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Huffington Post: We Need a Shot in the Arm, if Not a Moonshot

Huffington Post: We Need a Shot in the Arm, if Not a Moonshot
By Mark Penn and Don Baer, November 11, 2013

The recent dysfunction in Washington, with its massive collateral damage to the economy and national morale, couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was no mere blip in America’s otherwise good spirits. In fact, Americans haven’t thought the country was on the right track since 2004.

And now, according to a global poll commissioned by Thomson Reuters on “The New Professional,” it seems that not only are professionals in developed markets like the U.S. low on the drive, hunger, and entrepreneurial spirit that used to fuel our economy — but professionals in emerging-market countries like China, India, and Brazil are more than picking up the slack.

According to the poll, conducted by Penn Schoen Berland in partnership with Thomson Reuters in February and March of this year, only 29 percent of professionals in developed markets such as the US and the UK describe themselves as “always” or “almost always” optimistic, compared to a sizeable 48 percent of professionals in emerging-market countries such as China, India, and Brazil. When asked to rate the statement “I believe hard work will always be rewarded,” a paltry 17 percent of developed-market professionals strongly agreed, compared to 42 percent of emerging-market professionals. And regarding the statement, “I want to be able to be entrepreneurial in my job,” only 30 percent of developed-market professionals strongly agreed, compared to fully 58 percent of professionals in emerging markets.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

Huffington Post: A Public Ready to Act Against Genocide, in Syria and Beyond

Huffington Post: A Public Ready to Act Against Genocide, in Syria and Beyond
By Mark Penn and Michael Abramowitz, July 24, 2012

Conventional wisdom has it that our country is turning inward. But with dramatic global events that often unfold on the Internet, the public seems to have a heightened awareness of the risk of genocide and other kinds of mass atrocities — and want our leaders to act.

A new poll we worked on together suggests that Americans in fact care very much about preventing genocide in other countries, want our government to be actively engaged in stopping it and are willing to employ military force under certain conditions.

The findings emerge from a random telephone poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Penn, Schoen, and Berland for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We wanted to gauge how Americans think about the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities, an oft-neglected element of our foreign policy agenda.

At its core, our new poll shows that Americans are both idealistic and realistic when it comes to preventing genocide.

Americans believe genocide is a clear threat today and that we can do something about it: More than 90 percent of the people we polled say they believe that genocide is not just a phenomenon of the past and could occur today, and two thirds believe it is preventable. They do not see such atrocities just as part of ancient feuding between peoples that we cannot do anything about — that kind of thinking has precluded effective action in the past. They see genocide as a tool used by political leaders to accomplish political goals.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner: Obama — Don’t Bring Back Class Warfare

By MARK PENN
Published Septermber 18, 2011

Barack Obama is careening down the wrong path towards re-election.

He should be working as a president, not a candidate.

He should be claiming the vital center, not abandoning it.

He should be holding down taxes rather than raising them.

He should be mastering the global economy, not running away from it.

And most of all, he should be bringing the country together rather than dividing it through class warfare.

When Al Gore faced a close presidential race in 2000, he abandoned running on peace and prosperity in favor of the people vs. the powerful, only to see his lead evaporate. When John Kerry was facing a tough race in 2004, he spent the last few months after the convention tacking to the left on the Iraq war and other issues to stimulate the base, only to fall even farther behind.

But when Bill Clinton was facing the fight of his political life in his 1996 re-election, he got rid of all the class warfare language used by traditional Democrats, got behind welfare reform and the balanced budget, and supported a strong, activist government that spent and taxed less rather than more. As a result, Clinton trounced the Republican nominee and was the first Democrat to serve a full eight years since Roosevelt. And the country got behind the president.

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The Huffington Post: Finding the American Spirit After 9/11

By MARK PENN
Published Septermber 12, 2011

America continues to look for its true spirit in a post 9/11 world.

Just as the Vietnam war reset expectations about America in the world, so 9/11 changed America’s outlook in the opening of the 21st century.

Coming off of the Clinton administration highs of boundless peace and prosperity, the public was little prepared for the next decade that would be dominated by war, global strife, surging deficits and problems at home.

More than 2/3rds of the country sees the last 10 years as a decade of decline for America according to a TIME/Aspen Ideas Festival poll I conducted earlier this summer that probed Americans on the decade since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The country is going through the longest sustained period of unhappiness and deep pessimism since polls started to measure the country’s mood. Today’s teenagers can barely remember a time when things in the country were on the right track.

A country known for its optimism through adversity is having trouble finding the determination and the spirit that has sustained it through everything from world wars to nuclear threats to space races. In fact, a startling 71% see America as worse off now than it was a decade ago, including a majority of every major demographic group other than African Americans

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The Huffington Post: Lessons Learned by Obama and the Republicans

By MARK PENN
Published August 2, 2011

The 11th hour budget deal may save the country from default but is unlikely to save either the president or the Republicans from continued political fallout for taking the country near the brink of financial calamity. While the 1996 budget deal made winners out of President Clinton and the Republicans, this deal offers a lot of frank lessons to be learned.

Lesson 1. President Obama should never have played the Republican game of letting the debt ceiling become a budget negotiation in the first place. Obama should have simply said that under no circumstances would he allow the GOP to turn a routine action by Congress into a high stakes negotiation on the scope of the federal government. Once he did, he was playing on the Republicans’ best field and at a disadvantage: the topic of the day shifted from fixing the economy to cutting the budget, playing into Republican hands. Considering the fact that Congress has raised the debt limit without condition 74 times since 1962, President Obama should have made it clear from the start that doing otherwise was not only unwise, but absolutely unacceptable. He should have kept the political spotlight on the Republicans for upsetting the nation’s credit rating and pushed the budget negotiations to budget time – without a threat of national default.

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The Huffington Post: The Odds on Obama

By MARK PENN
Published April 5, 2011

Only two Democrats in the last 90 years have been reelected to a second term — Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. The rest of the Democrats have seen their presidencies cut short, and so the historical odds of Obama winning a second term are at first glance not encouraging. But I do believe President Obama can overcome those odds and win reelection if he takes the right road. Standing in his way are high unemployment numbers that are coming down, trillion dollar deficits, low approval ratings, and a public that still sees the country squarely on the wrong track.

The announcement of his candidacy for president on Monday suggests he is going to take a very different approach to reelection than the one we took in 1996. Perhaps the first principle we had was that Bill Clinton was a president first, a candidate second, if at all. In fact, we never really had an announcement at all because the very idea of the campaign was to have none — to keep the president out of politics and above the fray.

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The Huffington Post: State of the Union: Constitutional Amendment on Internet Freedom

By MARK PENN
Published March 2, 2011

It’s time we added the first 21st Century amendment to the Constitution — an amendment that parallels the First Amendment but explicitly prohibits the government from ever shutting down the Internet. Freedom of the Internet in today’s world is just as important as freedom of the press, religion or speech.

As revolutions spread around the world questioning dictator after dictator, it is clear that the Internet has been the same kind of catalyst that a free press has been in past democratic revolutions — it has given people an easy way to share their experiences, a tool for organizing, and served to publish atrocities in cases where the press was blocked.

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The Huffington Post: State of the Union: Did Obama Win His Future?

By MARK PENN
Published January 26, 2011

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama certainly reached out to the Republicans, praised American innovation and know-how, and for the most part avoided lightning rod issues on either side. It was a huge leap forward for a president who was close to life support just a few months ago. If his goal was to avoid getting into deeper trouble and getting as much bipartisan applause as possible, he certainly achieved those goals. And Supreme Court bashing was out, even though the ruling he complained about last year still stands.

The centerpiece was his praise of America and its ability to be competitive.

But, if President Obama hopes to “win the future” in 2012, his speech came up short Tuesday night. It was certainly a big and earnest move to the center, but it lacked the kind of specifics and innovative policies that the president needs to make America competitive in the 21st Century.

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The Huffington Post: Democrats Need to Back Obama, writes Mark Penn

By MARK PENN
Published December 10, 2010

Democrats should move quickly to back the president on the tax bill or risk turning themselves into a minority party in Congress for a long time to come. By becoming reverse tax protesters (chanting “raise taxes”), the liberals are sending out all the wrong messages to a country that overwhelmingly backs the key elements of the bipartisan deal the president struck.

Obama took the first step this week in seeking to save his floundering presidency by moving to the center. His execution was far from perfect but his actions were sound.

First, when it’s done, the president will sign major legislation unequivocally backed by super-majorities of the American public. Yesterday’s Gallup poll shows that 66 percent support both extending the tax cuts and extending unemployment benefits for the next two years — the two key components of the package. While the far-right squabbles over the unemployment extension, and Obama’s liberal base is unhappy with the tax cuts, most of America — and the moderate wings of both parties — support the extension of both. Gallup found that 78 percent of moderate Republicans support the tax cuts, and 62 percent feel the same about unemployment extension; 85 percent of moderate Democrats are in favor of the extension of benefits, and 64% approve of the tax cuts for all. This deal attracts exactly the moderate and swing voters Obama needs to attract if he wants a shot at a second term.

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The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Exit Polls Show the Voters Just Want Obama Back in the Center and on the Economy

By MARK PENN
Published November 3, 2010

Without doubt the Tea Party will be rejoicing at the midterm results and laying down ultimatums to the Republican Party to steer to the right, and the Republican Party, having embraced the Tea party, will be hard pressed to say “no” to the new right wing in America.

Poll after poll shows that the Tea Party is really a splinter of the Republican Party, and the exit polls show that this was a vote about the economy, not ideology. Only 23 percent of the voters said that they were casting a vote for the Tea Party while 56 percent said it was not a factor and the rest outright opposed them.

But 62 percent of the voters said that the economy was the key factor determining their vote. The polls show that the voters want tax cuts not tax increases, modification or repeal of health care, spending cuts and above all jobs.

With health care reform, cap and trade bills, and tax increases, President Obama got out of step with the voters. Why he didn’t just kick the Bush tax cuts down the road a year and get them out of the election cycle is mystifying. Instead — just like in 1994 — the Democrats ran on the platform of increasing taxes for the wealthy, amplifying class warfare rather than ending it.

Whoever told President Obama “don’t worry, just pass health care and they will love it” must be squirming in his seat tonight. And all those who think that tacking further to the left is the answer for the Democrats should look at these results carefully and think again.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post: Who Will Win the Midterms?

By MARK PENN
Published October 18, 2010

As we head into the midterms it is increasingly clear that there will be no winners on election night given the massive discontent of the electorate almost across the board. Even if the Republicans have a good night, it will not be an endorsement of the Tea Party any more than 2008 was an endorsement of the progressive left. It will be another cycle in the game of ping pong being played out by an increasingly non-partisan, centrist electorate given too little choice — or, worse yet, given false choices.

The problem is that the successful strategies of the two wings of the parties, particularly as the parties have been shrinking, have driven both parties closer to the extremes. Think about the math of it — if the Republican Party is, say, 26% of the country and the most conservative elements of the party are 14%, then 14% can end up governing not just a minority party but the entire country.

At the root of the discontent is the desire to have practical, not ideological, solutions to intractable problems. In most cases, the voters oppose single-sided solutions that entirely reject one party’s ideas, and favor instead approaches that combine the best of each platform. No, not soft, watered down approaches, but strong, comprehensive solutions such as we’ve seen in the past with the balanced budget accord and Welfare reform.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

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

By MARK PENN
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

The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Time for Obama to Lift the BP Fog With a New Strategy

By MARK PENN
Published June 1, 2010

President Obama’s political career and clout have never been in a more perilous state than this week as he faces mounting crises, plummeting poll numbers, and solutions that remain just out of reach.

The list of problems has become almost endless — the BP spill is becoming Obama’s hostage crisis, and will likely hit 100 days without a solution; unemployment remains stuck at nearly 10 percent; either from desperation or isolation, Israel has created a new Mideast challenge; Iran has enough nuclear fuel for two nuclear bombs; north Korea is threatening south Korea; the deficit is exploding and the healthcare bill remains unpopular. And these are just the top level problems; as a result, administration press briefings sound somewhat like the old theme song from “Car 54, Where Are You?” — a show from my childhood. And Voters across the country are wondering if they underestimated the value of experience and crisis management as important attributes for their president.

Despite this litany of growing problems, the president spent just 3 hours in New Orleans before heading off to a weekend vacation, attempting to move the traditional Arlington Cemetery Memorial Day ceremonies to Chicago, where they were rained out, filling up the Drudge report. Equally surprising was the White House decision to wait three months to answer questions on the Sestek job offer, and then do so on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

So what’s a president to do facing these problems and midterms around the corner?

First, almost all of these problems are about substance, not style, branding or even communications. They can’t be addressed with press conferences and panels. The public is looking for direct and immediate action, thought out and taken by the an administration that acted boldly when it took office to prevent a possible depression.

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

By MARK PENN
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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The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner: The Health Care Jam by Mark Penn

By MARK PENN
Published March 5, 2010

The idea of jamming major legislation through Congress usually crops up whenever there’s serious popular desire for change, and equally serious Congressional resistance. In the past, reconciliation has typically only ever made it to the table when one factor of Congress — at the behest of special interests — has set themselves squarely in the path of popular legislation, threatening its passage with delays, obfuscation, and parliamentary maneuvers.

This has been true of just about every major fight I can recall, from gun safety measures to mandatory gas mileage requirements. In every case, the public debate had generated majority support, but Congress was blocking it because of special interests groups — and, every time, the president won a solid victory by overcoming the gridlock.

But, for better or worse, this is not the dynamic in health care today. The litmus test of solid public support remains unmet, making this new strategy a potentially dangerous political Molotov cocktail.

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The Huffington Post: State of the Union Scorecard by Mark Penn

By MARK PENN
Published January 27, 2010

It’s the Super Bowl of politics – the SOTU is watched in some years by up to 60 million people, and it’s usually the President’s best opportunity to address the country, tell them his plan, and bolster his approval.

What could have been a rather sleepy affair has taken on new significance with the loss of the Massachusetts Senate race – it has added dramatic tension and probably 10 million more viewers. How will the president handle the Mass. defeat? What will he say about healthcare? Is he moving to the center?

President Bush generally got little out of his State of the Union addresses. President Clinton did best in 1996 and 1998 — one against the backdrop of the Gingrich government shutdown and the other at the start of the Monica Lewinsky revelations. Clinton successfully pushed back on his critics and reassured the nation in those two pivotal speeches.

President Obama now has to do the same.

But perhaps the biggest questions around President Obama are exactly which course is he taking on so many critical issues – I think the choices he makes will determine the success of the speech and perhaps even of his presidency. So let’s go through his choices.

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The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner: Stopping the Republican Comeback (Déjà Vu All Over Again) by Mark Penn

By MARK PENN
Published January 20, 2010

Once again an initially popular Democratic president tries to pass healthcare reform, raise taxes on the wealthy and expand domestic spending. And once again the voters send a sharp signal that they want him to chart a more centrist course. As Yogi Berra said “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

President Clinton’s wakeup call came with the 1994 mid-term elections — Obama’s came a year earlier with yesterday’s special election in Massachusetts.

In response to the similar situation, President Clinton fundamentally changed everything — his team, his policies, and the overall direction and message of his administration. He moved to the center with a balanced budget, welfare reform, and policies that helped concerned moms raise their kids, leaving behind the divisive bitterness of his first two years. As a part of that new team then, I saw how President Clinton consciously took his presidency back to the centrist message of his presidential campaign and relentlessly pursued swing voters; he didn’t go small, he went to the vital center — 24 million jobs and a balanced budget were big accomplishments.

President Obama now has plenty of time to turn this around before facing the kind of losses President Clinton did. But stopping the Republican machine now will not be done on the basis of words alone — it will take actions and results to calm this electorate.

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