Politico: Watch the Obama reelect numbers, says Mark Penn

July 18, 2010

By far, the most alarming numbers this poll presents for President Barack Obama are the reelection figures; against a generic Republican candidate, he loses by 5 points, 37-42. In general, when an incumbent’s reelect numbers fall below 50 percent, it’s a sign of trouble to come — and Obama’s inability to break even 40 percent may be the most telling indicator to come out of these data.

View the full results from Penn Schoen Berland’s poll, the first of six in Politico’s “Power and the People” poll series

Americans like Obama — despite nearly 10 percent unemployment and two ongoing wars, his 49 percent favorable rating remains much stronger than some of the low points hit by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But what is surprising is the 11-point gulf between his favorable (48 percent) and reelect ratings. This suggests a lot of voters are saying, “I like him personally” but not “I would vote for him again.”

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The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: What should Obama focus on next?

The Washington Post asked political experts where the administration should focus before the midterm elections.

Adviser and pollster to President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton; CEO of Burson Marsteller

Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.

The administration should not make the energy bill principally about climate change. The truth is the economic slowdown has done more to help with climate change than any bill is likely to accomplish in the near term. America wants clean, non-imported, sustainable energy — and at the same time wants to continue to use all available natural resources here and abroad to keep energy prices down. Even after the BP spill, Americans still support offshore drilling.

There is no way an immigration bill would get done before the midterms, and though the issue tends to fracture the Republican Party, turnout in the midterms suggests that this would not be the ideal time to try to tackle that tumultuous subject.

At this point the deficit is so high that a new round of stimulus would just be putting a target on the back of the administration.

Unemployment benefits need extension. Right now there is no estate tax and won’t be unless Congress acts to do something about it. Those are both issues the administration should continue to press.

But the economy and energy are where the administration has to put its legislative bets while it seeks to minimize midterm losses so it can come back from them and keep the country moving forward.

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The New York Times: Mark Penn answers “How Can Obama Rebound?”

How Can Obama Rebound?

Though BP managed to stop the spread of oil from its broken well last week, President Obama has been able to do little to stop the drop in his public approval ratings, which now, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, hover just above 40 percent. Add these numbers to the comment by Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November elections, and it equals trouble for the president in 2012. So what does Mr. Obama need to do to shore up his base, woo back independent voters and win a second term? The Op-Ed editors asked political experts to suggest a few plans of attack.

Middle Man
By MARK PENN, adviser and pollster to the 1996 Clinton campaign and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller

The most important thing President Obama can do, as Bill Clinton did during his first term, is retake ownership of the center — the voters who elected him but now feel he has moved too far to the left. That means making a real down payment on the deficit, revamping the health care act to address the cost issue, opening up new markets overseas and creating jobs by promoting innovation through spending on basic research.

Rather than cut the space program, he should double its size. He should make sure that every American with a broadband connection has access to online education. He should offer research grants and tax incentives to promote investment in our coal, natural gas and biofuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy.

Voters will re-elect President Obama only if they believe that America is on the move, creating and building things. Homeownership is still a vital part of the American dream and must remain a goal of his administration, despite the housing crisis. And he should work with both parties to come to a reasonable compromise on immigration reform, one that would create a clearer path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and effectively control the borders.

After the midterms, President Obama will likely face the same decision that President Clinton faced in 1994 — to stay the course on the left or return to the center. His choice could be the difference between a one-term presidency and four more years governing with the coalition that elected him.

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MSNBC Morning Joe: Mark Penn discusses his recent Politico column, “Don’t let midterms take us back”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On Morning Joe today, Democratic strategist Mark Penn discussed his recent Politico column “Don’t let midterms take us back.” He said that the question of the midterms isn’t whether we should change the whole direction of the country, but whether we should keep moving forward, and continue to give Obama and the administration a chance to change things.

Watch the video now at MSNBC

The Huffington Post: Poll Shows People Support Checks and Balances, But Want More Limits on Supreme Court Justices

Published July 9, 2010

Despite their support of checks and balances and desire for minimal changes in the Constitution, the American public favors a series of populist changes in our system of government, according to the results of a poll on the US Constitution prepared by Penn Schoen Berland for the Aspen Institute and released today at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Initiatives receiving public support include direct election of Supreme Court justices, elimination of the Electoral College, and the addition of amendments by national referenda.

The poll suggests that, while the public may be dissatisfied with recent administrations and the partisan political environment, they remain reasonably satisfied with the governmental framework set out in the Constitution. By 64 to 19 they endorse the system of checks and balances as necessary to prevent one branch from dominating the Government.

Freedom of speech was seen as far and away the single most important right guaranteed by the Constitution, and, as a corollary, only 28 percent believe the press has too much freedom. The poll covered well over 100 questions on the details of the constitutional system of government and was conducted with over 1000 Americans. The complete presentation is available below.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

Politico: Don’t let midterms take us back, says Mark Penn


July 6, 2010

The country is likely to go into the midterms divided and dissatisfied — conditions unlikely to produce good news for the Obama administration.

But just how bad the news could be remains uncertain. Successfully reducing and deflecting the damage could make a huge difference in the political landscape — and the administration’s future.

Many key variables are set: Unemployment is stuck at more than 9 percent, most Americans have a negative view of the health care bill, the deficit continues to skyrocket and the war in Afghanistan is not going well. Independent movements, like the tea parties, are spreading like wildfire, and the president’s approval ratings can’t seem to break 50 percent.

All in all, it could take a political Houdini to get out of this mess.

The administration’s plan, so far, seems to be to blame Wall Street for the economic mess, the health insurance industry for rising health care costs and BP for the oil spill and its protracted damage. President Barack Obama has blamed Republicans for the gridlock and a divided country.

But it is going to take a lot more than the blame game to cut electoral losses to acceptable levels. Democrats could lose 25 seats in the House and four Senate seats and still call it a midterm victory. But the fear is real that unless there are strategy changes, Democrats could lose a lot more.

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PRWeek: Mark Penn on PRWeek’s 2010 Power List 25

Mark Penn ranks #13 on PRWeek’s PR Power List of the 25 most powerful leaders in the communications industry in 2010.

Mark Penn
Worldwide president and CEO, Burson-Marsteller

Love him or hate him, public affairs guru Mark Penn has the ear of some of the most powerful people in the world, having worked with luminaries such as Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In terms of Washington power brokers, Burson-Marsteller’s Penn stands right at the top of the food chain. His challenge is to remain relevant and influential in a rapidly changing global political climate, and to lead his Burson- Marsteller empire from the front and ensure key staff members come along for the ride.

Download the PR Power List 2009 (pdf format)