August 12th, 2008
01:21 PM ET
10 years ago

Penn says McCain ad effective

 A Mark Penn memo reportedly said the U.S. wouldn't vote for a candidate who was not 'fundamentally' American.

A Mark Penn memo reportedly said the U.S. wouldn't vote for a candidate who was not 'fundamentally' American.

(CNN) - John McCain's recent campaign commercial linking Barack Obama to vapid celebrities was unanimously criticized in Democratic quarters, but one of the party's leading strategists says it did the job.

In an op-ed in the Politico, former top strategist Mark Penn to Sen. Hillary Clinton said negative ads are often effective in forming public opinion around a candidate, and specifically pointed to the McCain campaign's recent ad featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as an example of an effective television spot.

Related: Memo could keep Clinton-Obama rift open

"Fair or not, as advertising it did its job: It used humor, stuck viewers with memorable images and created a debate, just as Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 ‘Daisy’ ad, Walter Mondale’s ‘Red Phone’ spot 20 years later and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘3 a.m.’ commercial in 2008 did," Penn wrote.

Watch: McCain's "Celeb" ad paints Obama as out-of-touch celebrity

Penn, who was behind Clinton's headline-grabbing "3 a.m." ad that questioned Obama's readiness to lead during a national security crisis, also said the Illinois senator should have responded more effectively to the Hilton/Spears ad.

"The Paris Hilton ad also bore a Republican political trademark — attacking a candidate’s strengths rather than the candidate’s weaknesses," Penn wrote. The spot attempted to portray Obama’s leadership for change as something fluffy and useless. Obama did not immediately hit back on the air."

Penn, who was ousted from his formal role with the Clinton campaign last spring, faced fresh criticism earlier this week after newly-released campaign memos revealed that he advocated painting Obama as foreign.

"His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values," Penn wrote in a March 2007 memo to campaign colleagues.

soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. Susan

    And this from a man who thought California was a winner take all state, was lobbying for Columbia whne his candidate was running for the nomination, cause huge infighting within her campaign. My God, this man is an idiot!

    August 12, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  2. mollygonz

    Oh Mark Penn..blah, blah,'re the one that pretty much ruined Hillary and now you're giving advice..blah, blah, blah

    August 12, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. carlo

    Mark Penn is Karl Rove in a Democrat's clothing. If Mark Penn says your campaign strategy is on the mark, then you know you're in big trouble. Ask Hillary.

    August 12, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. JK

    Penn is a pig. Go back lobbying and stealing millions of tax payer money.

    August 12, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  5. Marc in DeKalb, IL

    Ahh, here comes the Clinton saboteurs to attempt to set her up for the nomination in 2012 should Obama fail...

    August 12, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. Mike, TX

    I just realized exactly who Obama. Obama is really Omarosa. Talks a lot, doesn't say much, totally ineffective, brags a lot, very self centered.

    Imagine, Obama's writing another book. This isn't a campaign. It's a book signing tour.

    Obama's followers are as mindless as their hero.

    August 12, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |

    Mark Penn is a republican in disguise. The more we learn of him and his thinking it seems clear to me he is only on the democratic side because there is money to be had. He apparently has no party allegiance and has no problem with providing fuel for the republican party.

    August 12, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. PT

    I don't like this man. Who gives him the authority to judge anyone? How can he declare personal values of another person??????

    August 12, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    PENN get lost!

    August 12, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. Rache from Bowie

    So Hillary can thank Penn for losing and and a loser we don't need to hear Penn's opinion on nothing!!!

    August 12, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. Julie

    Yeah, it's effective – for the intellectually lazy and simple-minded. Otherwise the ads are downright annoying.

    August 12, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. Monica, Texas

    Who would take advise from a looser....your strategy didn't help your canidate win either.....

    August 12, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. tren

    He's just upset that Hillery can't pay him because she lost the nomination. Well, Obama was work to pay off debt for her and McCain is not going to pay you a dime.

    August 12, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Veteran for Obama

    Penn should go work for McCain. He is a negative and cynical moron just like McCain's people. They make a great match.

    August 12, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. My Friends, let me tell you

    Oink,oink.Once a pig always a pig.

    August 12, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Obama Supporter from FL

    Does anyone, anywhere, actually care what Mark Penn thinks? This is the man that made millions running Hillary Clinton's FAILED campaign – obviously he doesn't have a clue as to what will work in this election year.

    August 12, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. Ed - Washington DC

    Regrettably, Mr. Penn's remarks highlight a huge and perhaps unsolvable problem of modern American democracy. A campaign can be controlled by, say, Mr. Penn's ads versus Mr. Rove's ads, and there is no "referee" to call "fouls." The closest group available to be a "referee" might be the press, but the calls will be inconsistent and not many people will listen anyway. The result reminds me of my college pick-up games in the gym of "bloodball."

    August 12, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. Rick S

    And where is Mr. Penn's candidate- writing her non acceptance speech. This guy, still talking.

    August 12, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. Not fooled by distractions

    Mr. Penn hasn't exactly displayed stellar judgement as evidenced by his running of the clinton campaign. Why would his opinion have any substance? He's been wrong too often to use as a credible source.

    August 12, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. Texas trail puppy

    HAHAHAHA!! And this Bloated geezer single-handedly lost the Primaries for Sen.Clinton why should anyone listen to him?

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. RDS

    Why should his opinion even matter? Everyone knows that he is a Hillary Clinton backer and is doing everything to undermine Obama. They want him to lose this is why all of her supporters are trying to raise doubts about him right before the convention hoping to get her thrown in as the VP or the nominee. Frankly, I've grown sick and tired of Hillary, Bill and their supporters. These are the same people who said Obama should suck it up during the primaries. Maybe they should take their own advice. They have successfully killed any chance Hillary had of being president....EVER!

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. Lis Alexandra from Capital of Texas

    Mark Penn is fluffy and useless, he is a major part of the reason Clinton's Campaign resulted in all-around loss, his injection of degrading, baseless negativity, and in the end, good wins out.

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. Abby

    saw samething that made me happy today and it said...

    "I'm over the HIll and I'm voting for Obama."

    I love it.

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  24. jim

    I never thought I'd see someone more unattractive than Karl Rove, but then Mark Penn came along. how telling that mark penn is now siding with mccain and trying to destroy obama's message. this is why i refused to vote for hillary in the first place, she's been surrounded by so-called democrats who CLEARLY are republicans.

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  25. PITA

    There are many questions about Barack Obama's background. Where is his real birth certificate,does it need to be a secret ? This is a man who won't lay all of the cards on the table. When he tells us something and we check, there is nothing to back it up.
    Civil Rights attorney? He never filed any action. This guy, Obama, is just more mystery meat.

    August 12, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
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