In Iowa and New Hampshire — the first two tests for the presidential nominating process — Hillary Clinton is faltering badly.
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When you average all the polls in Iowa, her lead has dwindled and is now eradicated:
And, Hillary has suffered an even greater slippage in New Hampshire, where the last poll, by Rasmussen, has Obama ahead by three points. Here are the averages of all the polls for these time periods:
But curiously, Hillary remains in the national lead and her margin has not dwindled appreciably:
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Hillary Clinton is tanking and Obama is surging in New Hampshire, gaining a net of 17 points. In Iowa, Hillary is dropping and Obama is also moving up, gaining a net of nine points. But nationally, there is almost no change since November 1. Throughout the country, Obama has gained only five points in three months.
Why the difference?
Obviously, New Hampshire and Iowa are markedly different states with little in common demographically. But, what they do have in common is prolonged exposure to the candidates and to their paid media advertising. These two states have been through what we will all go through before Election Day. They have seen Hillary and Obama campaign day after day. They have watched the candidates — with the advertisements on television, heard them on radio and have focused on the more intensive news coverage they are receiving in the local media. The conclusion is inescapable: the more voters come to know Hillary Clinton the less they like her and the more they get to know Barack Obama the more they like him.
In the abstract, Hillary is a captivating idea. The first woman to run for president, she is the living reminder of the better economic times and international peace of the Clinton administration. But, up close and personal, she is far less attractive. As the rest of the country is exposed to the former first lady, if they emulate the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and revise their opinion of her, the results will not please the Clinton camp.
What is Hillary doing wrong and what is Obama doing right?
A trip to youtube.com or to the Web site of each of the candidates shows in an instant the difference in the ads the two campaigns are running. Obama's send goose bumps up your skin while Hillary's leave one flat. Obama speaks and demonstrates his charisma. Hillary’s platform style is no match for the Illinois senator and most of her ads feature a voice over doing the speaking for her.
In their campaign themes, Hillary stresses her experience while Obama focuses on the need for change. Hillary seems determined to appropriate her husband’s record, while Obama mocks the idea of going back to an alternation of the Bushes and the Clintons, a latter day American Hatfields and McCoys.
Now, in desperation, Hillary and her minions are attacking Obama with shots that will only arouse voter sympathy for him and backlash against her. Hillary asks, “When did running for president become a qualification to be president?” and her aides distribute evidence that Obama wanted to run for president in kindergarten to defuse the attack that Hillary and Bill have always planned on a regal, dynastic succession. More recently, a top Hillary campaign aide spoke of the need to investigate Obama’s drug use in high school where he has admitted to using cocaine.
None of these shots are going to knock anybody out or even down, but Hillary keeps up the pattern of personal, irrelevant negative attacks.
The conclusion is obvious: neither Hillary nor her staff know how to campaign. After the Clinton re-election in 1996, they have never been tested in a competitive race. When Giuliani dropped out of the New York State Senate race and the young Congressman Rick Lazio had to enter at the last minute to try to stop Hillary’s bid, the conclusion was pre-ordained. Hillary’s re-election was a cakewalk against a totally under funded opponent. She doesn’t know how to win.
Hillary’s experience has been limited to the insider back biting of Washington where she is an expert at using her secret police — a small army of private detectives — to unearth negatives about her or Bill’s opponents. (Even former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young recently admitted that Hillary ran the effort to discredit women who might come forward and accuse Clinton of misconduct.) But, when it comes to campaigning, advertising and winning an election, these folks and this candidate don’t have a clue.
Dick Morris served as Bill Clinton's political consultant for 20 years, guiding him to a successful reelection in 1996. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Because He Could, Rewriting History (both with Eileen McGann), Off with Their Heads, and Behind the Oval Office, and the Washington Post bestseller Power Plays.
Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2006. To obtain free copies of all of the columns and newsletters by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann for non-commercial use, please sign up at www.dickmorris.com.