her pseudo-experience seemed more real with Bill at her side and she was able to draw the implicit contrast with Obama’s lack of federal experience.
But then she tripped up at the bloggers’ on August 4th over the issue of her special interest campaign contributions. Only Hillary, among the top three candidates, is taking money from lobbyists and PACs and she paid dearly for it in the debate. Edwards challenged her directly saying that he would never have his photograph on the cover of Forbes Magazine as the choice of CEOs, an accolade Hillary won which is of dubious value in a Democratic primary. Obama asked if she would continue to take lobbyist money and she answered emphatically: “I will, I will” and reminded the audience that lobbyists are “real Americans” who represent “real people” like teachers and nurses.
But they also represent drug companies, banks, tobacco, foreign countries, and insurance firms less dear to Democratic voters.
To parry charges of special interest contamination, Hillary declared that she didn’t think anybody would believe that she would ever be influenced by a lobbyist. When Rasmussen posed that very question in his daily tracking poll the next day, only 27% of the voters agreed that she would not be influenced.
As a result, Hillary has slipped from 45% in Rasmussen’s August 4th poll to 38% on August 8th. She has since recovered to 40%.
But the news is that for the first time, her rivals were able to use an issue to score against the former First Lady. Maybe now they’ve gotten better at playing this game.
IOWA VS AMERICA
The national polls in the two party’s nomination races have been stuck for months with the same message: On the Democratic side, Clinton leads Obama convincingly and Edwards trails badly. On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani holds a smaller lead over Fred Thompson with Romney stuck at 10% of the vote and McCain fading badly.
(In fact, Hillary has extended her lead over Obama in the national polling going from a 39-26 margin in the four polls conducted in early July to 42-22 in the three polls later in the month).
But, in Iowa, the polls tell a decidedly different story. Here, the front runners for in their respective primaries are Mitt Romney for the Republicans and John Edwards for the Democrats.
So, the real question is: Which will prevail? Will Iowa force its views on the nation? Or will the numbers in Iowa come into conformity with the national trends?
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney, due to his early and aggressive paid advertising, has staked out a formidable lead, one which he has held for the past three months. The following table compares the GOP contenders in the combined polling in May/June vs. July.
|Iowa Republican Polling|
In New Hampshire, where Romney holds an edge because of his service as Massachusetts Governor, the story is much the same. (About 2/3 of New Hampshire is covered by Boston television):
|New Hampshire Republican Polling|
On the Democratic side, in the faux world of Iowa, it is John Edwards who holds small but stubborn lead over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. While Romney’s lead among Republicans is largely the product of his paid advertising, Edwards has run no ads in Iowa. His lead is an artifact of his 2004 campaign which led to a strong second place showing behind John Kerry and his obsessive efforts in the state ever since.
|Iowa Democratic Polling|
In New Hampshire, the results are more typical of the national race with Hillary in front, trailed by Obama and Edwards. But, here, Hillary has fallen back a bit in recent weeks while Obama has come on strong a showing which contrasts with Hillary’s increasing strength in the national polls. Once again, this difference in trends is likely due to Obama’s paid advertising in New Hampshire.
|New Hampshire Democratic Polling|
How Important is Iowa?
So how much does Iowa count in the scheme of things? It, of course, counts for everything. If Edwards or Romney were to win here, it would automatically put them on the map vis-à-vis their better known opponents. While Hillary could survive a loss in Iowa and/or New Hampshire and still make it to the next rounds, an Obama defeat in these early states might seriously impair his chances.
Does Advertising Work in Iowa?
But will Iowa remain as it is or will the national front runners gain when they begin paid advertising there?
The experience of the Romney campaign, where polling changed directly as a result of paid advertising, would suggest that ads work in the state. But the steadiness of the Democratic field and its lack of movement even after Obama’s advertising, suggests that perhaps it is more impervious to paid media.
The difference between the Democratic and Republican field may be explained by the difference in the degree to which their candidates are well known.
Hillary Clinton is, of course, very well known and has been the object of national focus for more than a decade. While Barack Obama is a new comer, he has gotten massive media exposure since he began his candidacy. Edwards, of course, has already run in the state and done quite well.
But the Republicans are less well known. Rudy Giuliani is still the former Mayor of distant New York, Fred Thompson is a character on a TV show, and Mitt Romney is largely a presence through paid advertising. McCain, who ran here before, has faded due to his support of the immigration bill.
Since the Democratic candidates are better known, paid media may be less effective in their contest.
Giuliani Should Advertise in Iowa
Even if the Republican field is susceptible to paid advertising, has Romney wrapped it up or can Giuliani or Thompson overcome his early lead?
Given his fund raising success, it is ridiculous that Giuliani has allowed Romney to build up such a lead. With the former Massachusetts governor likely to win in New Hampshire, Rudy’s campaign has been asleep at the switch in letting Romney stake out an early lead. The fact that Romney has held the lead for three months now suggests that it may be hard to overcome.
While Romney is nowhere in the national polls, if he can hang on in Iowa and win in New Hampshire, he could vault to front runner status.
Giuliani needs to get busy and start paid ads in Iowa lest he find himself fenced out at the start of the race. Obama’s difficulty in gaining much traction even though he has been running ads in Iowa should serve as a lesson to the Giuliani campaign.
POLLING: Who Do You Trust On the Issues?
Source: Gallup Poll
|The War in Iraq||75%||57%||49%||67%|
|The War in Iraq||52%||33%||31%||54%|
Here Comes Newt …if Thompson Continues to Stumble
Look for Newt Gingrich to get into the race! As the favorite of the pro-life social conservatives and a figure of unquestioned intellectual heft, Newt would run strongly in the GOP primaries. All along, he has kept his options open about running in the fall and now, with McCain fading and Thompson stumbling, the path may be open for a Gingrich candidacy.
Could Gingrich brush aside the other GOP contenders and make it a two way race between himself and Giuliani? Probably he can. Could he beat Giuliani? Probably he can’t.
HOW WILL IRAQ UNFOLD IN THE ELECTIONS?
People have been talking about the surprising Op Ed in the New York Times “A War We Just Might Win,” by Michele O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack.
by claiming some measure of success because of the troop surge in Iraq. With July as the least costly month for American troops in at least a year, there is some speculation that the news from Iraq may not be all bad.
Military experts tell us that the Pentagon is going to insist on drawing down the troop levels in Iraq starting around March of 2008 by a rate of about 5,000 soldiers per month. The withdrawals will not be motivated by any sense of failure in Iraq, but by their desire to keep tours of duty in Iraq limited to fifteen months and their reluctance to extend them to eighteen months or more.
With signs of success in Iraq and ongoing troop withdrawals during all of 2008, can Bush blur the differences between his program and that of the Democrats sufficiently to give the GOP a chance in 2008?
And Can We Capture bin Laden?
And then there is Pakistan. It has been obvious for some time that our alliance with Musharaaf is the main reason for our failure to capture bin Laden. Musharraf has had a truce with the warlords in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Osama is said to be hiding. But with the occupation of the Mosque in Pakistan’s capital by Muslim extremists and Musharaaf’s blood campaign to oust them, the truce is over. This could signal a willingness by the Paki leader to allow US forces to come into his nation to hunt for al Qaeda…a move that could lead to some spectacular captures, including, perhaps, the big one.
Barack Obama has seized on the issue of Pakistan and advocated invading the country, with or without Musharaaf’s permission, to go after al Qeada. His aggressiveness has been heightened by a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which concluded that we are not doing enough to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda in the border area.
If Bush manages to capture bin Laden and begin to pull out of Iraq, maybe Hillary Clinton might not move into the White House after all.
***Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***