Morris Compares W. Bush to Clinton, Reagan; Conservatives Not So Sure

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS) -Political analyst Dick Morris is comparing the early front runner out of the gate in the White House horse race - George W Bush - to a trio of successful politicians who were able to put a fresh face on their parties in order to regain power.

"Whenever you have a candidate who can redefine his party's message, like Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or Tony Blair [in the UK], he becomes tremendously attractive to the general electorate," Morris told

Morris, whose clients have run the gamut from Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to Democrats like President Clinton, says that Bush, with his message of "compassionate conservatism" has been able to tout traditional Republican goals like tax cuts, while still appearing to have concern for the poor.

"He has been able to switch from appearing less like a presidential candidate to more like a man with a message of joy, love, compassion, and caring," said Morris.

Compassionate or not, Bush still has a ways to go in proving his conservatism and his character, said American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene.

"Bush still has to articulate his stands on conservative issues, and whether he can be trusted," Keene told "That takes longer," he added.

With the first caucuses and primaries over eight months away, Bush's huge leads in the polls, both over his Republican opponents and the Democratic leading candidate Vice President Al Gore, are not impressing all conservatives. Bush has ample time to blow it as some other recent presidential candidates did, Free Congress Director Paul Weyrich told

"President Romney and President Muskie both remind us that a lead in the polls at this stage is meaningless in terms of the general election," said Weyrich. He was referring to Republican candidate George Romney's large, early lead in the 1968 presidential primary race and Democrat Edmund Muskie's similar experience in 1972. Both lost their parties' primaries.

The latest poll on GOP contenders by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal gives Bush 61 percent, with Elizabeth Dole getting eleven percent, and the nine other candidates all in single digits. The same poll puts Bush ahead of Gore 51 percent to 36 percent with 13 percent undecided.

Bush's lead over Gore also needs to be taken in an historical context, one Democratic analyst told

Democratic strategist Vic Fingerhut pointed out that in the 1968 election incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey was trailing GOP candidate Richard Nixon by double digits before closing to within one percentage point and barely losing a tight race.

"It's too early," said Fingerhut, but he added that he did find it "somewhat significant" that Gore was trailing despite his Administration's record seven year economic boom. "No GOP candidate should even be on the radar screen," he said.

Gore's strategy should be to stress those Democratic economic successes in the same way that his fellow Democrat Harry Truman did in the 1948 election when he trailed Republican Tom Dewey throughout the campaign.

Emphasizing the post WW II economic success of his Democratic administration, Truman's favorite line to voters was, according to Fingerhut, "'if you want to keep living like a Republican, you better vote Democratic.'"