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***