August 12th, 2008
01:21 PM ET
6 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. cecil

    Wake Up America, Stop Being So Gullible!
    The Spin Masters Play Us like Puppets.
    We Americans Are So easily Manipulated.
    Package It Right, Them We Go Brain Dead,
    We've Become A Tabloid Society, We See, We Believe!
    This Is Why These Ads Work, And we Have People Like Mark Penn.
    How Sad, This Is Really Nothing To To Be Proud Of America!
    What Happen To Our Common Sense.

    Mark Penn to Sen. Hillary Clinton said Negative Ads are often effective in forming public opinion around a candidate!
    Ask Ourselves Why!

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. THE whole truth

    Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.

    But please keep supporting the Republicans and the Big Bussiness, we wouldn't want to tax these poor slobs more.

    Fact check this all you want it is TRUE!!!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. get over it

    With the recent leak of internal memos and the public statements by former Clinton advisors. It appears to me this is a last ditch effort to get Hillary the nomination or setting her up to run in 2012. And the longer this goes without a complete condemnation by Hillary. The more I am left believeing Hillary is behind this or at the very least is in agreement with what's going on.

    August 12, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. Peter

    Mark Penn sucks

    August 12, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  5. Joe, VT

    Yup Mike, TX, and the proceeds from that book are going to charity. Before you call a group mindless, perhaps you'd better look in a mirror.

    If the Democratic Party is ever so stupid as to let Penn near a campaign again then they deserve to lose. First, his firm's hired to tout the virtues of Blackwater, next he lobbies for a Columbian free trade agreement that Hillary's opposed to! How does loose cannon sound?

    August 12, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  6. Ben in Atlanta, GA

    Who cares what he thinks? Hillary fired him for running a lousy campaign. Maybe he should work for John McCain, since (as many Republicans have said), Mr. Mcain is running one of the lousiest presidential campaigns in history. Mr. Penn should fit right in with McLame and his pathetic campaign staff!

    August 12, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. Independent-Latina-for-OBAMA

    I agree with "Pam" WHY ARE YOU REPORTING ON THE DESPICABLE STUFF THAT MARK PENN SAYS OR DOES........ OR WHAT THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN WAS PLANNING TO DO?

    Seems to me that CNN, along wit other media is doing their level best to destroy Sen. Obama!

    Seldom do I see anything questioning McCain! FOR EXAMPLE WHY HASN'T CNN DONE AN EXPOSE ON THE PHIL GRAMM/MCCAIN "ENRON LOOPHOLE"....... OR MCCAIN'S LONG HISTORY WORKING WITH LOBBYIST? OR HOW MCCAIN & CINDY STARTED THEIR RELATIONSHIP WHEN THEY WERE BOTH MARRIED TO OTHERS?

    There is plenty do report on. PLEASE, let's talk about the RECORDS, ISSUES......... let's leave the "Clinton-Penn-Wolfson" Drama DIE!

    August 12, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  8. Xavier, Saint Louis, Missouri

    Mark Penn’s narcissistic behavior continues! Get lost clown! John McCain's ads only work if you’re an idiot, a republican or racist. Anybody who has any common sense knows the GOP is desperate, jealous and reaching for straws.

    August 12, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Sn in MN

    Plastic Jesus is a bottomless well of hate for his minions.

    August 12, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. jojogetbk 21

    I think he is right. He might be a pig but I think he hits it on the mark on this issue. Did you see Pairs Hilton's ad? Her energy policy makes more sense then both candidates.
    jojogetbk 21

    August 12, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. HanoiFilms

    If mark Penn was a good strategist, HRC would be the democratic nominee. McCain's ads, although tailored to low information voters, did not work. The ads validated McCain's crankiness and that he is not in touch with the voters. Voters are seeking solutions to the problems that McCain and the Republicans created. However, McCain, thus far, has not offered anything new, except for character attacks on his rival.

    August 12, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. MediaJunkie, Arlington, VA

    Has the McCain ad really done it's job? Was the 3 a.m. that successful? Just because it's in the news doesn't mean people are buying the message.

    August 12, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. Joe Kiloz

    One has to be skeptical about Mr. Penn's analysis and abilities.

    August 12, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Connie

    Penn should go back to lobbying and shut up. I am an Obama supporter and have been from the start, but I believe Mark the pig Penn lost the nomination for Mrs.Clinton.I agree with Angela after what the republicans did to McSenile in South Carolina you would think he would do better. But when you lay with dogs you get up with fleas.Old, poor white women for OBAMA/BAYH 08
    Connie from Indiana

    August 12, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  15. Sn in MN

    Plastic Jesus is an outsider.

    August 12, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. RSR

    Penn may be a jerk, but one fact still remains...
    Obama has NO EXPERIENCE to be President!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. Craig

    CNN. . . Stop reporting nonsense, try to stick to real issues.

    August 12, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. Timber (ex dem)

    This is CNN stirring up trouble. He was not "praising" it, he was merely saying that negative ads can be effective. You are trying to make it seem as if he is praising and encouraging McCain to do more and he is against Obama. I happen to agree that Obama is a celebrity empty suit but do not agree with how you try to sensationalize news with misleading headlines. It is irresponsible and unethical to do so.

    August 12, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. Ben in Atlanta, GA

    ...CNN must be running out of substantive news-worthy events to report on. This guy's comments shouldn't even be a headline. He's a complete nobody!

    August 12, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Pete

    McCain has no problem wallowing in the gutter with the Bush's. He's had is head up their behind since South Carolina. He enjoys the stench.

    August 12, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. Franky

    You know guys, and people wonder why I'm getting tired of the Clintons and that they should be left in the corner.

    I've liked them in the beginning but last time I checked, when my boy makes a mistake, he admits it but when Hillary's "insiders" make a mistake, is Hillary knowing how to play the game, huh? And let me remind people that my boy has not had ONE incident like this before. Yeah, there were some people who mcight've said something but overall, my boy's campaign has played it right but Hillary's though, I say let them march and while they're marching, I hope they cry...I really do.

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. world has change

    This just showed why hillary did not win so all you puma and the rest need to wake up and start living in a free world and stop letting people brainwash you like Hillary did.

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. Tess

    Oh calm down Obamites, your boy's career won't be ruined by Penn' remarks!!!!!!

    Obama is self-destruction. He has proved to Americans that words are matter, not actions! So please continue to talk .......blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. Mauri

    Unless a strategy stems from the gutter (ala Swiftboaters), I tend to admire it's authorship. Such is the case of the Obama/Paris/Britney ad which confirmed the celebrity status he showed with his rock-star audience in Germany. I don't believe even Mark Penn would have put that stop on his calendar. Now, Obama's lack of on-the-job experience is accurately displayed by comparing him with McCain in their respective reactions to Russia's invasion of it's next-door friend of America. Why did McCain's reaction and words give off an aura of American confidence while Obama's seemed out-of-character and less effective? It's because it's true. Obama and all his supporters should be thinking positive instead of trash talking about his opponent And of Hillary.

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. TOM

    the end is near

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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