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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