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Penn and Schoen began polling to gauge the fallout from the Morris debacle and discovered that there wasn't any. In fact, 37% of voters said the scandal made them more likely to vote for Clinton. The pollsters could offer no explanation of why this should be so. When Penn reported it at the meeting, Gore looked over at the couch where Penn and Schoen were sitting. "If things get tight," he said with a smile, "one of y'all's gonna have to go next."
Shortly after Morris resigned, Clinton took Penn and Schoen aside. "I want you to stay on and pick up the slack," he told them. Penn, who had moved to Washington in December 1995, confessed, "Mr. President, the last thing I want to do is get a moving van and go back to New York."
"That won't be necessary," said Clinton. "Don't worry. I know that a lot of what Dick presented on values was your work."
That weekend, Penn, Knapp and Morris had a long, unpleasant conversation about Morris' compensation. Morris argued that because so many of the campaign's ideas were his, he was entitled to "royalties"--a piece of the TV ad buy for the rest of the campaign. Penn and Knapp shot that idea down fast. Morris had already earned perhaps $2 million from the campaign up to that point. They offered him a buyout of just $30,000.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
In September, Sipple quit the Dole campaign after Reed told him he was bringing in another media consultant. Reed replaced him with a soft-voiced Cuban-born adman named Alex Castellanos, who immediately put up a spot attacking Clinton on the drug issue. A federal agency had just announced that teenage marijuana use had almost doubled in three years, and Castellanos' spot combined that bit of news with a 1992 mtv clip showing a grinning, callow-looking Clinton confessing that he'd inhale if he had it to do all over again. It was Dole's best spot of the year. Clinton took Penn and Schoen aside.
"Look, I'm worried about this drug attack," he said. "How do we respond?" Dole hadn't put much money behind the ad, but the consultants decided to hit back hard. They came up with a spot highlighting Clinton's drug and crime policies, including the death penalty for drug kingpins, and hitting Dole for voting against creation of the drug czar's office.
Just as he was finding his target, Dole abandoned the drug message and switched to the charge that Clinton was a "spend-and-tax liberal." The Clintonites were relieved. "With the drug spots," says Penn, "Dole was getting some traction by painting Clinton as a social liberal. The notion that he was an economic liberal was less effective because the economy is sound."
But the consultants didn't like Dole showing signs of life. It was time to kill him off. The message team unveiled its tactical nuclear weapon, an ad they called "Wrong in the Past." Using black-and-white images of Dole through the ages, the ad traced his 30-year history of votes on the "wrong" side of issues such as Medicare and education. The ad homed in on voters' perception of Dole; one poll showed that it made 66% of Americans less likely to vote for him. But the spot had no effect on the horse race. Nothing did. With the exception of Dole's resignation and the Republican Convention, two brief bounces for the challenger, the numbers had been static for nine months. Nothing either side did seemed to move them.
L STANDS FOR LIAR