Political Animal

Blog

March 19, 2014 3:12 PM The Mark Penn Primary

By Ed Kilgore

I doubt that MoJo’s David Corn really thinks Hillary Clinton will tempt the furies by bringing the wildly unpopular pollster (and her erstwhile “strategist” in 2008) Mark Penn into a potential 2016 presidential campaign. But what the hell, HRC isn’t in a position to deny hypothetical roles in a hypothetical campaign, so I don’t blame Corn for having some sport by collecting a bunch of blind quotes from Clintonistas freaking out over the possibility.

One pro-HRC “Democratic strategist” calls the alleged uncertainty over Penn’s exclusion or excommunication “the Mark Penn primary,” which needs to end before the real one can start. I think we can safely assume that’s a primary so “invisible” that it likely doesn’t exist. For one thing, Penn’s working full-time at Microsoft, and I can attest from my experience with Penn when he was the DLC’s pollster that the man doesn’t let anything interfere with a call from Redmond.

But more to the point, is there anything so unique about Penn’s public opinion research that would justify the massive blowback—not just from potential HRC staffers, but from the liberals who accuse Penn of being responsible for everything Bill Clinton did that they don’t like, and from the many people offended by his, er, personal style—that bringing him aboard would generate? I’m not a Penn-hater like most people I know—I even did a lukewarm WaMo review of a 2007 book he co-authored—but I don’t think he’s an underappreciated genius, either.

The real trouble probably ensues from the dubious decision made by Team Hillary in 2008 not to hide Penn out somewhere and let him poll for them, but instead to put him out there in public as the campaign’s “chief strategist” and public face. I don’t know whether this happened because he made it a condition of working for her, or because the campaign wanted to use him as a lightning rod to deflect hostility from the candidate herself. If it was the latter, it sure did work, but there’s no way you could get away with it twice. But in any event, for a prospective 2016 campaign that to all appearances intends to serve as a unifying force for the Democratic Party, bringing Penn aboard would make about as much sense as turning loose a couple of scorpions on Noah’s Ark.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

(You may use HTML tags for style)

comments powered by Disqus