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New Left Review 1, January-February 2000


Tom Mertes on Dick Morris, The New Prince. America’s fallen political adviser as a surrogate Machiavelli for the White House.

TOM MERTES

COUNSELLOR TO CLINTON

Few political operatives in the US enjoy a reputation as tawdry as Dick Morris, pioneer of the use of ‘focus groups’ for devising candidate platforms. Hired by Clinton mid-way through his first term to rescue his prospect of re-election, Morris devised ‘triangulation’ as the winning strategy to foil his likely opponent, Dole. Playing to Clinton’s own instincts, he counselled him to jettison all pretence of commitment to a traditional Democratic agenda, even the watered-down version on which he had campaigned in 1992, and take over much of the substance of the Republican legislative programme instead. Calculating that two-fifths of all voters were in the ‘independent middle’ of the electorate, Morris targeted this centre, reckoning that by stealing the Republicans’ clothes, Clinton would drive them further to the right in search of some still distinctive Presidential apparel.

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