Dick Morris on Dems Negative Campaigning

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," April 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: Well, clearly, the negative attacks are here in earnest. Obama's camp is saying Clinton is sinking to new lows. This as Obama busts out negative mailers of his own by hitting Clinton hard in Pennsylvania on her NAFTA position.

Obama's campaign says negativity will backfire, so why is he doing it?

Former Clinton advisor, Dick Morris, is here. You can read his column and newsletter for free at DickMorris.com. Hi, Dick.

DICK MORRIS, FORMER CLINTON ADVISOR: Hey, good to be here. You know, I was like a boxing coach watching that debate, saying, "Throw the right, throw the right." And I kept feeling that Obama let punches slip through.

But when Hillary stands up there, and after an association with Norman Hsu, James Riady, and Hwang and all of those characters and says, we have to be careful about who we associate with, and then criticizes him for being, quote, "friendly" with Ayers, when she got a $50,000 contribution from the American Muslim Alliance, disguised it and called it as the American Museum Alliance.

Click here to watch the interview

When it came out she got the money, she returned the money four days before the election. And Steve Emerson, a terrorism expert, said that this group raises money and speaks out on behalf of terrorist organizations, and you go back to Reverend Wright and all that, in the 1980's Hillary was on the board on the foundation that gave money to the PLO, that was at that time identified as a terrorist organization.

KELLY: But, listen, Barack Obama has already said - whether that's true or not, Barack Obama has already said, he said today, "Look, I'm going to go after Hillary Clinton differently than the way I would go after John McCain if I were in a general election contest. He seems to truly believe, it doesn't behoove the Democrats to get truly dirty. So, well, when he gets attacked by Clinton, he'll say, you know, (A), this is my defense, he always goes to (B), which is, "And this isn't the kind of politics Americans want." So, he's not going to take it to that level.

MORRIS: Well, I think that he looks weak. I think he comes across as being somebody who's diffident about campaigning and about fighting, which I think will hurt him in November. But I do think that basically, the whole — what Hillary says we've rummaged through her dirty laundry and baggage, hey, man, I've only started and I think there is a huge amount out there that the American people need to know.

But I think that the other point is that the Pennsylvania primary will be decided not by this debate but by the paid media advertising that's going on. And Obama has three times as much as Hillary. And Hillary made a fundamental mistake in pulling her positive ads off the air and going on with the negative, because it meant that the voters would not have a chance to hear her positive message in the closing days of the campaign.

KELLY: What about it? Do you think that positive message was working for her? I mean, she was leading in the polls in Pennsylvania and still is. Do you think that was a mistake then?

MORRIS: Yes, I do, because I don't think the negative of the "bitter" comment amounts too much. I don't think the polling indicates that it does. And I think that Hillary is going into the last couple of days of this without nearly the media that she needs to score a decisive victory. I think she won the debate last night, but I don't think it's going to matter very much.

KELLY: Why not? Because you got her campaign came out today, and this is the first we've seen this happen, and actually critiqued Obama's debate performance, calling it "awful." You know, there is some press out there today, even from left-wing media groups that would back that up. People are saying that it was painful to watch him, that he was floundering, and he didn't know what he was saying, and didn't instill confidence. That's some of buzz online.

Didn't she score points if that's true?

MORRIS: I think she did. And I think that she came across as a joyful combatant, and he who welcomes this is in her element and he came across as somebody who was sort at pains to throw negatives. And I don't think that's what people want. I think Democrats see this as kind of an audition to see who's going to be tougher against the Republican candidate.

But I do feel that in the last analysis, you can't overestimate the impact of this debate. What's going on in the advertising now in Pennsylvania is going to have far more of an impact than this debate did.

KELLY: Yes. With him outspending her three to one, it is an uphill battle for her at least when it comes to dollars and sense.

Dick Morris, thanks so much for being here. DickMorris.com, folks.

MORRIS: Thank you.

HEMMER: All right.

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