The Hill: How to hold on to the House by Mark Penn

September 28, 2010

The selection of loopy Republican Senate nominees has given the Democrats their first serious opportunity in months to turn this election around to hold onto the House — a feat that would now be considered a major political victory no matter how slim the margin.

But capitalizing on these turns will take more than mocking negative ads — it will take a dash back to the center. The Democratic Congress is perceived as too far to the left to keep our fiscal house in order, safeguard our families or bring about needed jobs in the new economy. Its approval ratings are rock-bottom at 21 percent in the last New York Times / CBS News poll.

There is no doubt 2010 is looking more and more like 1994, when President Clinton’s series of legislative victories related to guns, trade and taxes boomeranged. Either President Obama acts now, or he will be faced with similar post-election choices that President Clinton faced in 1994.

The temptation on the Democratic side will be to nationalize the election with a broadside of attacks on the Republican Party, accusing the GOP of backing tax cuts for the wealthy. Making the election about class warfare has consistently been a loser for the Democrats, and this year will be no exception.

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Politico: Poll: The strong grip of pessimism by Mark Penn

September 21, 2010

While the stock market continues its recovery, suggesting that investors have become more optimistic, the voting public remains in the firm grip of pessimism and their negative outlook shows no signs of receding as we head into the midterms. In the latest POLITICO poll, 54 percent of the voters believe we are headed for a second recession, believing this by a two to one margin with only 25 percent who believe we will avoid a double dip.

This pessimism is highly correlated with political party identification. Republican voters show fear a second recession by a five to one margin, far greater than any other group. This of course leads to the unanswerable chicken-and-egg question: Are voters pessimistic because they are Republicans or are they Republicans because they are pessimistic?

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

On the flip side, Democrats are relatively optimistic — while 39 percent believe that a double dip will happen, another 37 percent believe we will avoid it. Independent voters, critical to the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections, hold the middle ground. Their level of pessimism is roughly the same as the overall population, with 54 percent concerned about another recession.

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