Dick Morris Back on the (Mexican) Campaign Trail?

A solid dose of negative campaigning has tightened up Mexico's three-way presidential race, generating a spate of stories about the influence of controversial U.S. political strategist Dick Morris.

Reports in the Mexican press are raising questions about how connected Morris might be to the campaign of Felipe Calderon. The conservative Calderon is competing with leftist Andres Manual Lopez Obrador and populist Roberto Madrazo in a contest to lead a nation of 105 million people whose exodus of migrants, legal and illegal, are reshaping U.S. politics and society.

Last month, Calderon overtook Lopez Obrador for the first time in the polls when a survey done by the Reforma newspaper gave him a 38 to 35 percent edge over Lopez Obrador. Madrazo held 23 percent. Lopez Obrador has retained a slight lead in other recent polls compiled by opinamexico.org.

Calderon's surge followed a saturation television advertising campaign aimed at eroding the positive image Lopez Obrador has forged as a popular mayor of Mexico City by linking him to Venezuela's leftist president Hugo Chavez. In a story headlined "Mercenary Strategists Without Rival," the newsweekly Proceso (in Spanish by subscription) reported this week that Calderon has contracted Morris and Texas-based political consultant Rob Allyn "to handle not only his image, but the development of his campaign."

In a telephone interview, Allyn said, "I've never met Dick Morris and we're not associated in any way" but otherwise declined to comment. Representatives of Calderon's Partido de Accion Nacional (PAN) have denied Morris is involved in the campaign. Morris is not talking.

What is clear is that U.S.-style media campaigning has changed the dynamics of the 2006 race.

The most successful attack ad was a film clip of Chavez criticizing Mexican President Vicente Fox, juxtaposed with a clip of Lopez Obrador comparing Fox to a "chachalaca," a noisy turkey, and telling him to shut up. The effect, reported the Wall Street Journal, was "to paint Mr. Lopez Obrador as a demagogue who can't handle criticism."

Speculation that Morris was behind the ads first mounted when the former strategist for President Clinton turned Fox TV commentator wrote a column for the New York Post last month describing Lopez Obrador as an "ultraleftist" supported by Chavez and Cuban president Fidel Castro. "Lopez Obrador could be the final piece in their grand plan to bring the United States to its knees before the newly resurgent Latin left," Morris wrote.

The leftist daily La Jornada (in Spanish) played up Morris's comment to the Wall Street Journal that the attacks on Lopez Obrador "are working."

"Worse still," wrote correspondent David Brooks, "the man who proclaims himself as one of most prominent political advisers in the country warns that if Washington does not manage to pass immigration reform, it could alienate the Mexican electorate and deliver the country into the hands of Lopez Obrador."

Writing in El Universal, pollster Dan Lund who has worked for Lopez Obrador in the past, said Morris "has taken center stage at his insistence." His former client, by contrast, "is what U.S. consultants would regard as a heretic ....[even by] his own campaign manager," he wrote.

The question Lopez Obrador faces with two months to go is whether he has picked the right man for the job.

By Jefferson Morley |  May 3, 2006; 11:08 AM ET  | Category:  Americas
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Hope Morris stays in Mexico where he belongs

Posted by: | May 3, 2006 02:22 PM

While the election is Mexican business, I do favor a nationalist approach for any nation. From the May Day demonstration for a Day Without Gringos, we know all is not well with Mexico or the U.S. under NAFTA. If Mexicans like the way their country and economy is going, then, by all means vote for a candidate supported by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. As an American Nationalist, I would applaud any candidate, in any country, that would defend the economic and political sovereignty of their country. I would also encourage every country to throw up trade barriers so high, no developed country can dump their cheap products on them and destroy local businesses, farmers, and industries. I believe Mexico should be developed by Mexicans and for Mexicans. It is my hope for Mexico, the United States, and the world.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | May 3, 2006 02:23 PM

Dick Morris is good but driven by bitterness. I don't know...I don't think he'll ever get that whale.

Posted by: toby | May 3, 2006 02:51 PM

I would invite people to look at the following page (of unknown legality) where gamblers bet on prety much everything including the outcome of the mexican elections.

http://www.tradesports.com/
Look under the politics section.

If you don't want to look at it or have a hard time decifering their non-user friendly format here is the jist of what it says. Calderon was hovering around 20% probability of winning until around the first of April when his stock began to climb. Today according to this market he stands at 55% chance of winning. I don't check it everyday but today was the first time I've seen him above 50%. The site functions basically as a giant rumor mill and thus I'm not so sure how truely "rational" it is, but personally I'd belive it over any opinion poll.

These technical issues asside I have to say I'm a bit surprised that these attack ads are working. Mexican voters are being asked to choose between a stooge of Bush and a stooge of Chavez. I would have never thought that in this type of contest the Bush side would win. Is it the case that Fox's lack of support for the Iraq war and inability to get Bush to push through immigration reform has helped distance the PAN from association with Bush?

At Christmas time I talked with one of Mexico's formost young journalists (who as chance may have recently married a close family friend) and he told me the only way that AMLO was going to lose this if he ended up in a box.

What is going on in Mexico? Can it really just be as simple as the addition of Dick Morris?

Posted by: David George Ferguson | May 3, 2006 05:10 PM

A sleazy American like Morris can twist, distort and spin all he wants; I predict this know-nothing American-style sleaze will ultimately backfire with the Mexican electorate and that Andres Lopez Obrador will win in a landslide.

Posted by: Antonio | May 3, 2006 11:54 PM

Calderon really does not need Dick Morris, Lopez Obrador is doing a nice job of self destructing without any help from outside the country. Watching him on Mexican TV news denouncing each and every independent poll that shows Calderon catching up to (or passing) him as just propaganda cooked up in Los Pinos is rather pathetic. His further claims to have his own polling, done by someone whose name he declines to state, that shows him up by ten points is worse.

One of two things is happening, I think. Either AMLO is a crazy conspiracy theorist, or he is so surrounded by yes men that he really believes the polls are rigged. Either way, this does not bode well for Mexico if he is elected.

At the end of the day, better him than Madrazo, though.

Posted by: Jerry Bourbon | May 4, 2006 12:40 AM

"As an American Nationalist, I would applaud any candidate, in any country, that would defend the economic and political sovereignty of their country."

The National Socialist platform? I think this was tried in Germany in the 1930s and it didn't work out so well.

Posted by: jomama | May 4, 2006 12:15 PM

I am glad to see the Washington Post covering this election. I have mentioned Morris' excellent insights into this contest in my blog

http://mexicopolitics.blogspot.com

The only critique I would have for the above article by Jefferson Morley is the description of Madrazo as populist. He is an old time party boss in the PRI, the bureaucratic party that ran Mexico in semi-authoritarian fashion for 71 years.


Posted by: T.L. Brink | May 4, 2006 03:00 PM

EL SEÑOR LUIS ALCAZAR PULIDO, FUE CO FUNDADOR DE LAS PALETERIA Y NEVERIAS "LA MICHOACANA" QUE EXISTEN MAS DE TRES MIL NEGOCIOS DE ESTE TIPO EN TODO MEXICO Y PARTE DE ESTADOS UNIDOS, DERIVANDOSE LAS FRANQUICIAS "LA FLOR DE MICHOACAN", "LA FLOR DE MORELIA", "LA FLOR DE TOCUMBO", "LA NUEVA MICHOACANA" Y ASI POR EL ESTILO. ESTE SEÑOR TENIA UNA FORTUNA ESTIMADA EN $4,000'000,000.00 (CUATRO MIL MILLONES DE PESOS 00/100 M.N.) GENERADOS DURANTE SU LARGO TRABAJO, FUE AMIGO DEL GENERAL LAZARO CARDENAS DEL RIO, AMIGO DEL SEÑOR PEDRO VAZQUEZ RAMIREZ QUIEN DISEÑO Y CONSTRUYO LA IGLESIA DE TOCUMBO MICHOACAN, MANO ADOQUINAR EL PUEBLO, LE DIO TRABAJO A MAS DE 100,000 PERSONAS GRACIAS A SU LABOR, JUNTO CON SU HERMANO IGNACIO ALCAZAR CREARON UN IMPERIO COMERCIAL DE GRANDES MAGNITUDES. AHORA BIEN, ESTE EMPRESARIO MICHOACANO, FUE ASESINADO EN EL AÑO DOS MIL EN SU CASA DE LA CIUDAD DE MEXICO, JUNTO CON SU ESPOSA ANA MARIA ANDRADE OSEGUERA Y SU EMPLEADA DOMESTICA, SIN EXISTIR UN INDICIO DEL MOTIVO DE DICHO CRIMEN. LA PROCURADURIA INICIO LA AVERGUACION PREVIA NUMERO 13a/366/00-01 ANTE LA FISCALIA PARA HOMICIDIOS DIRECCION "A" LA CUAL NO TIENE NINGUN AVANCE SIGNIFICATIVO. AHORA BIEN Y DERIVADO DE QUE EN EL PUEBLO DE LOS REYES Y TOCUMBO MICHOACAN, SE FINANCIO UNA INVESTIGACION POR PARTE DE LOS BENEFICIADOS DE DON LUIS ALCAZAR PULIDO, SE LLEGO A LA CERTEZA DE QUE EL SEÑOR LUIS ALCAZAR ANDRADE HIJO DE LOS DIFUNTOS Y PRINCIPAL SOSPECHOSO DE ESTOS ASESINATOS, ESTA FINANCIANDO LA CAMPAÑA DE ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, QUIEN POR OBRA DE LA CASUALIDAD TIENE TODO SU SEXENIO COMO JEFE DE GOBIERNO DEL DISTRITO FEDERAL CUBRIENDO LA IMPUNIDAD CON LA QUE SE COMETIO ESTOS HORRIBLES CRIMENES, PUES COMO NO, SI RECIBIO HASTA EL MOMENTO $2'000,000.00 US (DOS MILLONES DE DOLARES DE PARTE DE ESTE SEÑOR ALCAZAR ANDRADE, ASI LAS COSAS, QUE PODEMOS ESPERAR DE ESTE SEÑOR LOPEZ OBRADOR QUE PREGONA "POR EL BIEN DE TODOS" LOS QUE LO APOYAN Y LES DA "ESPERANZA" A SU IMPUNIDAD.

MEXICO, DISTRITO FEDERAL A 20 DE MAYO DEL 2006

Posted by: miguel alcazar | May 20, 2006 12:47 PM

I'm not the most informed in Mexican politics but certainly from my visits of family, watching its TV while over there, and talking to family members about politics over there I feel I can add something.

The PRI (the populists in the piece) were the longtime ruling party in Mexico and have a long history of corruption in Mexico. It would be a shame to see such a corrupt party retake the presidency.

I too worry about Obrador and the PRD because there is the possibility of leaning towards Chavez and that ilk and away from the US. We shouldn't be HOPING to lose Mexico as a friend and partner. Its oh so simple to deride the PAN party because the US sees it as the best of the 3 (wall street and FOx news) but - and I'm a proud progressive Democrat - I see the PAN as the best choice of the 3. PRI is corrupt and dirty, I don't like the direction the PRD will take Mexico so thats why I say that

Posted by: Oyka | June 1, 2006 08:54 PM

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