By Dick Morris on March 16, 2007

Dick Morris ’08 Play-by-Play Analysis


VOL. 1, No. 3

March 16, 2007






The wholesale migration of Democratic African-Americans voters towards Barack Obama and away from Hillary Clinton accelerated this week and began to reach epic proportions. Hillary has now gone from a 3:1 lead among blacks to an 11 point lead to a dead even 36-36 tie, all in the wake of her criticism of Obama.


The result is that the Democratic presidential race is now a decidedly two-way affair. Time Magazine’s most recent poll shows Hillary’s margin diminished to seven points (30-23) with Obama actually one point ahead in the West and only four back in the South. Virtually all of Hillary’s lead comes from a 2:1 margin in the northeast. But overall, Hillary has fallen in the Time polls from 40% in January to 30% in early March, while Obama has risen from 21 to 23 in the same period.


How did Hillary screw it up?


First, she blundered badly by sending out her rabid attack dog Howard Wolfson to criticize Hollywood mogul David Geffen for his attacks on the Clintons. Geffen described Bill as “reckless” and bemoaned the pardons the former president passed out, especially to fugitive Marc Rich.


That was way too much for the former president and syndicated columnist Bob Novack reports that he flew into a Clintonian rage – the sort we all saw when he unloaded on Chris Wallace on Fox News. Clinton’s advisors (read flunkees) huddled by conference call in the wake of his tirade and decided to please Bill and Hillary and lash back at Geffen.


That was a huge mistake. Obama had been wondering how to gain among blacks without embracing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – whose support would alienate white voters. Hillary’s attack solved his problem. Faced with a white candidate rapping an African-American, blacks deserted Hillary and brought Obama to within eleven points of the former First Lady.


Then the Clinton team panicked and made the second mistake: Sending Bill and Hillary to Selma, Alabama to horn in on the 42nd anniversary celebration of the voting rights march. That was Obama’s day and Hillary’s attempted one-upsmanship cost her dearly. Voters laughed at her affected preacher’s southern drawl and blacks snickered cynically when she said that Martin Luther King had cleared the way for her candidacy for president! Apparently they had all noticed that she’s not black and Obama is!


The Selma bounce – which we predicted last week – has now materialized and all but extinguished Hillary’s front runner status as Obama surged into a close second place. Of course a big part of the credit belongs to the Illinois Senator for his courageous speech in Selma where he criticized the “anti-intellectualism” of the black community where if you “know how to conjugate a verb” you are seen as acting “white.”


Now it is very likely that Obama and Hillary will continue slugging it out until February 5th of next year, when the race will be over. As of now, this has become a two-way race!!!


Why is Hillary Clinton’s campaign team — supposedly so experienced and so far superior to those of the other candidates– advising her straight into defeat?


She’s gone steadily downhill since she announced, and at this rate, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd will be ahead of her in a few months.


One key reason may be that her ‘team’ may not be used to working in Democratic primaries and never expected any real opposition this time. They simply don’t know how to deal with the nuances of a primary, as we can see in what’s happened to her ratings.


Bill Clinton didn’t have a primary in 1996 and Hillary has none in 2000 and only token opposition in 2006. So, two of her top three advisers – Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson,- have had no experience in serious national primary campaigns. It shows. And the third member of the top tier, Mandy Grunwald, is a film producer, not a strategist.


But one thing is clear: All of them, and Hillary, too, expected to simply walk away with the Democratic nomination and then grab the White House. Just like the two New York Senate races.


But then along came Obama.


After his announcement, Hillary had no choice. She had to jump in. But she and her advisers still thought that she could run as a sort of imperial- incumbent- in- waiting whose ascendancy was a given.


That didn’t work.


Obama and Edwards didn’t hesitate to criticize call her on her Iraq war vote. (The one that was never mentioned in the New York Senate campaign) And the Democratic left has repeatedly challenged her conservative positions.


Her advisers thought that they could use the same tactics that they had used in the Clinton White House and in her two virtually unopposed Senate races. And so they attacked Obama.


Those didn’t work.


Instead of helping her, she completely lost her lead over black voters. It was a disaster.


They thought that she would charm the voters once they got to know her.


That certainly hasn’t worked.


It’s going to be a very long campaign and already, she doesn’t seem to be wearing too well. A year and a half more of Hillary as Oprah is not something to look forward to. The flat voice, the canned lines, the “Bill and I” lines are already grating on her listeners. So far, the ‘charm’ hasn’t worked.


They thought that the voters wouldn’t pick up on her flip flops and canned lines.


They were wrong about that. She’s been castigated by the left at every campaign stop and the term ‘scripted’ is probably the single most frequently used description of her.


They thought that they could still treat the emotional and angry rantings of Bill Clinton as if they were the emotional and angry rantings of a sitting President of the United States. So when he said: “Attack”, they aimed.


That backfired.


They thought that Bill Clinton was her ace in the hole – the world’s best political consultant, her private guru, who would guide her to an easy and early victory.


But that certainly hasn’t been true. His clouded judgment and obsession with rewriting his own legacy gets in the way of objective advice.


So, the woman with most brilliant political team in the country has been repeatedly outmaneuvered and outsmarted. She’s on the defensive and going downhill.


Her attack dog Wolfson has been put on the bench. Bill Clinton has been relegated to private fund raisers. And Hillary is tanking in the polls.


Some team!


Look for some heads to roll. Already, there are leaks at a very high level, as the Novack column suggests. https://www.suntimes.com/news/novak/292715,CST-EDT-novak12.article


Look for the ‘team’ to start pointing fingers.



On the same day that the Time Magazine released its poll showing Hillary tumbling, The New York Times published an interview with Hillary Clinton that will haunt her for the remainder of the campaign. Asked about her twisted, convoluted, contradictory Iraq policy, she avowed a determination to stay in Iraq after she becomes president!


A few weeks ago, she said she’d end the war in 20009 when she was elected president. Now she’s saying that she’d “start” to end the war. And just a few ago, Hillary said she would vote for an amendment to the appropriations bill calling for a total withdrawal from Iraq by March of 2008 (and sooner if the Iraqi government doesn’t meet certain specified goals during the interim). While the other 534 Senators and Congressmen see the amendment as a cutoff of funding, she insists it merely sets a “goal.”


This is Classic Clinton – as in ‘it depends on what the meaning of is is.”


(By the way, Hillary apparently doesn’t like to read the bills she backs. She claims that her 2002 vote to authorize the President to send American troops into Iraq was actually a mandate for ongoing UN inspection and now this specific cutoff of funds for the troops is, in her view, merely advisory).


So she wants to pull out but also keep the troops there – end the war, but keep it going – in other words, have her cake and eat it too!


She told The New York Times that “I think we will have a remaining military as well as political mission, trying to contain the extremists [in Iraq].” She elaborated on what the troops would do once she took office:


· “help the Kurds manage their various problems in the north,”

· “prevent Iran from crossing the border and having too much influence inside Iraq.”

· “logistical support, air support, and training support” for Iraqi troops


Her latest position provides Obama with an easy ability to contrast his positions on the war with hers. The Illinois Senator says flatly that we should pull out totally and that he thinks the war was always a mistake and still is.


Of course, Hillary is right and Obama is wrong. We can no more completely pull out of Iraq than we could have withdrawn from NATO during the cold war. But her position will severely damage her support and credibility among Democrats who want a total cutoff of all funding for the war. In the latest Fox News poll, Democrats supported the withdrawal by 77-18.


Until the Times interview, the only serious issue separating Obama and Clinton was the irrelevant one of whether she should apologize for her vote authorizing the war. But now she has created a huge issue by announcing her decision to stay in Iraq.


Hillary’s plan sounds downright Republican and very much like one ventured by former Rumsfeld deputy Dov S. Zakheim who estimates that this more limited mission would require only 75,000 troops, down from the 160,000 we will have there after Bush reinforces our presence this year.


Her pessimism comes at a time when US combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by 25% from 88 every thirty days to 66 now that Bush’s redeployment is taking place. It also comes as the Iraqi government is celebrating a huge drop in Baghdad violence.


So, why does Hillary do this?


First, as a woman candidate, she is always sensitive to gender stereotypes that question a woman’s ability to be an effective Commander-in-Chief. So, she has to show that she’s tough.


And, second, she is in awe of some of the generals and military types who provide her with advice on the Armed Services Committee. She wants their approval.


So, she tries to have it both ways.


Hillary’s constant flip-flopping on Iraq will bring her no end of grief in the primaries.






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A favorite Democratic issue has been the party’s demand for fair treatment for the prisoners held at Guantanamo. This week, Americans got a taste of why we keep these folks locked up when mega-terrorist Khalid Mohammed admitted to masterminding 29 attacks including planning 9-11 “from A to Z.” He also said he signed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s death warrant and masterminded numerous other brutal attacks.


Don’t underestimate the political impact of his confession. It shows that Bush has captured the truly deadly al Qaeda operative and shows how much progress he has made in battling terror. It also undermines Democratic claims that these thugs in Guantanamo deserve our sympathy.




Meanwhile, the Democrats are trying to dominate the media – now that Bush has good news from Iraq – with the phoniest of all scandals since the Valerie Plane leak. They are outraged that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales fired seven US Attorneys.


But these officials serve at the president’s pleasure! He can fire any of them anytime for any reason. If he didn’t like their hairstyle, he could bounce them. In fact, their four year terms had all expired and they were being carried on month-to-month anyway.


So what is the big deal? The Democrats (and some confused Republicans like Senator John Ensign of Nevada) say that Gonzales fired the prosecutors for political reasons – that they failed to be sufficiently aggressive in prosecuting certain cases such as voter fraud prosecutions. Well, so what? That’s why we have political appointees in the US Attorney jobs. If we wanted nonpolitical figures, we would make them civil service positions. We have an appointed Attorney General and appointed US Attorneys precisely so that the president can impact their prosecutorial decisions to conform to his policy and program priorities.


But watch the Democrats use this crazy issue to attack the Administration – especially after they couldn’t pass the Iraq troop withdrawal.




One of the worst mistakes of the Republican Senate leadership was its decision to block a vote on a cutoff of funding for the war. By using their power to stop the Democrats from bringing their initiatives to a vote, they denied their opponents the rope they need to hang themselves!


Now the Republicans have reconsidered their illogical position and have cleared the way for a floor vote on cutting off funding. By doing so, they let the Democrats go right ahead with their civil war, pitting pro-war Senators like Joe Lieberman against the anti-war elements in the party. And remember that all Lieberman has to do is switch parties and the Democrats lose control of the Senate and their corner offices with it.



You can’t say that Obama isn’t learning from Hillary how to duck controversial issues. When he was asked if he agreed with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace that homosexuality is “immoral,” he punted and ducked the issue. So did Hillary who said “I’m going to leave that [whether it is immoral] to others to conclude.” (That has become one of her favorite sayings in the campaign. Watch for it. She leaves a lot to others….)


Of course once their campaign staffs got wind of their boss’ gaffes, they each put out statements saying that their candidate opposed General Pace’s characterization. Neither Obama nor Hillary want to alienate the large gay voting block in Democratic primaries or the large number of wealthy gay donors.




Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is making all the sure footed moves that set him apart as the front runner. As Hillary falters, Rudy is moving ahead each week. Most polls now have him ahead of McCain by 2:1. Even Time Magazine, which had McCain ahead by 4 points in January now shows Rudy holding a commanding 14 point advantage.


McCain has virtually fallen out of contention and continues to drop like a stone in the national polls. Romney can’t seem to break into double digits and Gingrich remains on the sidelines. Newt’s friends tell us that he is determined to run but wants to wait until the field has cleared to get in. But by the fall, when he plans to announce his candidacy, Rudy will be so far ahead in the all important money race that Newt won’t be able to compete.




As Newt stays out, it looks increasingly like former Senator Fred Thompson might to jump into the Republican race. Pro-life, anti-gay, and pro-gun, he passes all the litmus tests and brings a star quality to the contest with his highly visible performances as District Attorney on the top rated TV show Law and Order.


And the more that you look at him, the more attractive he is.


Less well known is how he got to be a Senator in the first place. It seems that the Governor of Tennessee had a bad habit – later imitated by President Clinton and Hillary’s brothers – of selling pardons for cash. But unlike our former president, he didn’t cover his tracks by laundering the cash through his library but put it right in his pocket.


A member of the Pardons board found out about his shenanigans and went to Thompson, a private attorney at the time, to tell him about what was going on. Thompson courageously led the effort to expose the scandal and actually ousted the Governor from office.


Thompson could actually turn out to be a strong candidate for president and might give Giuliani a real run for his money. But voter connection with Rudy over his public heroism on September 11th is extremely strong and would be hard to weaken. In addition, Rudy’s lead and his fund raising abilities make him a tough opponent.


But a Thompson candidate would leave Republicans with a choice between two charismatic candidates with real records of accomplishment and even heroism.




This week, a funny thing started to happen. From nowhere articles and clips embarrassing to Giuliani began making their way into the media.


It all started when Rudy’s son complained that he was estranged from his father and bitter over his divorce and remarriage to Judith Nathan.


Then a 1989 film clip of Rudy endorsing Medicaid payments for abortion suddenly was all over the internet. Back when Giuliani had hair – sort of – he backed government aid to women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. Then the New York Times published a story that Rudy’s Houston law firm Bracewell $ Giuliani represented the Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company controlled by Hugo Chavez. The firm was paid $5,000 per month to lobby Texas state government on “tax, environmental, and permitting issues” according to a Citgo spokesman.


How did the Times learn about the Citgo relationship? Apparently some enterprising soul went through the filings of the Texas Ethics Commission to find this juicy nugget.


And, last week, coincidentally, the US Attorney’s office leaked to the media that it had explored a possible plea bargain with former New York City Police Commissioner and Giuliani associate Bernard Kerick who became known nationally when President Bush nominated him to be Homeland Security Chief, but then had to withdraw the nomination. Kerick has been found guilty of a state misdemeanor.


How did these four stories materialize? Our bet is that the Clinton Secret Police – the detectives Hillary has at her beck and call – have been working overtime to dig up dirt on Rudy to derail his candidacy. Hillary knows that Giuliani is her most formidable possible foe and is determined to throw mud at him to put obstacles in his path. Her ‘enforcer’ Howard Wolfson refused to respond when one interviewer asked him about whether the Clinton campaign was looking into the backgrounds of other candidates.


The Clintons invented the politics of personal destruction that Hillary now laments when other people criticize her and her husband.


Look for articles to spontaneously appear on all sorts of Giuliani business dealings.



Hillary faltering.

Obama surging.

Rudy expanding his comfortable lead.

McCain dropping.

Romney stagnating.

Newt procrastinating, and

Fred Thompson waiting in the wings.


Stay tuned!

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