Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Turning to the left or to the center?

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published November 17, 2009

Is President Barack Obama governing from the left or from the center? It’s a question no one quite seems to have a clear answer to. The post-ideological positioning that worked so well during the campaign is not proving as effective at holding the electoral coalition together given the mounting pressures of governing.

During the campaign, Obama nodded to the left on the Iraq war and civil liberties, but he also sent signals to the center that he would operate in a generally bipartisan manner, pursue the Afghanistan war vigorously and not raise taxes on 95 percent of all Americans. Centrist voters are looking to see that these promises are kept.

While the White House communications have been stellar overall, the echo chamber out there has left some uncertainty about important issues in the voters’ minds. Is the administration for or against waging the Afghanistan war on an all-out basis, including taking down the Taliban? Are jobs or regulating Wall Street its top priority? Should the insurance drug companies be reined in or an accommodation reached?

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Politico: Bailout vote is proof: The center holds

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published October 7, 2008

My polling over the years has found that about two-thirds of Democrats define themselves as moderate, while two-thirds of Republicans see themselves as conservative. That polling trend was mirrored in the initial unsuccessful Sept. 29 House vote on the financial bailout proposal: Democrats were divided, with 60 percent of members in favor, while Republicans opposed the measure 2-to-1.

The 228-205 defeat saw the left and right team up against the center, revealing the fundamental unfulfilled divide in American politics today. Centrists viewed it as common sense to shore up the credit markets to stabilize America’s economic condition, which the president and others saw as on the verge of collapse. Yet to the right, it was an unacceptable intrusion by the federal government into the marketplace. And to the left, it was an unacceptable bailout of the rich on Wall Street. Together, they were successful in holding back the winds of change, if only temporarily, as a modified version of the bailout proposal was enacted four days later.

The two-party system works against moderates in Congress: Each side is a fusion of moderate and either left or right elements. So even though voters have repeatedly rejected politics too far to the right or left, the vital center often gets lost in the debate.

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Politico: Obama has advantage on economy

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published September 29, 2008

The financial crisis has redefined the presidential race, bringing into stark relief the candidate who can deal with the complexities of the global markets and return the country to prosperity over the next four years.

The race is no longer about change, experience, Iraq, tax cuts or universal health care. The job posting has been fundamentally altered.

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