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. Truth B Told

    Oh boy with guys like this who needs a doughnut! LOL Fatboy has no idea the world is changing now not in 2050!!!

    Obama 08

    August 12, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. O PUMA

    I think McSame just hired Penn. Kill the humans hope and the human will die automatically. Osama also hiring Penn soon.

    August 12, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  3. Foreign Observer

    Here is what attack ads do - they get coverage from the media for which their campaign doesn't have to pay. Instand amplification beyond any market they actually _could_ pay for. CNN, for instance, regularly provides links to McCain's attack ads and covers them with glee. For free, needless to say. Just another instance in the total degradation of this country's political culture.

    August 12, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. Dan , TX

    When will we learn to think for ourselves. It is time to take matters into our own hands and reject Mark Penn and John McCain. Advertising strategy determines who will be president and not policy and leadership? I'm mad as hell and I will not take it anymore.

    Obama '08

    August 12, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Beverly, NYC

    Why is CNN ginving more space to this bubble headed racist. Anyone who gets all their information on a candidate from a negative ad deserves the mess they get.

    August 12, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. Andy in Charlotte, NC

    What a shame that you have to dumb down your speeches and put out negative ads in order to get ahead, politically. American politics are hurt with the media's obsession with polls, red/blue maps, and teaching about a two-party-only system in schools.

    August 12, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |

    McCain's ad's are the very BEST out there. I love the humor. Have you seen "the FAN CLUB".........great and the ad's are so true. Finally, someone is putting this clown in his place.......which is Chicago!!

    August 12, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Abby

    If you don’t mind being a hypocritical liar who doesn’t stand for anything honorable, I guess those toxic ads work.

    August 12, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Eliogt

    Just another clown seeking a spotlight. Keep the focus on the real news and shunt Penn to the digital roundfile.

    August 12, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. Debby

    I agree with Penn the add was masterful and to the point and now Obama and his campaign are saying the add is mocking supporters which a third grader knows that wasn't so. The media put Obama on this pedastal not the McCaign campaign. Obama is an empty suit and doesn't take a stand on issues until its someone else's idea like his Russia statements now agreeing with McCain. He did the same in the debates with Hillary he would copy her answers just like high school stuff and because he is the more popular kid everyone takes it as his idea. It was really cringe worthy to watch. I hope McCain has kept back some of his solutions for our country in the debate to throw the Messiah off balance.

    August 12, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. MikeH

    Hillary Clinton is, through her operatives, continuing to spread her poison. If she thinks this will give her a shot at 2012, she is wrong.

    August 12, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. Jerry

    Yeah right, let's hear what works and what doesn't from a –sore– loser...

    August 12, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. Shari, NY

    Show me an American (except the Indians) who do not have foreign roots! Soon they will say that Hawaii is not a part of the mainland and does not count. In an attempt to woo people they are stooping lower and lower by being very intolerant as regards the background of many Americans.

    August 12, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. California Voter

    This has nothing to do with the above article, but I must say I am tired of seeing Obama's paid for campaign add everytime I open the political ticker! I guess money buys everything here in the US, even the presidency.

    August 12, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. TSD from Houston, TX

    Mark Penn is antiquated. How is he relevant? Because I was born overseas (to American parents), does that make my core values as an American less than others who were born on American soil? No. Mark Penn is full of hot air. Please post CNN.

    August 12, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. Chips


    You still will not collect that $10 million that Hillary owns. Your crap didn't work in H. C. campaign and it will not work now. Go marry Carl Rove and maybe the two of you can make hell happy.

    August 12, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. John B. From New Hampshire

    wow, what a LOSER!!! CLinton and her serrogates are becoming more Neo-Con every minute!!!!!

    OBAMA '08!!!

    or vote for the same.....

    August 12, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Stacy Clarks, TX

    this guy is really hating or what!!!

    get over it, you lost, and so did clinton!

    now stop being a baby and get behind the democratic winner, OBAMA!!

    on second thoughts, we really don't want you!

    August 12, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. Gayle, MN

    There's a reason this guy was replaced. I think he's trying to justify the 5 million dollars Hillary paid him or owes him. It's sad.

    Barack will win, and he'll be job hunting.


    August 12, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  20. Saad from NJ

    If these ads are effective, it depicts the very sad state of minds of those who these silly, stupid, and idiotic ads matter to.

    Do these people actually exist who get influenced by these ads versus ads laying down a candidate's agenda of how he/she will fix the health care, housing, conflicts in iraq etc etc.

    August 12, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. Linda from Prescott AZ

    There is something very fishy about all this Clinton stuph surfacting 2 weeks before the convention.
    Penn needs to crawl back under his rock.

    August 12, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. Brenda, MI

    Great, a graudate from the Karl Rove School of Advertising get a microphone. Just what America needs, more garbage.


    August 12, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. MikeH

    Oh boy, it's Alex Mooney doing what he does best, writing articles to please his Republican controllers. No objectivity, just pro-Republican spin wrapped in a "newsworthy" article.

    August 12, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. RealityKing

    Add Bob the Builder's childish motto to rabid liberal fans and paparazzi news anchors..., and what else would you call him, if not the neo-political celebrity??

    August 12, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. Lee Lynch

    Political silly season continues among the Clinton supporters. Let's move on and see what happens when we wake up on the morning of November 5th and we have a new African American President.

    Obama for President!

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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