KERRY STUMBLES - HILLARY TO THE RESCUE?

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
By Gary D. Halbert
May 4, 2004

IN THIS ISSUE:

1.  The Kerry Campaign Is Now In Serious Trouble.

2.  Cal Thomas: Hillary Could Still Be The Nominee.

3.  Kerry Needs A Strong, Popular VP – But Who?

4.  Bill Clinton’s Book – That Giant Sucking Sound.

5.  The Billion Dollar Election. 

Introduction

John Kerry’s presidential stock has sagged recently amidst numerous gaffs in his campaign.  Among others, there’s the controversy over whether he did, or didn’t, throw away his Vietnam war medals or ribbons.  Kerry got so frustrated over the media frenzy about the medals that he stooped to questioning whether President Bush actually served his time in the National Guard, which Kerry previously promised he would not do.  The Kerry campaign is clearly floundering. 

The Democrats are understandably having “buyer’s remorse” at this point.  As you will read below, some liberals are actually calling for Kerry to step aside!  While that is not likely to happen, there are those who are quietly (or not so quietly) urging Hillary Clinton to get into the race.  I have written about this possibility on several occasions in the past in this weekly E-Letter.

Could it really happen?  Would Kerry’s delegates jump ship at the August convention?  Would Kerry step aside, for anyone?  Would Hillary actually take the risk of running against Bush, rather than waiting until 2008?  These are all very interesting questions.  But before I tackle them, let’s read the following column which appeared last Friday in the Washington Times.  (It is included in its entirety and completely unedited by me.)

The ‘Presumptive’ Candidate . . .
  by Cal Thomas

Often when John Kerry is referred to in the media, it is with the modifier ‘presumptive’ before the word ‘nominee.’ Mr. Kerry has enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination in Boston in July, but will the delegates stay with him if it appears by summer, or even sooner, that he can't beat President Bush?
Democrats' hatred of the president is so strong they might be willing to return to the days of the smoke-filled room and stage a coup in order to run a stronger candidate in November.
On April 27, James Ridgeway in his Mondo Washington column for the liberal New York newspaper the Village Voice made a case for just such a scenario. It began, ‘With the air gushing out of John Kerry’s balloon’ and referred to the ‘Democratic establishment’ as ‘arrogant and out of touch.’
It didn't get better for Mr. Kerry or the Democrats: ‘With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton’s triangulation gimmickry ... Kerry sinks day by day. The pros all know that a candidate who starts each morning having to explain himself is a goner.’
Again, this appeared in a liberal newspaper inclined toward Democrats, not a conservative publication like National Review or the Weekly Standard.
Mr. Ridgeway urged ‘Democrat biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike.’
This is remarkable stuff. While Mr. Ridgeway suggested the possibility of resurrecting John Edwards, that won't happen. The only possible candidate who could replace Kerry -- should delegates pledged to him abandon his sinking ship -- is (drum roll and ruffles and flourishes, please) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (presumptuous of New York).
It’s hard not to see the conspiratorial hands of Bill and Hillary behind Mr. Kerry’s decline and the tumble of Howard Dean before him. Hillary Clinton could not afford to have Mr. Dean, who had a solid but not large enough base, win the nomination. Had Mr. Dean won the presidency, Hillary would not have a clear field in 2008 and she might be too old or her time might have passed by 2012.
Bill Clinton's book ‘My Life’ (it’s always about him) is to be published in June. It is certain to fire up nostalgic Democrats who would like nothing better than to return to those thrilling days when Clinton flummoxed Republicans, even while presiding over the loss of Congress and having to declare himself still ‘relevant.’ 
Mr. Kerry’s biggest problem is it’s apparent not too many people are for him. He flunks the ‘likability test.’ The motivation of most of his supporters seems to be their hatred of President Bush, not love for Mr. Kerry. That is probably not enough to win an election, especially when one must attract swing voters who respond more to a positive message than a negative one. 
Enter Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party would swoon if she stepped in and replaced Mr. Kerry. Bill would campaign with her, further energizing Democrats. The media would go into orbit, treating her as a presumptive queen, who deserves the nomination and the presidency because of all Bill put her through. It would be one of the few media stories that could knock Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant from the headlines.
Even if Hillary lost to President Bush, she would run again unopposed, and grateful Democrats would hand her the nomination four years later.
The Village Voice column concluded: ‘If things proceed as they are the dim-bulb Dem leaders are going to be very sorry they [kicked] Howard Dean.’ Not if they redeem themselves in the eyes of the party faithful by selecting Hillary for president.”

Will Hillary Run?

Before we can speculate on that question, we must first ask if John Kerry would step down.  I believe the answer is a solid NO.  Kerry has reportedly wanted to be president ever since he played around the Kennedy compound as a teenager.  I don’t see him stepping down.  The only way the Dems get rid of John Kerry, in my opinion, is for his delegates to abandon him at the July convention in Boston.  That would be rare, but it has happened before.

Now back to Hillary.  As I have written in this E-Letter in the past, I don’t believe Hillary would allow herself to be nominated unless it is all but certain that she would defeat Bush.  Unless Bush makes some huge mistake, I believe Hillary will wait until 2008.  That let’s her keep her promise to serve her first Senate term, raise LOTS of money and run against who-knows-who will be the Republican nominee in 2008.

I could be wrong, though.  Bill, Hillary and Terry McAuliffe still run the Democrat party.  If they really want Kerry out, he will be out. But that brings us, front and center, to the question I raised back in the September 23 issue of this E-Letter ( CLICK HERE), which is: Do the Clintons want ANY Democrat to win in 2004, or do they prefer that Bush wins, thus leaving the door wide open for Hillary in 2008?

Bill Clinton has not been active in campaigning for Kerry.  They haven’t thrown their influential money machine behind him.  So you have to wonder if the Clintons are happy to see George Bush re-elected in November.  Maybe that is the plan after all.

Kerry’s VP Dilemma

Kerry’s best hope, short of a major blunder by Bush, is his choice for Vice President.  He desperately needs a running mate who can recharge the Democratic base and hopefully deliver a swing state or two.  As I wrote in these pages in February ( CLICK HERE), the leading contenders still are Dick Gephardt, John Edwards, Iowa governor Tom Vilsac and Hillary.

As I wrote in February, Dick Gephardt remains the safest choice.  He might be able to deliver his home state of Missouri; he has credentials; but let’s face it, Gephardt is not exactly Mr. Charisma (yawn).  John Edwards, who is very charismatic, would likely upstage Kerry; and Bush would still very likely win North Carolina, Edwards’ home state, handily.

For the same reasons I cited in February, I don’t believe Hillary would accept the nod for VP.  Kerry doesn’t want her anyway, but he could become so desperate that he makes the offer.  In any event, I still believe that if Hillary is on this ticket, she will be at the top and not the bottom.

So, Kerry is now said to be seriously leaning toward Tom Vilsac who is also very liberal.  But Vilsac is not well-known, and Kerry already has a beyond-the-margin-of-error lead in Iowa.   Gephardt still looks like the safest choice to me.  In any event, we should know before the end of this month.  Here’s why.

Clinton’s Book Due Out In June

Bill Clinton has reportedly been working on his memoirs ever since he left office.  As noted in the editorial above, his publisher (Random House which advanced $10 million to Clinton) recently announced that the book, entitled “My Life,” will be released in June.  If you’re John Kerry (and others in the Dem party), you have be asking, WHY NOW? 

The Clinton book is expected to top the charts as soon as it is released.  Random House has scheduled an initial printing of 1.5 million copies – that’s 500,000 more than the first run for Hillary’s book, “Living History.”   Clinton’s new book will suck all the air out of Kerry’s campaign for several weeks when it is released.  Again we ask, why now?  Why not wait until after the election?  It’s not like Clinton needs the money.

This again raises the question of whether the Clintons’ plan is to see Kerry defeated and Bush re-elected in November, thus leaving the door wide open for Hillary in 2008.  This also explains why Kerry is in a rush to name his VP before the Clinton book produces that giant sucking sound in June.

Former Clinton advisor, Dick Morris, had the following to say in his New York Post column today:

“The impact of Clinton’s memoirs on the Kerry campaign cannot have escaped so astute a political observer as our 42nd president. He knows full well what he is doing and what its effect on the Kerry campaign will be.
When Clinton’s book hits the shelves, Kerry will not be able to get a word in edgewise. All the stories will be about Clinton, just as the Democratic candidate for president is trying to define his themes and get out his message… nothing will deflect from the attention Clinton will get and Kerry will not. There is only so much oxygen in the room and the president will suck it all up.
Clinton is deciding to publish now because he wants to deprive Kerry of momentum. He realizes that if Kerry wins, Hillary will probably never be president. He knows that she won’t be able to run in 2008 because a victorious Kerry would undoubtedly seek re-election. Even in 2012, it is Kerry's vice president who would be the likely nominee. And, if he or she wins, he'll run for a second term in 2016. By 2020, Hillary will be 73.
Or is Clinton publishing in June to generate momentum to force Kerry to put his wife on the ticket?
Either way, Clinton must know the impact his publication is likely to have. Kerry did not have a very good introduction to the American people. His post-primary period has been, thus far, a disaster, with his own flubs emphasizing Bush's accusation that he is unready to lead America during wartime.
The Democratic National Convention, in early August, is his chance to re-introduce himself. He needs all of June and July to build momentum. But instead, he will face all Clinton all the time.
After the Democratic Convention, Kerry faces two events that will leave him gasping for breath - the Republican Convention at the end of August and the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He desperately needs a good summer to prepare and fortify his vote against these shocks.
But now Clinton is robbing him of the chance. And that is not by chance.”

LATE NOTE:  Just as we are about to post this E-Letter on our website, FOX News ran a story saying that Clinton is still not finished writing his book.  The suggestion is that the book release could be delayed 2-3 weeks.  If true, that’s even worse for Kerry. That would put the release of Clinton’s book right on top of the Democratic convention.  So, where the June release would have at least allowed a few weeks for the Clinton hoopla to subside before the convention, the book delay could be an even bigger distraction.

Bush Pulls Ahead Despite Problems

After weeks in which his administration’s policies were pummeled - from the 9-11 Commission hearings to the streets of Fallujah, and now the prison abuse scandal in Iraq - President Bush has pulled ahead of Kerry in the latest polls. The swing is roughly 10 points, with Bush moving for 4-5 points behind to 4-5 points ahead.  The latest poll as we prepare to post this E-letter has Bush 51.9 to Kerry 46.1.

The Kerry camp responded that the swing is the result of Bush’ early attack ads that have been running for the last several weeks.  Certainly, the ads have had an impact, but Bush’s campaign ads have not had nearly the airtime of, say, Richard Clarke before the 9-11 Commission or the recent problems in the war in Iraq.  Something else is going on here.

Despite the 9-11 hearings, most Americans do not blame Bush for the terror attacks and are willing to forgive the President if the war in Iraq was not planned properly.  Increasingly, they see Mr. Bush as the man most committed to enhancing the country’s security today.

The latest polls on the presidential election show Bush comfortably ahead in most of the so-called “red states.”  Only in FL and OH is the race close.  Bush is also gaining ground on Kerry in several of the “blue states.” (MI, WI, OR).

The Bush campaign has to focus on holding on to FL, where their lead has shrunk in the latest polls.  They also need to “flip” a large blue state, and they are focusing on PA.  Interestingly, Bush hit MI this week as the first stop on his bus trip.  Imagine if a Republican won MI which is historically a Democrat stronghold!

John Kerry just launched the largest single ad buy in Democratic party history - $27 million.  Kerry’s ads are targeting 17 states including the battleground states, but also AK, CO and WA.  Kerry has to make sure he holds onto WA and OR, which are now believed to be margin-of-error states. 

A Different Election This Time

Several things will be different in this year’s presidential election.   First, there will be no exit polling until after the polls close in California.  The Voter News Service no longer exists in the wake of the Help America Vote Act which was passed in 2002.  The major networks will have to sit on their hands until 7:00 p.m. on the West Coast.  This will be most interesting to watch, since the networks will know the polling results in states that close early, but they can’t report it.

While the TV outlets are supposed to be silent, you can bet that Internet outlets will be buzzing with exit polling information on election night.  Matt Drudge, to be sure, will be posting polling information as fast as he can collect it!  So will other Web outlets.  So those of us who are Internet savvy may know a lot more about how the election is going than those who only watch on TV.

Whatever the outcome, this will be the most expensive presidential election in history.  President Bush is almost certain to raise at least $250 million to $300 million.  Kerry decided this week not to take federal matching funds, so he is free to raise as much as he can.  While very uncertain, most analysts figure Kerry can raise $150 million or more.  Plus, he is likely to benefit from 527 groups like Americans Coming Together (George Soros), MoveOn.org and others that are also raising hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which will be aimed at defeating Bush.

It’s being called The Billion Dollar Election.  It will be interesting, for sure, but not worth it!

All the best,

Gary D. Halbert

SPECIAL ARTICLES

Liberals have buyer’s remorse over Kerry.

So much for the Bush “Smear Machine.”

9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick should testify under oath.


Read Gary’s blog and join the conversation at garydhalbert.com.


Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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