For months, Dick Morris has predicted that New York Republican Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's “worst nightmare” and that Clinton would end her re-election campaign rather than face Pirro. But, trailing badly in the polls, Pirro dropped out of the race.
In columns in The Hill and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and in appearances on Fox News over the past several months, Clinton-hating pundit Dick Morris repeatedly touted New York Republican Jeanine Pirro's Senate campaign against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) -- even suggesting that Pirro is such a strong candidate that Clinton would have to drop out of the race.
When Morris says something about the Clintons, it's usually a safe bet that he's wrong -- and his Pirro predictions have proven to be no exception. Pirro, trailing badly in polls, dropped out of the race on December 21 and announced instead that she plans to run for New York attorney general.
Following are some of Morris's predictions about the Clinton-Pirro race.
FNC's The O'Reilly Factor, 4/14/05: Morris predicted Clinton might “take a pass” rather than face Pirro:
MORRIS: Could I just mention one other thought about Hillary, on your previous subject? There is a very interesting fight shaping up in '06 in New York state. Because Hillary, you know has to run for re-election to the Senate before she runs for president.
BILL O'REILLY (host): Right.
MORRIS: I personally would advise her to skip it and just run for president. What does she need a re-election fight for? But I've heard that there's some possibility that a pro-choice, pro-assault rifle ban, pro-affirmative action woman might run against her, Jeanine Pirro, the attorney general -- district attorney of Westchester who's on Fox News a lot.
MORRIS: That would be something.
O'REILLY: That's in the air. That's in the air. And you know, but Hillary is so much money. But that would be a competitive race. And if that happens --
MORRIS: Because she -- Hillary needs to run against someone like a [Newt] Gingrich.
MORRIS: Hillary needs to run against somebody like a Gingrich, who's anti-choice, and you know, pro anti-gun control. But again, someone who in essence is so much like her on the policy issues, Hillary would find herself fighting herself.
O'REILLY: It would be interesting. But I think Hillary might take your advice, if Ms. Pirro does declare, she might say, “I'm going to run for president.”
MORRIS: Yes. She might just take a pass. What does she need to spend $10 million getting re-elected to the Senate for?
The Hill, 6/22/05: Morris called Pirro “Hillary's worst nightmare,” predicted Clinton would drop out of race
In New York state, Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro seems to be getting closer to running against her [Clinton] in the 2006 race for the Senate. Pirro has to be Hillary's worst nightmare. She is a pro-choice woman who even backs Medicaid funding for abortion and a supporter of gun control, affirmative action and gay civil unions.
Hillary has always thrived off right-wing challengers who flunk the litmus tests imposed by New York's liberal electorate. But, in Pirro, she has met someone whom she can't browbeat over abortion or the usual Democratic issues.
Clinton is especially vulnerable to Pirro because Hillary can't pledge to serve out her term if she is reelected. Polls show that her refusal to do so strikes New Yorkers very badly. Having extended the welcome mat to this carpetbagger and taken her at her word that she wanted to be part of the Big Apple, they feel they are being treated like doormats in reelecting someone who will obviously begin to miss votes and focus all her energy on running for president as soon as she is reelected.
If Pirro attracts the massive national funding she is likely to get, she can wage a very strong race against Hillary. My bet is that Clinton thinks the better of it and drops out of the race if Pirro comes on strong. Why should she risk the presidency - and have to spend $20 million - just to get reelected to her old job?
And ... if Hillary drops out after Pirro has built up a head of steam, it could give the GOP a Senate seat in the most unlikely of places -- Clinton's back yard.
Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 8/8/05: Morris says Clinton would be “crazy” to run against Pirro
O'REILLY: .OK, how would you go after Pirro?
MORRIS: Well, the first thing I would tell Hillary, if I were advising Hillary, is you're crazy to run for the Senate. What do you need to spend $30 million or $40 million for, in a race that will probably become a nip-and-tuck race. It'll be within five or eight points. And you win by five points.
And then you go around the country explaining how come I was elected by 12 [percentage points] but re-elected by only five. It's a no-win game.
And what does she get? A Senate seat that she wants to vacate. Whereas - and I would go back to her and I would say, Hillary, do you remember when we were talking in 1990 about whether Bill should run for re-election as governor of Arkansas before he runs '92? And you said he shouldn't because you said he needs the full time to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire? And do you remember how right you were then? What are you getting involved in this for?
[NOTE: Bill Clinton did run for re-election as governor in 1990; he won. Then he was elected president in 1992. It isn't clear why Morris thinks this proves that Hillary Clinton shouldn't run for re-election.]
O'REILLY: Yes, but pride? Isn't it pride? Because she's obviously said --
MORRIS: She can be real proud in the White House. And --
O'REILLY: So you would advise her to just not run for the Senate, and say to the people in New York, “Look, I don't want to run because I'm not going to be here for the full commitment. I'm going to run for president.” She's not going to do that. What are the odds of her doing that?
MORRIS: Well, that depends on whether she has a cakewalk or not. When it only looked like [attorney and Richard Nixon son-in-law Edward] Cox would run, that was a cakewalk for Hillary.
O'REILLY: Yes. Pirro's no cakewalk.
MORRIS: Pirro's no cakewalk.
MORRIS: And if Pirro demonstrates over the fall that she can really put the points on the board and really close the gap --
O'REILLY: Raises --
MORRIS: .-- and raises a lot of dough from around the country.
O'REILLY: Right, which she will.
MORRIS: Which she will, then I think Hillary has to look at that again. And she has to say, “One of my big advantages is I will enter this race with an ability to spend $100 million.”
O'REILLY: But it looks like --
MORRIS: “But if I've already blown $40 million of that --”
O'REILLY: -- it looks like she's chicken, though, if she doesn't.
MORRIS: Not if she pulls out when she still has a 10 or 15-point lead, but she realizes it's down from 32. She'll say, “I had a 12-point lead. What do you mean? I was certain to win re-election.”
O'REILLY: If she doesn't pull out, do you think it's going to be nasty? You think -- I would -- with all due respect, I know Ms. Pirro. Not well, but you know, I know her. I don't know Mrs. Clinton. I've never spoken to her. But I wouldn't want to get in between those two ladies. Is this going to get nasty?
MORRIS: I don't think so.
MORRIS: I think that Hillary is going to plant all kinds of stories about Jeanine's husband [who has served prison time for tax fraud and has fathered a child out of wedlock].
O'REILLY: Do you really think that?
MORRIS: But then Jeanine can basically come back and say, “Why don't we leave both of our husbands out of it?”
MORRIS: “My husband, who served time for tax evasion, and your husband who lost his law license for perjury.” And I think that's a pretty effective argument.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 8/14/05: Morris called Pirro-Clinton race a “battle royale,” said Clinton “may read the handwriting on the wall and she may pull out of the race”
Jeanine Pirro has formally announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate from New York, which will pit her against Hillary Clinton in a battle royale. This is just the kind of fight that Sen. Clinton hoped to avoid.
While Hillary would have no problem dispatching an opponent like Nixon son-in-law Edward Cox or Yonkers Mayor John Spencer (the two other possible GOP contenders), Pirro presents a real problem.
Jeanine Pirro is pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay-civil unions and pro-immigration. And, of course, she's a woman.
And, at some point, Mrs. Clinton may feel Pirro gaining on her and wonder if it is worth the battle.
It's worth remembering that Hillary did not want Bill to run for re-election for governor of Arkansas in 1990 as he contemplated a race for president in 1992. (Back then she had a better idea: She would run in his place.)
If Pirro posts some early gains, particularly upstate, where it is cheap to do early advertising, Hillary and Bill may read the handwriting on the wall and she may pull out of the race.
The Hill, 9/21/05: Morris claimed “Hillary has a real fight on her hands,” said Pirro “might just beat” Clinton
Ed Cox, Nixon's son-in-law, and John Spencer, former Yonkers mayor, were not the sort to confront Hillary with a potent challenge. But now that Jeanine Pirro has declared her candidacy, Hillary has a real fight on her hands.
Already, since Pirro announced -- and despite her embarrassing 32 seconds of silence while she groped for her speech text -- the Westchester Republican, a district attorney, has closed the gap with Hillary. The Democratic senator led Pirro by a gigantic 30-point margin, 61-31 percent, before Jeanine announced. But afterward Pirro trailed by only 55-34.
Armed with the doubts of New Yorkers about Hillary's fealty and protected by her social liberalism, Pirro will make a very effective challenger. She will almost certainly make the race closer than the 12 points that separated Hillary from her 2000 Republican challenger, Rep. Rick Lazio. And Pirro will make her work hard and spend tens of millions of dollars.
And she might just beat Hillary. Which raises the question: Why is Hillary running for reelection to a job she wants to leave? New Yorkers will all be asking, so Hillary might want to ask herself.