Mark Penn and Karen Hughes discuss the key trends of the 2010 Midterm Elections at George Washington University [VIDEO]

Political strategists Mark Penn and Karen Hughes spoke about the 2010 midterm election campaign, prospects for a Republican takeover in Congress, key races in various parts of the country, and significant national issues in the elections. They also responded to questions from the audience.

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The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: What should Obama focus on next?

The Washington Post asked political experts where the administration should focus before the midterm elections.

Adviser and pollster to President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton; CEO of Burson Marsteller

Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.

The administration should not make the energy bill principally about climate change. The truth is the economic slowdown has done more to help with climate change than any bill is likely to accomplish in the near term. America wants clean, non-imported, sustainable energy — and at the same time wants to continue to use all available natural resources here and abroad to keep energy prices down. Even after the BP spill, Americans still support offshore drilling.

There is no way an immigration bill would get done before the midterms, and though the issue tends to fracture the Republican Party, turnout in the midterms suggests that this would not be the ideal time to try to tackle that tumultuous subject.

At this point the deficit is so high that a new round of stimulus would just be putting a target on the back of the administration.

Unemployment benefits need extension. Right now there is no estate tax and won’t be unless Congress acts to do something about it. Those are both issues the administration should continue to press.

But the economy and energy are where the administration has to put its legislative bets while it seeks to minimize midterm losses so it can come back from them and keep the country moving forward.

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The New York Times: Mark Penn answers “How Can Obama Rebound?”

How Can Obama Rebound?

Though BP managed to stop the spread of oil from its broken well last week, President Obama has been able to do little to stop the drop in his public approval ratings, which now, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, hover just above 40 percent. Add these numbers to the comment by Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November elections, and it equals trouble for the president in 2012. So what does Mr. Obama need to do to shore up his base, woo back independent voters and win a second term? The Op-Ed editors asked political experts to suggest a few plans of attack.

Middle Man
By MARK PENN, adviser and pollster to the 1996 Clinton campaign and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller

The most important thing President Obama can do, as Bill Clinton did during his first term, is retake ownership of the center — the voters who elected him but now feel he has moved too far to the left. That means making a real down payment on the deficit, revamping the health care act to address the cost issue, opening up new markets overseas and creating jobs by promoting innovation through spending on basic research.

Rather than cut the space program, he should double its size. He should make sure that every American with a broadband connection has access to online education. He should offer research grants and tax incentives to promote investment in our coal, natural gas and biofuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy.

Voters will re-elect President Obama only if they believe that America is on the move, creating and building things. Homeownership is still a vital part of the American dream and must remain a goal of his administration, despite the housing crisis. And he should work with both parties to come to a reasonable compromise on immigration reform, one that would create a clearer path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and effectively control the borders.

After the midterms, President Obama will likely face the same decision that President Clinton faced in 1994 — to stay the course on the left or return to the center. His choice could be the difference between a one-term presidency and four more years governing with the coalition that elected him.

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MSNBC Morning Joe: Mark Penn discusses his recent Politico column, “Don’t let midterms take us back”

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On Morning Joe today, Democratic strategist Mark Penn discussed his recent Politico column “Don’t let midterms take us back.” He said that the question of the midterms isn’t whether we should change the whole direction of the country, but whether we should keep moving forward, and continue to give Obama and the administration a chance to change things.

Watch the video now at MSNBC

C-SPAN: Mark Penn talks about the 2010 Midterm Elections at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service

Mark Penn, Democratic political strategist, talked about the current political climate in Washington, D.C., heading into November’s midterm elections.

Watch the video at the C-SPAN Video Library

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


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: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: White House is right to push back


Published October 27, 2009

Republicans suggest that the aggressive move by the Obama White House to take on people and organizations that disagree with it and oppose its policies is an unprecedented abuse of government resources.

This is, of course, nonsense.

The Obama team is engaged in a series of tough legislative and press battles and is stepping up its game, not stepping over the line. And the actions taken by the White House are mild and pale compared with those of the Gingrich and Bush years.

Let’s look at the Republican record on this.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Crossroads to action


Published October 6, 2009

We are in the midst of the Obama administration’s most important week to date, as it faces three decisions that, taken together, could very well shape its legacy.

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MSNBC Morning Joe: Mark Penn on President Obama’s Iranian policy

Mark Penn participated in a Morning Joe panel prior to President Obama’s statement on Iran’s concealment of a nuclear facility. Mark predicted that foreign policy matters will now take center stage, and it will be a critical time for the Obama administration’s policies in both Iran and Afghanistan.

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Part 1 | Part 2

The New York Times: Mark Penn participates in Room for Debate blog on Selling Health Care Reform to Voters

The New York Times Room for Debate: Selling Health Care Reform to Voters

Mark Penn participated in The New York Times Room for Debate blog, weighing in on the question of what President Obama needs to do to sell health care reform to the American people.

Cross Those Party Lines
Published July 29, 2009

The biggest problem with health care is that no one agrees on the solution, so people say they support reform but in practice the more they know about any specific answer, the more they have concerns. That is what happened in the ‘90s and what is happening now and why it is so much easier to shoot down a plan than to sell one.

The underlying tension is that 47 million Americans may not have coverage but hundreds of millions do and they worry that the stress and strains of trying to pay for the last 15 percent will cause their coverage to deteriorate or even be rationed as has happened in other countries.

Read Mark’s full post at The New York Times Room for Debate blog