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Jewish World Review May 16, 2003 / 14 Iyar, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Early Democrat handicapping for 2004 | The very first thing to understand about the 2004 Democratic primaries is that they do not exist. There is no such thing as a Democratic primary in 2004, except in the handful of states that do not permit independents to enter Democratic voting booths. In the vast majority of states, there is no primary. There is a general election to which, in most cases, Republicans are not invited.

In 2000, the impact of the independent vote was masked because it was split between former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Almost none of it went to either Al Gore or George W. Bush in the primaries.

But with no Republican primary in the offing for 2004, the independents will flood and overwhelm the Democratic primary in most states.

That will give the advantage to a moderate Democratic candidate such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.). There is a huge amount of room for a pro-war Democrat who praises Bush's toughness on terror and attacks his Democratic colleagues for weakness, flip-flopping and timidity in the face of terror.

Unfortunately, Lieberman seems to have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. How else to account for his abysmal failure to raise money during the last quarter, a period in which he only received $2 million. Meanwhile, Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and John Edwards (N.C.) set the pace, raising $7 million each, and Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) was not far behind. Even former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean raised money.

If Lieberman shows a similar inability to raise money in the next quarter, his laziness and lethargy in picking up the phone - or his lack of persuasiveness once on the line - will have cost him a very good shot at the nomination.

Edwards may be headed for disaster because of his success in fundraising. As reported in The Hill, he collected $2,000 contributions from paralegals, clerks and secretaries who work for his big trial-lawyer donors. Undoubtedly, Edwards got them on the phone, one at a time, and asked how much they could pledge. Taking off their gloves, shoes and socks, they counted on their fingers and toes how many employees they had, multiplied by two and quoted a number.

A close and careful review of Edwards' fundraising may provide enough ammunition to knock him out of the race.

Gephardt, the Democratic Bob Dole, may also have contracted the political equivalent of SARS by missing 84 percent of the votes in the House since the first of the year. How many wonderful negative ads will that provide fodder for? The lame excuse that he was running for president won't cut it with voters who want to know what he is doing to earn the $154,700 taxpayers pay him to be in Congress.

Bad attendance always seems excusable to the insiders but never to the voters. In missing votes on the Democratic alternative to the Bush tax cut, legislation to prevent child kidnapping, the extension of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the statute banning human cloning, and the resolution condemning the United Nations for naming Libya chairman of its disarmament committee, he is going to have a hard time explaining where he's been.

Edwards can point to an 87 percent attendance record and Lieberman to a 77 percent score during the same period. Kerry, also vulnerable, made only 60 percent of the votes (even excluding January, when he was recovering from prostate surgery).

Kerry, who had manfully resisted putting his foot in his mouth all throughout the Iraq war, finally couldn't help himself and alluded to the necessity for regime change in Washington, injecting partisan divisiveness where it is least welcome, in the midst of a war.

Finally, Kerry, Gephardt and Edwards each face a major challenge in their need to win the neighboring states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina in the very early going.

The conventional wisdom holds that Gephardt won Iowa in 1988 and holds a commanding lead there. It also suggests that Kerry is popular in New Hampshire and that the South Carolina vote is sufficiently dominated by blacks so as to give Edwards a good shot.

But Dean is tied with Kerry in New Hampshire and free to move as far left as he wants. With no real chance at the nomination, he can out-peace Kerry and leave the Massachusetts senator caught, la Muskie, trying to appeal to a national centrist electorate while competing with Dean on the left. It's a good way to fall between two chairs.

In South Carolina, independents may overwhelm the Democratic black turnout. Al Sharpton could also catch fire and soak up votes. In that case, a genuinely moderate/conservative/hawk Democrat such as Lieberman could have an advantage by running to the right.

But only if he gets off his butt and raises some money.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2002, Dick Morris