DICK MORRIS’ ’08 Play-by-Play Analysis
Vol. 1, #4
March 28, 2007
THE THOMPSON THREAT
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson poses a direct threat to Rudy Giuliani’s substantial lead in the Republican presidential primary. If he gets in…it’s bad news for Rudy.
The Gallup Poll of March 23-25 shows surprising Republican support for Thompson. As an undeclared candidate, he is getting 12 points in a GOP match. And, almost all of his vote share is coming from either Giuliani and Romney. McCain and Gingrich are not affected at all!
Three weeks ago, Rudy was at 44% in the same poll – without Thompson. But now, with Thompson added, Rudy drops to 31%, and Romney goes from 8% to 3%.
Republican Presidential Preferences:
With and Without Thompson
With Fred (March 4) Without Fred (March 25)
Giuliani 44% 31%
McCain 20 22
Thompson — 12
Gingrich 9 8
Romney 8 3
Source: Gallup poll
So…if Fred Thompson decides to make the race, Mitt Romney might as well go home – since Fred eats his lunch and knocks him down to 3% of the vote. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Mitt to go home anyway). And, if Thompson runs, Giuliani will have to battle for his lead.
Why is Thompson so lethal to Rudy? Forget the left/right division; its not really applicable. What matters is media/nonmedia or charisma/noncharisma. Rudy and Fred are both television candidates. 9-11 vs Law and Order. America’s Mayor faces America’s prosecutor. Both have been intimately involved with the voters.
The fact that Rudy wasn’t acting while Fred was is lost on a Republican Party that, after all, backed Ronald Reagan and made him one of the most successful chief executives in history.
If Thompson gets in, he will become an immediate contender in a way that Romney was never able to be. He will make the GOP race a three sided affair and bring the Rudy boomlet down to earth.
BUT RUDY IS STILL WINNING AMONG CONSERVATIVES
The most recent Gallup polling still reflects broad support for Rudy. Not only is he leading among moderate Republicans, but he has a strong lead among conservatives as well. These data belie the contention of some commentators who say that when voters learn that Giuliani is pro-life, pro-gun control, and pro-gay civil unions that they will turn off his candidacy in droves. Despite extensive publicity of Rudy’s positions on these issues, he is holding a big lead among conservatives.
Giuliani leads McCain among self-described moderate Republicans by 48-26, but also leads among conservative GOP voters by 38-20, both very significant margins:
Republican Vote By Ideology
Giuliani 48% 38%
McCain 26% 20%
Romney 3% 8%
Gingrich 2% 14%
Source: Gallup poll
Why the lead for Rudy among conservatives? Terrorism is the key conservative issue these days and, on that, he measures up to right wing expectations just fine. Even though Giuliani disappoints many on the right with his social positions, his toughness in dealing with terrorists attracts broad admiration.
Rudy is also increasingly seen as the most likely Republican to defeat Hillary Clinton. All the matchups featured in news media showing him ahead in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania also bolster his standing on the right.
Giuliani’s strong showing among conservatives could, as mentioned above, be seriously challenged by Fred Thompson, based on his true-blue conservative credentials.
‘ABH’ GAINS (ANYBODY BUT HILLARY)
Gore is up (a lot).
Edwards is up (a lot).
Obama is up (a little)….and Hillary is down.(a little)
That’s the message of the latest Gallup poll concluded over the weekend.
Since February, Hillary Clinton’s favorability has dropped from 82% to 80% to 74% while Edwards’ rose by ten points, driven by his classy performance in the face of Elizabeth’s illness. At the same time, Gores jumped by twelve points, propelled by his Oscar and anti-global warming campaign. Obama stayed fairly constant.
Here’s what’s happening:
Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Favorability
Feb 11 March 4 March 25
Clinton 82% 80% 74%
Obama 64 68 65
Gore 72 78 84
Edwards 61 63 71
In addition, Hillary’s lead over Obama has fallen since February from 48-23 to 35-22. Gore gets 17% and Edwards is at 14%.
Preference For Democratic Nomination
Feb 11 March 4 March 25
Clinton 40% 36% 35%
Obama 21 22 22
Gore 14 18 17
Edwards 13 9 14
Hillary had 40% of the vote in February, and she’s slowly but steadily declined since then. While Hillary’s vote share only dropped by a point during March, her simultaneous eight point drop in favorability indicates that more bad news may be on the way for her. She’s not wearing well and she seems to have difficulty moving up and out of her loyal base.
HILLARY V. OBAMA:
DEMOGRAPHICS vs. PERSONALITY
There is a major distinction in the basis for voter support for Hillary vs. Obama.
Hillary Clinton draws voters based on who they are.
Obama draws voters based on who he is.
That’s a big difference!
Hillary has a distinct demographic base while Obama has a more traditional political one.
The former first lady’s vote is anchored in her amazingly strong base of support among younger women, while Obama’s support is rooted in his image among all voters. Both as a blessing and a curse, this phenomenon makes Hillary’s vote far more stable -unlikely to go up or down – than Obama’s.
Young women love Hillary and provide huge support for her. The extent of her dependence on this gender gap was illustrated graphically when Gallup combined its samples for January, February, and March to give it a sufficient number of respondents so as to make distinctions based on age and gender statistically significant.
The results are startling. Hillary draws about as many men as women over the age of fifty. But among younger voters, Hillary is the choice of 43% of women who are under fifty, but of only 27% of the men in the same age group.
HILLARY’S AGE AND GENDER GAP
Percent voting for Hillary
Under 50 27% 43%
Over 50 34% 35%
Source: Gallup poll
Unfortunately, Gallup did not analyze Hillary’s vote based on the marital status of the respondents. Had they done so, they likely would have found an even greater disparity between married and single women than it found between younger and older female voters. Most surveys show no difference between married men and single men in their voting habits.
But the point remains: Hillary’s vote is very dependent on demographics, while Obama’s is based on himself.
Whether that will ultimately help or hurt her remains to be seen.
We’ll be watching to see how that plays out.
HARRIS POLL: 50% WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR HILLARY
A Harris poll conducted between March 6-14, 2007 found more bad news for Hillary: Half of all of the adult respondents said that they would NEVER vote for her. Not only that, but 21% of the Democrats felt the same way.
More important – 48% of the Independents also said that they would never vote for her.
HILLARY FLIP-FLOPS AGAIN ON IRAQ
When she returned from Iraq this winter, she said that she was not going to vote for a cutoff of funding for the war….
….but now she’s voted for the Senate version of the House bill to cut off funding for the war if troops are not out by March 08.
She said, at the same time, that she opposed a deadline for withdrawal….
…But the bill proposes just such a deadline.
She said, last week in a NY Times interview, that she would keep troops in Iraq for intelligence, training, and logistical support, air support, interdiction of Iranian infiltration, and pursuit of al Qaeda….
…But the bill just specifies intelligence, training, and air support, not the other missions.
Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
DEFENDING HILLARY, BILL TRIPS OVER HIS OWN EGO
Bill Clinton has changed in the years since he ran for president — and the new Bill is not as suited to the task of helping Hillary get elected as the old Bill Would Have been.
The old Bill Clinton was nearly totally devoid of ego. He was far too insecure about his political prospects to indulge in an orgy of self-congratulation. For all those people who surround themselves with tokens of their dignity – framed photos on their walls posing with the great and famous, mementos of their achievements, plaques showing the appreciation of others- here was the president of the United States with unadorned walls and an undersized ego to match. The key to his affections was always to offer legitimate criticism. Those who gave him only sycophancy found themselves quickly out the door. Only people who would help him by making him a better candidate would get a second meeting.
When the old Bill Clinton felt threatened by an opponent or hounded by a prosecutor, he would bewail his fate to all who would listen, beseeching their help and demanding their attention. Often his out-loud laments would trigger action and sometimes lead to solutions. But this display of self-pity was always private, never in public. He was too disciplined and kept his ego enough in control that he would keep his public disposition sunny and positive even as he haunted his staff behind closed.
Even his legendary temper was always concealed from public view. In private with his staff, he would frequently fly into rages that were so varied that Stephanopoulos categorized them (“the silent scream,” “the morning roar,” the “slow boil,” “the nightcap,” “the show,” and “the last gap”) But the extent and violence of his red faced tantrums were so concealed from the public and the media that few believed he was capable of such a temper during his presidential years.
But now his self-pity and temper are often on full public view. His ego has grown to the point where he bounces off the walls when he is attacked.
Bill’s self-pity shone through in his recent public lament that the media was being “unfair” to his wife by criticizing her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war and by contrasting that pro-war vote with Obama”s declared opposition to the war then and now. Only a Clinton-esque reading of the war resolution could conclude that it merely authorized, as Hillary and now claims aggressive UN inspection. And only a Clinton-esque editing of Obama”s remarks could lead to the conclusion that he was not always against the war.
But Bill has never let this moaning, self-pitying side of himself be seen in public before. Now that he has performed in public the whining and wailing to which he so frequently gives vent in private, the view is unattractive at best and ineffective at worst.
The Clinton temper has likewise begun to make its way into public view. The former president’s interview with Mike Wallace and, before that, with Britain’s David Frost, showed his red-faced, finger-waging tirades to the entire world. Defending his record on terror to Wallace and attacking Kenneth Starr to Frost, Bill’s public benign and sunny face clouded over and the storm was not pleasant to watch.
But more than self-pity and anger, it is Bill’s ego that could be destructive to Hillary’s campaign. He no longer welcomes criticism, or even tolerates it. When anyone impugns his integrity or record, he demands that his minions or Hillary’s campaign staff spring to his defense. It was likely such an instinct that impelled Sandy Berger’s ridiculous attempt to ferret documents out of the archives lest they tell the truth about Bill Clinton’s failure to get Osama bin Laden or even to take him seriously until it was too late. And it was clearly his pique at the attacks on his pardons by David Geffen that led to the Clinton campaign’s decision to criticize Obama in public for the Hollywood mogul’s attack.
In his own campaigns, Clinton was always induced to keep his cool in public. His need to get elected kept his ego in check and aides were always around to keep the cork in his temper. But now either his staff has gotten less bold or he has gotten more so, but the equation no longer keeps him contained. His demands for public retribution against those who dare to criticize him is both unbecoming and dangerous for Hillary’s campaign.
No longer a candidate himself and puffed up by seven years of flattery, the new royal Clinton is so sensitive to criticism and so unrestrained in his reaction to it that he will make life increasingly difficult for Hillary and her handlers.
IRAQ AND THE TROOPS
Now that the Senate has passed legislation calling for a withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by September, 2008, Obama and Hillary will likely stake out their respective positions on how many troops to keep in Iraq after that, what they should be doing, and when they should come home.
This debate will transform the argument on Iraq from an historical fight over what Hillary’s”yes” vote meant in 2002 and how Obama would have voted had he been in the US Senate back then to a much more relevant and cutting argument over what our future policy should be.
Hillary has staked out the right of this new debate, an uncomfortable position among a Democratic electorate that would like to see all funding cut off immediately for any further involvement in Iraq — with no exceptions. In an interview with The New York Times ten days ago, she outlined a significant mission for remaining US troops: logistical support, intelligence, training of Iraqi troops, air support, interdiction of Iranian infiltration, and pursuit of al Qaeda wherever it takes us. She only dissented from participation in the “urban civil war” now raging in Baghdad.
Obama has not made clear yet what the specifics of his policy would be on this issue – or on any issue now that you think about it. But he must do so in short order if he hopes to turn Hillary’s left flank and gain on her among Democratic primary voters.
But here lies a trap. While most Democrats have a knee-jerk reaction saying that we must pull out now, when they think about the specifics of the mission in Iraq, they can hardly dissent from Hillary’s list of objectives. Is Obama going to urge turning the other cheek when we find al Qaeda operatives we could kill or capture? Will he call for ignoring Iranian penetration of Iraq? He can hardly do so.
Obama might be better served to address the issue in terms of the danger of “mission creep” and warn that Hillary’s broader list of military tasks would lend itself to further escalation and make us more deeply embroiled in Iraq that Democrats would like.
The New York Times speculated, in reporting the Hillary comments on Iraq, that Senator Clinton’s proposal smacked of a similar option laid out by former Rumsfeld deputy Dov Zakheim. When he outlined the reduced tasks in Iraq, Zakheim predicted that 75,000 troops would be necessary to carry out these missions. Doubtless this number is still too high for Democratic doves and Obama might address his criticism of Hillary’s position based on this estimate.
But Obama needs to move to draw a distinction between himself and Mrs. Clinton on future policy and not rest content with the shopworn debate about who was for what five years ago.
VOTERS BELIEVE THAT EDWARDS SHOULD STAY IN THE CAMPAIGN
By 2-1, voters support the decision by John Edwards to stay in the race. Since the couple’s announcement, John Edwards’ favorability went up by 5 points, but his vote share stayed the same in the Gallup Poll.
MARCH MONEY MADNESS
Basketball is not the only sport coming to a head at the end of March. March 31st looms as a crucial deadline in this increasingly front-loaded presidential nominating process in both parties. At the end of the quarter, all presidential candidates are obliged to release their financial statements indicating how much they have raised in the past three months, the total they have taken in to date, and their cash on hand.
With states like California, Florida, New York and others – comprising more than half the electorate – moving their primaries up to February 5, 2008 (Florida is thinking about going even earlier) – this filing is crucial. How a candidate is doing financially will directly effect his or her standing in the polls.
Not that they need the money now. Most candidates are treating their bank accounts as purely symbolic showings of strength. With all the primaries crammed into early February, no candidate will be foolish enough to deplete his or her resources for the real battle by spending money now. But the perception of who can win, vital in fund raising, will be shaped by who has raised how much money.
The following questions loom large:
Â· Has Hillary’s slippage in the polls affected her fund raising? (likely not based on Hollywood parties this week-end!)
Â· Has Obama profited from his surge or is he handicapped, as black candidates have traditionally been, by fund raising problems?
Â· Will Rudy Giuliani have a dominating amount of money on hand given his huge lead in the polls?
Â· Will John McCain, who had a dismal $500,000 on hand at the end of the last quarter, show that he has gotten his fund raising act together and raised a significant amount?
Â· Is Romney’s inability to break through dooming his fund raising effort or has he been able to maintain his financial viability with blue smoke and mirrors despite bad poll data?
Â· Which of the Democratic or Republican pygmies — the minor candidates will show any fund raising strength and will it be enough to make us take them seriously?
Like a corporation expecting bad financial news, McCain’s campaign as already put out a statement saying that he has failed to reach his fund raising goals for the quarter. Is he hedging so when he files with a healthy amount, he looks good? Or will he show the same relatively empty coffers he had at the end of the year?
We’ll know by the next issue of Play-By-Play.
Copyright Dick Morris and Eileen McGann 2007. All rights reserved. No reprints without permission.