By Dick Morris on May 8, 2007


Volume 1, #9

May 8, 2007


After a strong showing in the South Carolina debate last week, Hillary Clinton has surged in the polls, gaining fifteen points on Obama. All three polls released since the debate show Clinton substantially increasing her lead.

Just days before the debate, Clinton was seriously losing ground to Obama. In fact, The Rasmussen Report showed her two points behind him. But Hillary scored big with voters after her debate performance. Three separate polls released this week show her consistently gaining momentum.

Hillary is always poised and articulate and voters were no doubt impressed with her ability to handle questions and stay focused. Her uniqueness as the only woman in the Democratic Party debate is clearly a positive. And the absence of any woman on the Republican Party stage may be all the more obvious because of Hillary’s presence. The ten white men might look a bit strange.

Whatever the reason, Hillary’s jumped into a strong first place. According to the U.S.A/Gallup Poll, Hillary moved up from 31 to 38 and Obama fell back from 26 to 23, giving her a fifteen point lead.

Rasmussen now has Hillary at 34 and Obama at 26.

Finally, CNN has Hillary moving from 30 to 38 and Obama moving down to 24 from 26.

She’s definitely moving up!

At the same time, Hillary’s serious negatives only improved by two points. That suggests that she will continue to have problems in the future. This race could shift back and forth until February 5th!

Stay tuned!


Rudy Giuliani is still in first place in the Republican race. After the Republican debate, he stayed about the same, while McCain lost ground, according to the Gallup Poll. Rudy stayed at 36%, while McCain dropped three points to 21%.

Romney continues to show single digit numbers. Despite his attractiveness in the debate, he is not gaining votes.


Hillary Clinton had always planned to run her campaign based on her biography and persona. As the first credible woman candidate to run for president, she had hoped that her gender coupled with her obvious intellect, knowledge of substance, and articulateness would carry her through. She also believed that her connection with Bill – Clinton Inc. – would help propel her straight to the nomination.

But then a funny thing happened. As voters got to know her better, they came to like her less. Even though her well mannered opponents are refraining from criticizing her and she is, for once, without a major scandal hovering over her head, her popularity keeps dropping. Just eight weeks ago, it stood at 58% according to the Gallup Poll but has since dropped to only 47%, close to her all time low.

So Hillary appears to want to pivot from a personality/biographically based campaign to one rooted in her issue positions. To that end, she recently ratcheted up her opposition to the Iraq War.

In 1775, Dr. Samuel Johnson muttered that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” meaning that, when all other argument failed, politicians wrap themselves in the flag. In the early 1980s, Senator Pat Moynihan paraphrased Dr. Johnson saying that “issues are the last refuge of a scoundrel,” referring to the growth of single issue constituencies which were, in his view, electing nincompoops to office who happened to agree with the voters on a single hot button issue.

And so, Hillary Clinton, scoundrel or not, seeks to take refuge behind issues – particularly her new found opposition to the war in Iraq — to get the votes her persona, charisma, personal qualities, record, and her husband are failing to attract.

But she faces two obstacles as she attempts the pivot:

a) Will voters take her at her word that she is against the war?

b) Will they like the whole of her issue agenda?

Now she is seeking to become the anti-war candidate. Completing a dramatic transformation from her hawkish support for the Iraq War, which continued well into 2006, Hillary Clinton now calls for the de-authorization of the war in Iraq, effectively rescinding the vote she cast in 2002 to begin it. John Edwards immediately criticized her position saying that de-funding, not de-authorizing, was the only way to bring the war to an end. All else, he said, was just “noise.” Edwards cited the history of our extraction from Vietnam, noting that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which Presidents Johnson and Nixon used to authorize the use of force in Vietnam, was repealed in 1971, but US troops were not pulled out entirely until three years later.

This morphing from a biographic campaign to one based on issues is a key part of the Clinton playbook. As Bill once told me “issues are the paddle I use to get myself out of s–t.”

When the Lewinsky scandal threatened to destroy his presidency, Bill focused on family-friendly initiatives such as raising school standards, expanding family leave, community college training for second careers, anti-gun and drug initiatives around schools, combat against tobacco companies selling to kids, and an anti-TV violence campaign. In the White House, the strategy was summed up by the phrase “public values defeat private scandal.”

Hillary is now trying to use that same strategy to embrace the anti-war position, in part, as a distraction from her negatives. But will the left buy Hillary as an anti-war spokesperson? Her positions on Iraq have morphed, twisted, evolved, truncated, turned, and transformed more often than one can count. (See below for a summary of them). The left is bewildered and cynical about whether she is friend or foe. (As this newsletter goes to print, she has again transmogrified her position by saying that even though she would vote to de-authorize the war, she would continue to vote or funding it. She didn’t explain how she would justify appropriating funds it would be illegal to spend).

With Edwards – and perhaps Obama – pointing out the inconsistencies and flaws in her anti-war position, it is doubtful that the left will welcome her and embrace her as the standard-bearer of their cause.

But Hillary has a more basic problem. Even though voters are turning sour on her personal attributes, they like her issue positions even less.

Hillary’s Personal Image

Hillary’s image among her fans is almost exclusively based on her personal characteristics, not on her issue positions, so the transformation from persona to issues as the basis of her campaign will be problematic as well.

The most recent Gallup poll asked people to describe, in their own words, what they liked the most and the least about Hillary. The results reveal that those people who identify her with issues and not personality don’t like her very much.

Of those who cite personal characteristics, positive and negative, to explain their feelings about Hillary, 51% say favorable things (strength, stamina, determination, tenacity, outspoken, direct, stands up for believes, intelligent, knowledgeable) while 30% say unfavorable things (untrustworthy, opportunistic, overbearing, cold, arrogant, unfeeling, too aggressive, unethical).

But the opinions of those who describe their likes and dislikes of Hillary based on her views on issues are much more negative. Only 11% say nice things about her positions (agree with her, support positions on health care, women’s issues, Iraq, helps New York) while 26% cite negatives (too liberal, wishy-washy, disagree with Iraq views).

So the transition from a personality/biography based campaign to one founded on issues is going to be difficult for Hillary to accomplish.

Hillary may find that she is falling between two chairs – not popular enough to base her campaign on personality and not convincing enough in her opposition to the war to base it on issues.

And so she will fall back on demographics. Ultimately, she is still a woman candidate and continues to attract single women. With unmarried women casting between 25 and 30 percent of the Democratic Primary vote, she would appear to have an irreducible minimum level of support that might keep her, at least tied for the position of front runner in a multi candidate field. But when the others drop out and she faces only one opponent on February 5, 2008, she’ll need to augment her demographic base to win.

Hillary’s Position on Iraq

For those who are too obtuse to understand Hillary’s simple and clear position on Iraq, the following is an attempt to summarize it:

· She voted for the ‘Use of Force Resolution’ in 2002 but wants to repeal it now because Bush misinterpreted the ‘Use of Force Resolution’ to mean that the use of force was authorized by Congress. All the’Use of Force Resolution’ really did was to toughen the support we were giving UN inspectors. She won’t apologize for voting for the ‘Use of Force Resolution’ because she knew that it did not authorize the use of force.

· She now wants to rescind the authorization to go to war that she voted for in 2002 but will still vote to appropriate the funds for the war, even though it would be illegal for Bush to spend money for a purpose which Congress has not authorized.

· As president, she would end the war but would not pull out all the troops. She will leave some there for the following missions: air, logistical, and intelligence support for the Iraqis, training of the Iraqi forces, guarding the hundreds of miles of border with Iran to prevent infiltration, and chasing al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. The only thing they would not do is to fight an”urban civil war.”

· Despite the extensive nature of the residual mission, she would not commit large numbers of troops even though she criticized Bush for not sending in enough soldiers during the war.

· But all the troops she sends in will have full body armor.

Got it?


As the Republican candidates were skirmishing in the first presidential debate, Fred Thompson was attracting all the headlines by making noises like a candidate running for office.

But as I watched his maiden interview with Sean Hannity, I was struck by the difference between Arthur Branch, the character Fred Thompson plays on Law and Order and Fred Thompson. Branch came out on top.

Branch looked younger, Fred seemed older. Branch, shot from staged camera angles, looked taller and hairier while Fred looked lined and balder. Branch effortlessly spun out a down home wisdom with pithy sayings and country metaphors. Fred seemed dull and prosaic by comparison.

None of us looks or sounds as good as we would without makeup, a great script, and careful camera angles. But few of us have to appear in the harsh glare of a presidential campaign so soon after being seen in the controlled, gentle environs of a television studio. The contrast was dangerous for Thompson’s candidacy.

More than twenty-years ago, I learned an important lesson in politics. I made the mistake of running an ad for a candidate right in the middle of a live debate on TV. It was a disaster: The contrast between the groomed and well made-up and scripted candidate in the ad and the lesser performance on live TV was devastating! Never again.

I was reminded of that incident when I saw Fred on television. Thompson may find himself running against his own TV persona. Ronald Reagan faced no such problem since his acting career had ended thirty years before he ran for president. But Fred’s will end a few days before he declares – and you’ll still see him, even as he runs, in Law and Order reruns.

But even more than the cosmetics of how Thompson appeared, I was disturbed by his iffy quality on television. He was tentative about running and seemed ambivalent about a candidacy. He was relaxed and slow talking. That may be Fred, but, in this election, Republicans want to see the eye of the tiger in their candidate. They want a tough, aggressive prosecutor like Rudy Giuliani to keep Hillary out of the White House. They want a gladiator, not a Hamlet.

I don’t think Fred is doing himself much good in his pre-candidacy appearances. Better to make up his mind and run or stay out than to radiate indecision by publicly weighing the options.

He’d add a lot to the race.


Despite The New York Times reports of cozy weekly meetings between leaders of the various anti-war groups and representatives of the Democratic Congressional leadership, a shooting war is about to erupt between the two sides when Reid and Pelosi return from the White House having cut their deal with Bush to extend funding for the war.

John Edwards, determined to turn the left flank of both Obama and Hillary, has called for defeat of any extension of war funding without a firm timetable for withdrawal. If Bush keeps vetoing these bills, Edwards says to “let the vetoes pile up”but never to give in and send a clean funding bill to the president.

Reid, Pelosi, and Rep John Murtha (D-Pa) who is her main advisor on Iraq, have all spoken of compromising on an appropriations bill which would not include the timetable for a pullout the left wants but would instead set up milestones or benchmarks for progress which the Iraqi government must meet to continue war funding. These might include such items as sharing oil revenues among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds and creating more of a federal system of power sharing among the ethnic groups.

The problem is how the benchmarks would be enforced. If the president were to be vested with the power to make the decision on how Iraq was progressing, they would become meaningless since he would just certify that everything was going fine in order to continue the funding. And if Congress is charged with making the determination, you still have the basic problem of their timid refusal to cut off war funding. The left will ask: Why would they be willing to do in six months what they won’t do now?

So the likelihood is that a fierce conflict will break out between the Democratic Congressional leadership and the left.

Reid is preparing for this possibility by ratcheting up his antiwar rhetoric, famously declaring that the war in Iraq is already “lost”, a finding which will come as an unpleasant surprise to the more than one hundred thousand US troops risking their lives to win it.

His real purpose in that statement, however, was to sound tough while he caved in privately to Bush’s demand for a relatively clean appropriations bill.

But the left is not about to be fooled. These folks are skilled political operatives who have already publicly warned Reid and Pelosi that they will fight tooth and nail against any bill that continued war funding without a timeline for a pullout. With John Edwards leading the charge, the Democrats in Congress will be in the crosshairs of groups like moveon.org. It won’t be pretty to watch what happens next as the Democrats claw each other apart.

***Copyright Dick Morris and Eileen McGann 2007. Reprints with permission only***

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