GQ Magazine: Mark Penn on How Obama Can Lose

The chief adviser to Hillary and Bill understands a thing or two about winning, losing, and Obama. Here he explains to GQ’s Lisa DePaulo how Obama could still end up out of a job next fall.

1. He Takes Another Big Risk—and Flops
“Obviously, he took the biggest risk of his presidency with the Osama operation. He took a huge risk and it completely paid off. He was right. But watch out now for the over-confidence that comes with success. Don’t try this again with Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban. It’s a common thing for presidents to do, particularly on the basis of a risky success. They think, “Well, that went great, let’s try something like that again.” The next risky mission could end up being a disaster that will be very difficult for his presidency to recover from. I sometimes think Bush got into Iraq because the original Afghanistan mission seemed to go so easily. It was won in two weeks, with very few troops involved. I think that led to a notion that he could have equally quick success in Iraq. Instead he wound up with something that defined the rest of his presidency. See, presidents often have two modes. One is: ‘Hunker down, we gotta be careful.’ And the other is: ‘Things are great, don’t worry about it.’ It’s when they get in that second mode that mistakes happen.”

2. He Thumps His Chest Too Much About Bin Laden
“He’s already mentioning it in speeches, and he has to stop. Never ever put the Osama mission in political terms. People are going to want him to put this in ads. Don’t. Everybody knows he did a great job! This was a different kind of thing for sure, but after impeachment was over, Joe Lockhart had this great phrase: ‘We’re in a gloat-free zone.’ The president’s gotta stay in a gloat-free zone.”

Read the full article at GQ.com

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.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

Washington Post: How Obama can find his center, writes Mark Penn

By MARK PENN
Published January 31, 2011

Centrists of America, rejoice. After being out of whack for two years, the political system and the president have come back to the mainstream.

For all of the drum-beating from both extremes during the election season, the result has been a surprisingly sensible shift to the center – a position advocated by neither of the groups that tend to drive so much of the nation’s political conversation.

Now, having adopted a centrist outlook in his State of the Union address, President Obama needs to fill it out with big ideas that solve our major problems rather than let us keep kicking the can down the road.

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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.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

New York Daily News: Mark Penn gives the President advice on his State of the Union speech

By MARK PENN
Published January 23, 2011

In his State of the Union, President Obama has the opportunity, and even mission, to articulate the new direction he has taken in his presidency since the shellacking in the 2010 midterm elections. There is no doubt that he has radically changed course by backing the Bush tax cuts, sending olive branches to big business and reshuffling his team.

But so far, the public has had to read the tea leaves on what he is really thinking and where he wants to take the country. And when it comes to fixing the economy, he has completely lacked any coherence, veering from bailouts of Wall Street to sharp condemnations.

In 1996, former President Bill Clinton was as clear as a bell, declaring that the “era of big government is over,” but this did not mean a return to fending for yourself for those in need. He went back to his New Democratic philosophy of opportunity, responsibility and community, backing a balanced budget that, at the same time, would preserve entitlements.

The best I can make of the Obama retooling is that it will be based on something less coherent but potentially just as potent — a revised economic philosophy that is based more on private sector renewal while holding firm to liberal views on social issues like choice, gay rights and stem cell research. Politically, he will leave the radical right Christian coalition behind while seeking to attract moderates who reject the Republicans on social issues but have been attracted to lower taxes, smaller government and toughness on national security.

This is potentially very successful for him – because it both splits the Republican Party and keeps together much of the Obama 2008 base, which is made up of better educated, upper-income voters who are fine with gay marriage as long as their taxes are kept low.

Last year, the President used his State of the Union speech to launch into the breach, telling Democrats to stand their ground, calling Republicans the “party of no” and basically suggesting that the assembled Supreme Court justices sitting at his feet had turned a blind eye to the need to get corporate money out politics.

This year we can expect something quite different – a tribute to working together to pass a tax compromise, a desire to put aside politics to make progress and an emphasis on putting people back to work. Last year, he was Superman; this year, he will strive to be the super statesman.

Read the full article at the New York Daily News

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.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

Politico: Poll: The big disconnect: D.C. elites think Obama will be reelected, but the public doubts it

By MARK PENN
November 15, 2010

The midterms not only dealt a big shock to Democrats but also sent a message to President Barack Obama. According to the new POLITICO Power and the People poll, only 26 percent of the public believes he will be reelected as president in 2012. Inside the Beltway, however, expectations are quite different, with D.C. elites saying he will have a second term by a reverse 2 to 1 margin. (49 percent say re-elected; 23 percent say not).

This difference in expectations could mislead the president if he is listening to the Beltway chatter — right here in D.C., he may just find a lot of comfort in this assessment by insiders, and that may lead to actions that don’t fully adjust for the sea change that has occurred among the general public. (See also Poll: D.C. Sees Midterms Differently)

This big difference can partially be explained by the different ways that the two groups see the economy and the world today. Seventy percent of D.C. elites admit that they have been affected less than the average citizen when it comes to the economic downturn. The elites see the tea party as purely a fad (70 percent). In contrast, those who say that the president will not be reelected see the country as headed in the wrong direction by 82 percent, see the economy as headed in the wrong direction by 81 percent and overwhelmingly want repeal of the health care law at the top of the agenda. The quarter of the public who consider Obama’s reelection probable see the economy turning around by nearly 3-to-1. They are the outliers of the electorate, suggesting that the president has a lot more work to do to get back on track for a second term.

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MSNBC Hardball: Mark Penn says President Obama can draw upon lessons learned by Clinton [VIDEO]

Following the Democrats’ 2010 midterm election losses, Mark Penn spoke with Chris Matthews on Hardball about former President Bill Clinton’s big midterm losses and subsequent rebound. Can President Obama draw upon lessons learned by Clinton?

Watch the video at MSNBC.com

Fox Business News: Deciphering the Midterm Message with Mark Penn [VIDEO]

Democratic Strategist Mark Penn appeared on Fox Business News’ Bulls and Bears to discuss what the president must do to maintain the support of the American people.

Watch the video at FoxBusiness.com

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

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