Mark Penn and Karen Hughes Faceoff: How Much Could Change in the Race Next Year?

  TIME IDEAS
How Much Could Change in the Race Next Year?
Republican strategist Karen Hughes and Democratic pollster Mark Penn in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012

Penn: If there is one thing that has been true about every pundit’s prediction so far about 2011, it’s that it’s been wrong. Just as the stock market has gyrated erratically, so also the political marketplace has faced much the same kind of uncertainty and instability.

Let’s look at the last few months:

Obama is looking better, just after he was looking dire.

The economy is coming up, just after it was declared dead.

And Newt Gingrich is fading, just after he was pronounced the unexpected frontrunner.

So this suggests that either a) conventional wisdom will win out and Mitt Romney will be the nominee against a vulnerable President Obama and the rest of this is just noise or b) the Republican primary will descend into utter chaos with Obama looking stronger going into the general election.

At this point, I think future b — chaos — is more likely to happen.

Ron Paul could now win Iowa being the ultimate come-from-behind candidate. And if that happens, Romney would be so weak that maybe Jon Huntsman would finish higher than expected in New Hampshire and get back in the race. Gingrich could win South Carolina and then the primary season could go on for several months as a multi-candidate race with no clear winner.

That would give a clear path to Obama to seize the day with a strong State of the Union and re-launch of his campaign and his presidency with the backdrop of a strengthening economy.

Newt could then ultimately win the nomination after a long drawn-out battle, only to have a third party candidate enter the race and either unexpectedly win with a plurality that could be overturned by the House of Representatives. Or the third party candidate could just serve as a spoiler that tips the election to Obama, who would only need about 40% to win.

Far-fetched?  So far based on 2011, only the unexpected can be what’s expected for 2012.

Hughes: The only reasonable prediction after a year that has seen five different candidates lead in the race for the Republican nomination is this: sometime next year, my party will have a Republican nominee. (Of course, we used to say, Win or lose, come election day, it’s over. Then came 2000 and the Florida recount.) But once the campaign moves from a season of straw polls and speculation into a time when Americans walk into voting booths and make their choices, things tend to change fast. And sometimes very dramatically.

How dramatically? Consider that in mid-December, 2007, this same time in the presidential election cycle four years ago, everyone thought that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrats’ nominee. Rudy Giuliani led the polls in the Republican contest, followed by Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, while John McCain was in fourth place with a dismal 12 percent support in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls.

On Jan. 3, voters in Iowa will begin answering these questions: Is Newt Gingrich’s lead as transitory as it was for several other candidates in 2011? Will Romney’s organization deliver a win in New Hampshire and a stronger than expected showing in Iowa? Can another candidate emerge from down in the pack with a surprising finish in one of the early states?

Only the voters will decide, and I have some holiday homework for my fellow Republicans. Think hard about which of our candidates can actually win in the general election, and which would be an effective and respected President. Which candidate can have appeal beyond our Party and attract the Reagan Democrats and other swing voters who will be critical to victory? President Obama is vulnerable, and the only way for our country to change course, restore confidence, return to strong growth and lead the world to greater peace and freedom is to defeat him in November. The eventual outcome of the election may well hinge on the choices made by Republican primary voters in the spring of 2012.

Read the full article at TIME Ideas

What Companies Can Learn from Political Campaigns

By MARK PENN
Published December 21, 2011

With the Republican primaries now just weeks away, the range of observers who are watching polls and assessing campaign strategies is expanding beyond political wonks and news junkies.

While politics has always been an avid spectator sport, lately it’s become a field that offers valuable lessons for business. Political campaigns have traditionally been among the most sophisticated users of polling and statistics, and that remains true. Over the last decade, however, as baseball embraced the concepts featured in “Moneyball” and the general public became fascinated by the world of “Freakonomics,” many other fields have become adept at using data to make better decisions–corporations among them.

Here are five lessons from political campaigns that every business can learn from.

Find the New Voter/Consumer. In the 1950s, the mobile middle class changed our society by creating the suburbs and the suburban lifestyle, driving both the economy and politics. Today, I believe our economic and political landscapes are being driven by the growing numbers of a new professional class of college-educated, new-economy workers. From computer software engineers to veterinarians, the new professional class made the decisive difference in the 2008 general election for Obama, and they have fueled the dramatic growth of upscale brands like Apple.

In the last Democratic re-election in 1996, we coined and targeted the Soccer Mom – married, suburban, mostly working women who cared passionately about protecting and raising their kids. It was the Soccer Mom who replaced the traditional Democratic target of downscale, non-college, manufacturing sector men; the country wasn’t producing any more of these voters because at that time we had an economy that created 24 million new jobs, but not one in manufacturing.

In the last two elections, one in four voters had household incomes over $100,000, up from just 9% in 1996. The growth of the two-income, college educated household with a broader view of the world is a fundamental change represented by Obama himself, who came from the professional class. In 2008, Obama even won the 6% of the voters making over $200,000, giving him his margin of victory. The new professional class is growing in influence. If Obama expects to win a second term in the White House, he has to reharness—not push away—the political goodwill he captured from this group in 2008.

Read the Full Article at the Harvard Business Review

The Space at America’s Centre [VIDEO]

Mark Penn considers the statistical likelihood of a third-party candidate in the US presidential election in this video from the gala dinner of The Economist’s World in 2012 Festival on December 1st 2011 in New York City.

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