Dick Morris‘ ’08 Play-by-Play Analysis
Welcome to the second issue of our new feature: a weekly play- by- play analysis of the key moves in the presidential race during the preceding week. This issue will focus on the latest Gallup Poll and what it means for each of the major candidates.
We’ll be sending you several complementary issues. But, eventually, since these Sunday wrap-ups are not written for publication in any newspaper, we’ll have to charge $25 per year for a subscription. In the next few weeks, we’ll invite you to subscribe – after you’ve had a chance to see if you like it.
Of course, we’ll continue to send you all of our columns for free, but you might want to subscribe to the Play-by-Play to get the full scoop each week about the 2008 Presidential race.
So here goes:
Dick Morris’ ’08 Play-by-Play Analysis
VOL. 1, No. 2
March 11, 2007
By Dick Morris and Eileen Mc Gann
THE LATEST POLL NUMBERS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
THE REPUBLICANS: RUDY IS CURRENTLY THE UNCHALLENGED FRONT-RUNNER
Any lingering doubts that Rudy Giuliani’s surge last week was just a flash in the pan were resoundingly extinguished by the results of the latest polls. For the third month in a row, Rudy is in first place in the Republican match-up and the size of his lead is growing.
The most recent Gallup Poll, conducted between March 2-4th has Rudy continuing his steady and stable lead over McCain by 44-20.
Gallup has tracked Giuliani’s constant growth and Mc Cain’s continuous free-fall since the end of 2006.
On December 28, 2006, Rudy and Mc Cain were tied at 28%. In January, Mc Cain slipped one point- to 27% – and by February 11th, he had slipped another 3 points to 24%. Now, he’s at 20%. It’s been down, down, down.
Source: Gallup Poll, March2-4, http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=17785&pg=1
And the voters give Rudy very positive ratings: 65% of those polled believe that we would make a good president, citing his experience in dealing with terrorism, his handling of 911, as well as his strong leadership as Mayor of New York, and his standing up for what he believes in.
On the negative side, small numbers of voters believe that he is not qualified, or that he did not do a good job as Mayor of New York or that he is too loyal to Bush and the Republican Party.
But his positives overwhelm the negatives and he is the undisputed front runner.
WHY IS MCCAIN FALLING APART?
As we mentioned last week, he left his independence, originality, and courage someplace on the playing field in South Carolina’s 2000 Republican Primary. Subject to vicious attacks from the Christian right as Bush demolished his presidential ambitions, he lost his nerve. Now he is no longer the John McCain who lambasted the special interests, demanded campaign finance reform, crusaded against big tobacco, and called for tough corporate governance reforms. Instead he is an aspiring party regular devoid of new ideas and about as inspiring as chicken soup.
And the voters don’t like this new John Mc Cain. They definitely see the difference.
While many of those who say positive things about Mc Cain praise his experience in Congress and in the military, those who offer negatives about him make them quite specific and personal: they say outright that they don’t like him, they think that he is wishy-washy and often changes his mind and they cite his ‘bad temper.’
Given his plummeting numbers and the increasing personal animosity against him, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Mc Cain to make an effective comeback.
And no on else is even close to Rudy.
And now Rudy’s escalating lead has acquired the feel of a self-fulfilling prophesy. His lead over Hillary in swing states (51-40 in Pennsylvania and 47-42 in Florida) is also boosting his presidential prospects. Even conservatives are now becoming pragmatic Rudy fans.
He will be very, very hard to stop.
WILL THE FAMILY NEGATIVES HURT RUDY?
Anyone who runs for public office, especially for the presidency, has to suffer through a barrage of negative as their failures or shortcomings are paraded in full public view. That there will be negatives is a given. But sometimes they are of the sort that immediately destroys a candidate and makes it impossible to survive.
That does not seem to be the case with the recent criticisms of Rudy about his multiple divorces and lapsed relationships with his children. No matter how long or how hard the media beats up Rudy Giuliani on this score it’s unlikely that he will seriously slip or falter.
Nobody judges a presidential candidate based on how he gets along with his teenage son. (especially one raised by a bitter mother who likely has a confidentiality agreement in her divorce agreement and cannot criticize Rudy herself).
In fact, the Gallup Poll showed that only 2% of the respondents raised marriage and family issues as a concern about Rudy. So right now, he’s definitely overcoming the negative stories.
And if divorce becomes a defining issue in American elections, most politicians will be sunk.
Anyway, can you imagine Hillary Clinton-or even her surrogates — attacking Rudy Giuliani for not having a less than perfect marriage? That’s not going to happen.
Perhaps Giuliani may be vulnerable on other accounts, but his personal life won’t bring him down. If a candidate has to be hit with something, let it be a sin for which the voters have vast stores of forgiveness – and there current attacks against Rudy fall into that less fatal category.
WHAT ABOUT NEWT?
Newt has hovered around the 9% range in the polls for the past three months. He’s not a declared candidate, but he does have an existing base to turn to, so he can’t be counted out.
One big question: Why did Newt Gingrich suddenly confess to having had an affair during the Clinton impeachment days? Probably because some of the private detectives the Clinton campaign keeps around were hot on his heels. No potential candidate makes a voluntary admission like that unless forced to do so. And it’s a good bet that the same folks who outed Republican leaders like almost Speaker Bob Livingstone and Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde were on Newt’s case.
Any doubt who they were?
Will Newt run? The Christian right, desperate for a candidate, hopes so. But Gingrich’s recent praise for Giuliani and the scars his personal confession has obviously left would seem to indicate that he’s going to stay out of the race.
By saying that he won’t make a decision until the fall of 2007, Newt is effectively announcing that he won’t run. Hillary, too, had hoped to avoid an announcement until later in the year, but the pace of the process -particularly the enthusiasm aroused by Obama’s entry – forced her to move up her plans. The fact that Newt hasn’t done likewise probably means that he’s not going to run. After all, he’s a pretty bright guy!
SO WHO DOES THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT HAVE?
Nobody. McCain was never their candidate and he’s fading anyway. Newt won’t run. And Romney has failed to excite anyone.
After busing in supporters and working all out at the convention, the former Massachusetts governor managed to get 21% of the vote in the NCPAC Convention (National Conservative Political Action Committee) straw poll. But Giuliani, who did almost nothing to win, finished on his heels with 17%.
The plain fact is that Romney’s initial pro-life position, followed by his conversion to choice when he ran in Massachusetts, followed again by his flip back to pro-life when running for president has left potential supporters at least dizzy and at most disgusted.
Unfortunately, anti-Mormon prejudice also seems to be rearing its ugly head and standing in Romney’s way. Until he can break into the teens in the national polling, there is no reason to take him seriously.
But eventually, a right wing challenger to Rudy has to appear. Politics abhors a vacuum. It might be Mike Huckabee, the creative and articulate former Governor of Arkansas (and our former client) or Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas who finished impressively in the NCPAC poll winning 15% of the vote or anti-immigration Congressman Tom Tancredo. But whoever it is, the right wing hope can only emerge from the shadows once McCain, Newt, and Romney have moved aside. Most likely the stars won’t align this way until the summer, by which time it will probably be too late to mount an effective campaign.
AND FRED THOMPSON?
Former U.S. Senator and featured Law and Order District Attorney Fred Thompson told Chris Wallace that he is seriously considering whether to make a run for President.
While Thompson is a attractive and widely known because of his TV appearances, it will be almost impossible for him to move up into the first tier of candidates alongside Rudy, McCain and Newt. He doesn’t have a natural constituency and would have strong competition for campaign money.
It’s OK for an actor to move into politics as Reagan did. But it is trivializing for a politician to become an actor. Anyway, Reagan spent years burnishing his credentials so he would not just be seen as a movie actor. Thompson has one term in the Senate in which he was far from distinguished to commend him.
THE DEMOCRATS: HILLARY SINKING; OBAMA SURGING
Hillary’s flip flop on a deadline for troop withdrawal comes amid her continuing fall and Obama’s ongoing surge.
Hillary has been steadily losing ground to Obama since her announcement in January, especially among Afro-American voters. The Gallup Poll of March 2-4th shows her losing 5 points to Obama since February 11th. That’s significant.
Before either candidate announced their intention to run, Hillary held a slender eleven point lead over Obama (29-18 in the Gallup poll of January 14th). But after Hillary’s announcement, she jumped out to a nineteen point advantage (40-21 in the Gallup survey of February 11th). But, in the most recent survey – March 4th, her advantage has dwindled to fourteen points (36-22).
The Gallup Poll indicates that, like Mc Cain, Hillary’s negatives are more personal than her opponents’. While some disagree with her on specific issues, most object to her because they find her dishonest, associated with scandals and with Bill Clinton, power hungry. A lot simply don’t like her. Those kind of negatives are very difficult to overcome.
On the positive side, many see her as highly experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent, and right on the issues. And her gender is important. Many cite the fact that she would be the first woman president as a big advantage.
But, according to the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll at the end of February, 48% of the voters have a negative opinion of her while 49% have a positive one. And the number of people who strongly dislike her has risen from 25% to 35%.
In contrast, Rudy receives positive ratings from 64% and has negatives of only 28%.
Sounds like Hillary isn’t wearing too well.
But these polls all predate Obama’s stirring remarks and Hillary’s blatant pandering in Selma, Alabama, where the Clintons and Obama helped to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the civil rights march. Obama used the occasion to condemn what he called the anti-intellectualism of the African-American community where “if you conjugate a verb” you are seen as too “white.”
Hillary, poorly imitating a southern drawl, tried to horn in on the event by claiming that the march not only enabled Obama’s candidacy, but her own as well. That’s not all – this week-end, she claimed to be like JFK, when he ran as the first Catholic.
When new polls come out, reflecting the impact of their different performances in Selma, Obama will likely close the gap even further.
In any case, the past three weeks have all been about Obama. He draws huge and adoring crowds while Hillary turns off voters with her scripted and rigid performances and her clumsy efforts to appeal to different audiences. As voters get to know Obama more, his charisma shines through while Hillary’s artificiality becomes more obvious the better she is known.
IT COMES DOWN TO HILLARY AS THE EXPERIENCED ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATE VS. OBAMA AS THE CHARASMATIC NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Voters overwhelmingly view Obama as a fresh and charismatic new face with new ideas. They also find him to be honest and admire his integrity. And Obama understands that – he constantly tells his audience that “its time to turn a new page,” a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the Clinton dynasty.
Hillary runs on her name, her ability to raise money from the Democratic establishment, and her experience as First Lady and Senator.
Now that Hillary has flip-flopped on the Iraq War, there is not much difference between them on the issues.
So, it will come down to personality and whether the voters want another political dynasty and the order of succession to be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.
And Hillary’s “experience” is suspect. As we discussed in our last two columns, it is totally derivative of Bill’s and has a Walter Mitty – I was there all along – quality to it. A thorough search of Bill’s memoirs finds scant reference to Hillary’s “experience” other than perfunctory mentions of her as traveling with him or defenses of her conduct amid the White House scandals. The examination of a campaign may find her “experience” to be bogus.
HILLARY FLIPS AND FLOPS ON THE WAR
Hillary Clinton has finally said the words that she needed to say to the Democratic left to bolster her faltering campaign for the White House: That she will support Congressional action to require an end to the war in Iraq.
The House resolution Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing sets a March, 2008 date for full withdrawal. Pelosi calls it a deadline. Hillary says it’s a goal. But whatever you call it, voting for the bill will give Hillary the cover she needs to appease the left within her own party.
Of course she knows, as Pelosi knows, that the bill – technically an amendment to the spending request for the war – won’t pass. The Republicans, possibly with the addition of Senator Joseph Lieberman, will have enough votes to kill it or at least to filibuster it to death. And if, by some chance, it should sneak through, the president will, of course, use his veto.
Democrats speak bravely of insisting on the amendment before they will approve the $100 billion funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But everybody knows that it is a bluff. The party could not begin to command majorities behind any legislation that would actually cut off money to troops now in the field. If Bush and the GOP won’t accept the March deadline – and they won’t – the spending bill will obviously pass without it.
So, for Hillary, it is a free pass to back the amendment knowing that it cannot possibly be enacted and that she will never have to face the voters after having stripped our troops of their funding. But she can posture all she wants for having supported the deadline by voting for the Pelosi amendment.
AND AL GORE????
Despite his sendoff by the Oscar voters, Al Gore is not likely to run for president in 2008. He has discovered life after death – following his defeat, he now has become a global statesman and a wealthy filmmaker. At last, this man, always oppressed by having to live up to his father’s image, can excel on his own in a separate arena. He’s not about to climb back onto the playing field that has given him such angst and frustration.
Anyway, Obama has made off with most of his money people and many of his voters. Even in the afterglow of the Oscars, he was running third in the Gallup polls. The Illinois Senator has sucked the oxygen from the room, leaving Gore precious little to breathe should he decide to run.
JOHN EDWARDS IS STUCK
John Edwards has slipped from 13% of the Democratic primary vote in January and February to 9% in the latest Gallup Poll.
He’s obviously not going anywhere.
He’s gotten a lot of attention for starting the anti-Fox News movement in Nevada that culminated in a withdrawal of the invitation for FoxNews to host the April debate with the Democratic candidates. But that won’t be enough to move him up past Obama or Hillary.
THE STATE OF PLAY: RUDY SOLIDIFIES FRONT RUNNER STATUS WHILE HILLARY FALTERS IN THE FACE OF OBAMA SURGE
Copyright Dick Morris and Eileen Mc Gann 2007.
Reprints with permission only.