Mark Penn, chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, was the guest at a Monitor breakfast October 18. Mr. Penn offered the 45 reporters at the event a tour of the political horizon along with a plug or two for his new book "Microtrends." Later Thursday, the Republican National Committee and Barack Obama's campaign issued rebuttals of various points made by the sartorially rumpled but incisive and articulate Penn. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
On the emotional impact of a woman presidential candidate:
"I think there is also an emotional element here of having the first women president. One of the poll findings highlighted in [a document he distributed] is that 94 percent of younger women say that they are more likely to come out and vote if there is a woman on the ballot for president.... I think you will see a tremendous influx into the political process of women who weren't as politically oriented because of that. And I think you see this emotional connection in the way, if you go to Hillary's rallies, in the way ... people either bring their daughters very often [or] in Florida they bring their moms. There is an intergenerational connection."
On the impact of a woman presidential candidate on Republicans:
"I think the Republicans are not prepared for the loss of a substantial group of their Republican women voters.... Even in the South, I think, you are going to see as much as 24 percent of Republican women defect and make a major difference nationwide.... That will be a major unexpected factor here that will throw the Republicans for a loop."
[The Obama campaign released a memo Thursday afternoon saying, "Hillary Clinton's pollster's assertion about her potential with Republican women is completely undercut by many recent public polls."]
On the inevitability of Senator Clinton's nomination:
"There is no sense in this campaign in any way [of] taking anything for granted. We understand full well how quickly these things can change. However, the good news is [that] people are receiving her very well."
On the appeal of Republican presidential candidates:
"I don't think the Republicans have any real outstanding stars in terms of their candidates and I don't think the Republicans even think they have that. You poll most Republicans, most Republicans are dissatisfied with their choices. You know there is a real question whether Rudy [Giuliani] will end up splitting the Republican party and creating a third party.... I don't think he is fundamentally different from any of the other candidates out there."
[Thursday morning Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, sent reporters this response: "The Republican Party looks forward to competing against any of the Democrat candidates, all of whom have promised to raise taxes on working Americans to pay for tremendous growth in government. In fact, there are times when we can barely tell them apart – they're all more eager to run for MoveOn.org than America."]
On John McCain and the 'tough guy' vote:
"Most people are surprised he [Giuliani] is still in the Republican primary. I have often said that part of the function of how he has been doing is that McCain had sunk.... I always say there is only so much 'tough guy' vote in the Republican Party."
On Clinton's strategy:
"The race is early and developing.... The more time she spends in places, the better she does.... The best strategy of this campaign is no strategy at all. It is letting people see the senator more and what she says."
On the importance of swing, or undecided, voters:
"My philosophy is that swing is king and that for all the talk of polarization in the electorate, there still remains no question, I think, that elections and the ability to govern [are] determined by the success with swing voters."
On whether he is the Democrats' Karl Rove:
"I just make clear I am Senator Clinton's Mark Penn.... My concern about the Rove strategy as such is that it was not a strategy that brought the country around in times of governing."
On Bill Clinton's role in his wife's campaign:
"He is perhaps the best campaign spouse any candidate could possibly have. He is a strong fundraiser, he is a strong adviser, and he is out there on the stump.... Among Democratic primary voters, he is extremely popular."