The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: Would U.S. politics benefit from a third party?

Britain’s Nick Clegg. Florida’s Charlie Crist. Would U.S. politics benefit from a third party? The Washington Post asked Mark Penn and other political experts for their assessment.

Chief executive of Burson-Marsteller; adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton from 1995 through 2000.

So Starbucks has 155 combinations of coffee but America and Great Britain only have two parties?

The election in Britain could be a game changer if the Liberal Democrats get nearly 30 percent of the vote. For the first time the major parties agreed to debates, and the results so far have been stunningly favorable for the outsider party.

In the United States, we have the structural issue that there are many Democrats who are socially liberal and economically more conservative than the leadership. And the Republicans have many members who believe in the economic philosophy of the party but reject the religious right. Both groups are not entirely comfortable with their party and have see-sawed in their voting.

On top of this, we have a record number of independents in the country, along with new, open media and Supreme Court rulings that make it easier and easier for non-party interests to participate in politics. This is why it is critically important for Democrats to welcome the vital center.

But if party primaries are driven farther to the left and the right by partisans, we are going to see more independent candidates at all levels. It’s part of the natural change in politics, and I think all eyes will be on Britain to see the final result.

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Sky News: Mark Penn Says Politics is the Real Winner of the UK Election Debates

US Expert Reveals The Real Debate ‘Winner’

By MARK PENN, US debates expert
Published April 30, 2010

After the media frenzy around “Bigotgate”, last night’s third and final TV debate took place took under a surreal backdrop.

Gordon Brown’s comments about Gillian Duffy were disastrous not just because of the offence it may have caused to (former) Labour voters.

It also took away the one remaining opportunity for Labour strategists to change the narrative of the election and it meant all eyes were on Brown to see how he would handle it.

…The final debate is over. The moment of choice will soon be upon us. After three debates, the clear winner has actually been British politics. Facing public anger and disillusionment for the past few years, especially after the expenses scandal, Iraq and the recession, the introduction of US-style leadership debates transformed a dull and formulaic campaign into something that truly engaged the country in politics once again….

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Sky News: Mark Penn’s Analysis of the Second UK Election Debate

Rub-A-Dub-Snub! Are Leaders Scrubbing Up?

By MARK PENN, US debates expert
Published April 23, 2010

If the first election debate spawned a new political catchphrase – “I agree with Nick” – the second debate in Bristol saw the line abandoned.

After watching Nick Clegg’s popularity soar in the last week, both David Cameron and Gordon Brown sought to use the foreign affairs debate to show why they don’t agree with the Lib Dem leader, on a range of policies from the Euro and immigration to Trident and nuclear power.

They had to restrategise, and they did.

Mr Brown and Mr Cameron had to wake up to the changed reality of an electorate tired with the old and fascinated by the possibility of new.

Mr Cameron had to show that only he represents real change and Mr Brown had to show that Lib Dems are a risk to future prosperity.

They both did better, but Mr Clegg still stands as a real force in the election and as someone who can mobilise young people.

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The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner by Mark Penn: Time for a New Kind of Bold from President Obama

Published April 20, 2010

The prediction that passage of health care followed by an impressive agenda of global nuclear and Wall Street regulatory reform would lift up the administration by showing aggressive leadership seems to be one of those strategies that looks good on paper but so far has not worked in practice.

President Obama’s ratings remain below 50 percent in the Gallup tracking and in most other polls. The prophesied bump from health care never materialized, and the polls show most Americans still oppose the health care plan, believing it will increase, not decrease, the cost of their care.

The administration’s calculus that unpopular legislative success can translate into big November wins simply doesn’t add up. Unless the administration finds a new path and a new strategy, they’re facing potential electoral retribution on a scale unseen since 1994, when sweeping GOP victories seriously constricted President Clinton’s legislative options.

To hold on to his majority, the President needs to make course corrections — It’s time for a new kind of bold from President Obama.

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Mark Penn interviewed at Burson-Marsteller EMEA Leadership Conference

Mark Penn interviewed in April 2010 in Madrid, Spain at the Burson-Marsteller EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) Leadership Conference. The CEO discusses Burson-Marsteller’s Evidence-Based Communications Philosophy, PR after the recession and Social Media.

Sky News: Mark Penn Offers Advice for Next UK Election Debate to Brown, Cameron & Clegg

UK Leaders’ Debate: Lessons For Next Time

By MARK PENN, US debates expert
Published April 16, 2010

The first UK election debate brought with it a real sense of interest and expectation.

Would there be a knock-out blow? Would any of the candidates slip up? How would they cope with the intense scrutiny and interrogation under the hot TV studio lights for 90 minutes?

At the end, many viewers may feel their expectations weren’t quite met.

There was no “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment and none of the candidates lost their way.

In fact the only one who seemed really flustered by the experience was ITV’s host Alastair Stewart.

Yet there is still much to learn from the performances of the leaders in the first debate.

And it may well shift the political sands – it will take a few days to see how the real polls shift, but Labour may find itself with deeper problems, pecked upon from both the left and the right.

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Sky News: Mark Penn Says Low Expectations For Debates Are A Blessing

Debates: Low Expectations Are A Blessing

By MARK PENN, US debates expert
Published April 12, 2010

Ten years ago, the American presidential race was shaped by a debate that pitted the successor to a popular president against a self-described moderate Republican running on “compassionate conservatism”.

In those debates, George W. Bush managed to sell himself as Clinton’s logical heir, while Vice President Al Gore – despite his vast experience and policy bona fides – came off as a stereotypical tax-and-spend liberal.

Against all odds, Bush came out on top.

Bush won those debates not thanks to his verbal acuity or grasp of the issues, but because he outperformed the public’s expectations by seeming just knowledgeable enough on policy and foreign affairs.

As we have seen time and time again in the US, and as Britain will soon learn, it is the candidate that beats his own expectations who will win the debate.

Going into a debate, low expectations are a blessing.

Today, Britain’s first presidential-style debates are running on some fairly similar tracks.

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The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: Can the Republican Party win in November with a negative strategy?

The Washington Post asked Mark Penn and other political experts whether the Republican Party would win in November with a negative strategy.

CEO of Burson-Marsteller; adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton from 1995 through 2000.

The Republicans have made a living out of running tough, negative campaigns and presenting “no” as a strategy. It’s not really a strategy but a substitute for good ideas. Perhaps the best example of that was when Newt Gingrich shut down the government to stop Washington spending. He thought he would be welcomed as a hero. It backfired big-time — the public wanted progress, not partisanship.

They did a lot better with the Contract for America. That played to their strengths of lower deficits, smaller government and lower taxes — themes that if backed by good policies have typically been their best cards.

While there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the health-care bill, talk of repeal rather than select fixes misses the mark and again puts Republicans down as the party of “no,” not of constructive bipartisanship and action.

And the voters who will decide the election — the vital center — are the ones most likely to want to see results over insults.

Today’s Republican leaders in Congress still have only a 36 percent approval rating in CNN polling, even if they are creeping up in the generic horse race. The swing electorate today likes neither the Democrats nor the Republicans in Congress, and that can make for some extreme volatility between now and November. It is the party that wins them over with ideas that is most likely to go home with their votes.

Many years ago I worked on a successful campaign based simply of the slogan of “Ya Basta” — enough. Today, Americans have had enough of enough. They want something more.

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