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?
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.
Healthcare reform is hurting the reelection chances of freshman Democrats in the House, according to The Hill/ANGA poll.
A majority of voters in key battleground districts favor repeal of the legislative overhaul Congress passed this year.
President Obama predicted in the spring that the new law would become popular as people learned more about it. But the poll shows Republicans strongly oppose it, independents are wary of it and a surprising number of Democrats also want it overturned.
Republicans have vowed to repeal the law if they take control of Congress, and the findings of Mark Penn, who led Penn Schoen Berland’s polling team, show that healthcare is a major issue for voters this year.
When asked if they wanted the legislation repealed, 56 percent of voters in the surveyed districts said yes. “Only Democrats were opposed to repeal (23 percent to 64 percent),” Penn said. “Undecided voters wanted the healthcare law repealed by 49 percent to 27 percent.”
In each district, a majority of those surveyed said they want the controversial law gone.
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.
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.
On Morning Joe today, Democratic strategist Mark Penn says “President Obama has his mojo back.” With the passage of the healthcare bill, he has shown he can get things done. Now he needs to keep the momentum going and press on with his other initiatives, including financial regulatory reform.
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.
What the Obama presidency needs now is “a good dose of Clintonism,” the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign said today.
Mark Penn, who first went to work for the Clintons in 1994 when then-President Bill Clinton hired him as an adviser following the Democratic Party’s dramatic losses in that year’s midterm elections, said Obama faces many of the same challenges President Clinton faced 16 years ago.
Clinton bounced back from those losses with “some small things like balancing the budget, reforming welfare and creating 24 million jobs,” Penn said during a talk at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
Clinton learned from the 1994 losses and began “moving the country to the center in a way that people felt the president was listening to them,” Penn said, adding that Clinton’s successes could be traced back to the fact that he had clearly defined strategies.
“As you recall, President Clinton had a very clear economic strategy,” he said. “Elements of his economic strategy were popular; some were not so popular. He believed in expanding trade, he believed in expanding investment in infrastructure, education — math and science. He believed in closing the federal deficit. Those three elements were a strategy that everybody understood.”
Obama should follow suit, according to 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.
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.