No single human made as many wrong, botched, bogus, and stupid predictions about the 2012 election as Dick Morris. Making fun of them, by campaign’s end, hardly seemed fair. The once-relevant strategist predicted a Romney landslide and a Republican Senate for reasons that seemed ludicrous at the time. My personal favorite Morris “analysis” was that Tom Smith, the already-forgotten energy company magnate who ran against Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, had “powered to a small lead,” when no credible poll ever, ever gave a lead to Smith.
The ballots came in and Morris immediately realized his mistake. He was going on Fox News, mea culpa-ing all over the place; he was telling visitors to his website “I thought Obama would be buried in a landslide; instead I’ve been in a bit of a mudslide on my face.” It seemed extreme at the time. Everybody knows that punditry is an accountability-free zone. Morris had been good for Fox News, and Fox News had been good for Morris.
But now Fox has ended the Dick Morris era. The Wrap, noticing a Morris hit on CNN, asked Fox whether that meant Morris had ceased being a paid, exclusive contributer. Yep. He’s out. Erik Wemple rejoices:
Morris was a partisan player in the 2012 election who made frequent references to his work on the campaign trail; the Associated Press even noted that he was “criticized for accepting paid advertisements on his website from candidates that he discussed on the air at Fox.” And Morris’s front-and-center predictions of a Romney landslide reflected a partisan desperation on the part of Fox News leading up to the campaign.
Wemple sees this as a return to realism at Fox, of a piece with the end of Fox’s most famous contract—the one it had with for Sarah Palin. Fox News is also joining the Wall Street Journal as a News Corp enterprise, where immigration reform gets a fair hearing. You can’t separate any of this from the ongoing, post-election rethink of conservatives and the GOP.
But let’s kick Dick Morris while he’s down. He wasn’t merely an inaccurate pundit. He was a con artist. He used his Fox News hits and Hill columns (he still has the columns!) to pitch candidates that he would concurrently schlep to people who signed up on his mailing list. Hey, did you listen to me on TV and hear about my website? Great! Donate to the Super PAC for America, which will plow money back into list-building and completely fail to elect any of these candidates.
Fox News elevated Morris from a pundit to a Republican activist, a speaker at Tea Party rallies and Republican events. Eleven months ago—i.e., with plenty of time to go before the election—Morris spoke at a Lake County, Florida GOP meeting and tried to auction off a visit to the Fox News studios. Fox News suspended him, briefly, but the scandal should have been even more embarrassing than that. Morris was presenting his employer not as a news organization, but as a helpful part of the struggle. At the same time, he was undermining the news organization’s utility to conservatives by using it as a forum to profitably, baselessly promise that everything was gonna work out.