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Ex-Clinton adviser Dick Morris has the kind of image problem that only a guy like Dick Morris could fix. Can this malpracticing media physician heal thyself? So far, it doesn't look like it.

The more Morris attempts to stem the tide of negative publicity surrounding reports of his tryst with a prostitute, the more he seems to generate a "vitriolic" media response.

Morris was the focus of 204 news stories in the SPINdex sample of influential media outlets in the one-month period leading up to this week's column. Coverage included 156 major daily newspaper stories and 9 minutes of network TV time, for 180,766 words of copy about Morris.

While most of that coverage was sparked by reports of Morris' indiscretion, his media profile began rising even before the scandal, including a Time cover story that depicted him as the puppet master pulling Bill Clinton's strings.

But Morris is not the only Campaign '96 spin doctor in the limelight. A SPINdex analysis of media coverage of top political media gurus shows growing recognition of their role.

Partly as a result of stories speculating on his increased role in campaign media strategy following Morris' ouster, Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos scored 142 news stories, including 110 daily newspaper articles and 6 minutes of network TV time that earned him 137,452 words of copy.

Most other top campaign spin doctors apparently prefer to work behind the scenes. Mike Murphy, until last week the media strategist for Dole-Kemp, scored a relatively lackluster SPINdex of 179 as the subject of only 21 news stories earning 21,649 words of copy. Ross Perot's campaign manager, Clay Mulford, attracted 13 stories and 5,100 words of copy.

It is actually former campaign spin doctors turned political media pundits who are attracting the most coverage. Veteran GOP consultant and former top Reagan aide Ed Rollins earned a SPINdex of 669 with 66 stories and 63,785 words of copy: A high-profile position for the recent addition to the public affairs staff of Edelman Public Relations, who also is plugging a new book about his political experience, "Bare Knuckles & Back Rooms."

Clinton '92 campaign media-meister James Carville scored 665 SPINdex points with 66 stories generating 57,630 words of copy.M

Joe Mandese is senior VP of Myers Reports. Mark Weiner is VP of Medialink PR Research.

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