DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY Volume 1, #31

By Dick Morris on August 7, 2008


Volume 1, #31

August 7, 2008


Obama has a limited range of pain or gain in his choice of a vice president. With his highly personal and charismatic candidacy, there is little he stands to gain or lose in choosing a vice president.

Unless he chooses Hillary, which would be a total disaster. It would suddenly make him accountable for all of her and Bill’s scandals past, present and future and would bring an uncontrollable element into the equation: Bill.

But since current indications are that Obama has not taken leave of his senses, he will likely not turn to Hillary.

The top three choices seem to be Kane of Virginia, Bayh of Indiana, or Biden of Delaware. My vote would go to Biden. He is a seasoned politician with tremendous national security credentials. He would bring a touch of reassurance to the ticket in the same way that Cheney did to the novitiate George W. Bush in 2000. He is a fierce speaker, a formidable debater, and could lead the attack on McCain.

Kane would simply add another inexperienced ingénue to the ticket. Obama’s got inexperience covered already. Why would he need Kane? His selection could put Virginia in play, but it would probably still go Republican.

I think Obama will choose Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and now, succeeding his father Birch Bayh, the Senator from the Hoosier state. He seems like a safe choice, but he is a cream puff. I worked hard to get him the keynote speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention but he wouldn’t use the occasion, as every other keynote speaker has, to attack the Republicans in general or Dole in particular. Instead he gave a forgettable and self-serving series of bromides that did him and Clinton very little good.

He can’t be counted on to bring the fight to the other side. He dislikes “getting down in the gutter” and that’s a phobia a vice presidential candidate can’t afford to nurture.

Obama could choose Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius or some other woman. He certainly needs to attract woman voters, especially those over 40. But if he names a woman – other than Hillary – he will have hell to pay with the Clintons. They will see him as deliberately slapping Hillary in the face and will note that he is promoting a rival to the New York Senator. It would be a declaration of war that Obama would hesitate to make.

If Obama’s VP choice doesn’t matter that much, McCain’s could be enormously important.

He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.

Its tempting to name a woman and collect all those alienated over 40 women who are not backing Obama. Remember the enthusiasm Geraldine Ferraro generated when Mondale nominated her in 1984? Women who had backed Hillary, will turnout in droves to elect a woman vice president. Even a pro-life one at that. It’s hard to imagine any other VP choice that would produce so many votes.

But…is Kay Bailey up to the job? Would she come across as an old lady to go with an old man? Can she handle the battering of a VP run without making any faux pas? Is she intellectually impressive enough to nominate? I have my doubts.

So I think McCain should choose Joe Lieberman. The first cross-party ticket since Abraham Lincoln named Andrew Johnson in 1864 would send an unmistakable signal of change. It would flag McCain’s determination to transcend the partisan gridlock in Washington and his independence of party orthodoxy. Selecting Lieberman would elevate the national security issue and reassure environmentalists on climate change issues. It would help attract Jewish voters in Florida and Ohio. And Lieberman has proven he can handle the stress of a national campaign. Joe is the way to go.

But McCain will probably choose Mitt Romney who will do him no good at all. Voters are allergic to Romney, perhaps because of his religion. Despite massive spending, topping his rivals by 3:1 in the primaries (largely out of his own pocket) Romney lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. The only states he carried were Michigan where his Dad had been governor, Massachusetts where he was, and a bunch of LDS (Mormon) states in the far west. He also carried some Super Tuesday states when his rivals didn’t have the money or time left over after California to fight him.

It is a myth that Romney would stand for economic recovery. He helped the Olympics recover. Big deal.

And Democrats, unlike his primary opponents, will have a field day with the layoffs in the companies Romney “turned around” as a hedge fund guy. They will use class warfare to discredit Romney in a way you couldn’t do in a Republican Primary.

He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.


When George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the electoral college in 2000, after having lost the popular tally to the Democrat by 500,000 votes, it was only the fourth time such an outcome has happened in American history.

(The others were John Quincy Adams’ defeat of Andrew Jackson in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes’ triumph over Samuel Tilden in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison’s victory against incumbent president Grover Cleveland in 1888).

So how important are swing states and the electoral college tally? In following the contest of 2008, should we be paying a lot of attention to the individual state polls in places like Florida or Ohio or focus mainly on the national popular vote?

The short answer is that if the popular vote is one half of one percent or closer, the swing states make the difference and it becomes quite possible for the winner of the vote to lose in the electoral college. But any margin of victory in the popular vote that is larger than that is almost guaranteed to be reflected in the electoral vote.

The fact is that most states vote more or less the same relative to the national vote year after year. They are always X percent20more Democrat or more Republican than the nation as a whole.

Take Georgia for example. In 2000, Bush got 48% of the national popular vote and won 55% of the vote in Georgia, seven points above his national showing. In 2004, Bush’s national vote rose to 51% and, sure enough, his vote in Georgia also went up to 58%, again seven points above his national showing. As Bush went up three points nationally (from 48 to 51) he also went up three points in Georgia (from 55 to 58).

So the odds are that any Republican candidate for president will run seven points better in Georgia than he does nationally.

In six of the fifty states, Bush’s vote share rose exactly as much as it did nationally from 2000 to 2004. In eighteen others, it rose by only one point more or20one point less than it did nationally. In twelve states, it rose by two points more or two points less than the national vote and in thirteen states, it rose by three points more or three points less than the national vote.

So Bush’s popular vote in forty-nine states (Hawaii was the exception) rose between 2000 and 2004 within three points as much as it did nationally.

This data shows how marginal is the impact of state-by-state campaigning. In a close election, it can make a big difference, but most of the time in most of the states, a party’s presidential candidate’s vote share in that state is in a fixed relationship to his national vote share.

The chart below shows how much more or less Bush got in each state relative to his national vote share in 2000 and in 2004.

So, to read this chart, begin with Utah, the most Republican state in the nation. Bush ran 21 points better there than he did nationally in 2000 and also ran 21 points better in Utah than he did nationally in 2004.

The states are listed in the order of how Republican they were, relative to the national vote share, in 2000. And you can bet that the chart for 2 008, when all is said and done, will be very similar in ranking to this chart. We just don’t know yet what McCain’s or Obama’s national vote share will be.


State % Deviation from National Bush Vote
  2000 2004
Utah +21 +21
Wyoming +21 +18
Idaho +19 +17
Nebraska +14 +15
North Dakota +13 +12
South Dakota +12 +9
Oklahoma +12 +15
Alaska +11 +10
Texas +11 +10
Kansas +10 +11
Mississippi +10 +8
Montana +10 +8
South Carolina +9 +7
Indiana +9 +9
Kentucky +9 +9
Alabama +8 +11
North Carolina +8 +5
Georgia +7 +7
Louisiana +5 +6
Missouri +5 +2
Virginia +4 +3
West Virginia +4 +5
Tennessee +3 +6
Arizona +3 +4
Arkansas +3 +3
Colorado +3 +1
Ohio +2 0
Nevada +2 -1
Florida +1 0
Iowa 0 -1
New Hampshire 0 -2
New Mexico 0 -1
Wisconsin 0 -2
Michigan -1 -3
Oregon -1 -4
Minnesota -2 -3
Pennsylvania -2 -3
Washington -3 -5
Maine -4 -6
Illinois -4 -7
California -6 -7
Delaware -6 -5
New Jersey -8 -5
Maryland -8 -8
Vermont -9 -10
Connecticut -10 -7
Hawaii -11 -6
New York -13 -11
Massachusetts -15 -14
Rhode Island -16 -12
Maryland -8 -8
DC -39 -42

So here’s how to use this chart:

Check out the national polling. If Obama and McCain are in a dead even tie, the states that scored a zero on the chart will be in play (because they tend to mirror the national vote exactly). So if there is a tie in the national polls, expect the swing states to be Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

But if Obama moves out to a three point lead nationally, those states will all likely vote for him. The new swing states, at that point would be those states ranked at +3 or +4 in the chart like Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Missouri. In a dead even contest, these states would all vote Republican, but in a national race where Obama is ahead by three, they would be in play.

Conversely, if McCain were to open up a three point lead in the national polling, the states that tend to be one or two or three points more Democratic than the national trends would be in play. They would be: Michigan, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington State.

Got it?

(If it seems confusing and complicated, it is exactly the methodology we used in the 1996 Clinton campaign to target where we would spend our money. As Clinton’s national vote share rose or fell, we shifted resources to the states that came in range. Indeed, we carried it one step further. We figured out which counties in each state would come into play at what percentage of the national vote so as to focus our phone and field operations. For that, a computer comes in handy).


Pay attention to the Kadima Party primary in Israel, now scheduled for the middle of September. It could be the pivotal event in the U.S. presidential contest.

With Prime Minister Olmert resigning one step ahead of the sheriff, there is a primary for control of his Kadima Party. Remember that Kadima used to be part of the conservative Likud Party now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, but it split off to follow Ariel Sharon in his path of trying to trade land for peace. When Sharon fell into a coma, Olmert took over.

The contenders are Livni, the foreign minister, and Mofaz, the former Army Chief of Staff and the current transportation minister. As a woman and a moderate, Livni will get the votes of the left of the Kadima Party while Mofaz captures the right.

If Livni wins, not much will change. She’ll pursue Olmert’s negotiating efforts and will not likely take military action against Iran. She’ll fit in nicely with Obama in trying to appease Iran.

But if Mofaz wins, he is very likely to bomb Iran. He may even cross party lines and form a coalition with Netanyahu to get the support in the Knesset (Congress) he needs to do so without letting the dovish Labor Party, now part of the ruling coalition, slow him down.

If Israel decides to bomb Iran to stop it from getting a bomb, when would they do it?

Obviously, if Obama wins the election, they had better do it before Bush leaves office. The Democrat might not be sufficiently hard line to offer the necessary U.S. assistance and the vital American sanction for the operation.

But can Israel really proceed if the President-elect doesn’t want her to? Hardly. So there is a very good chance that they will decide to bomb Iran before the election. It doesn’t matter what Obama thanks of the attack before the election. And, it might have the ancillary benefit (from Israel’s point of view and ours’) of helping McCain by creating a foreign policy crisis for the U.S.

If a war is raging in the Middle East, it’s hard to see the nation trusting an ingénue like Obama with the presidency.



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