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. ANGIE

    Penn is a sleaze I cant belive hillary actullay hired this sleazeball!!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  2. Andrew

    Even as a Democrat, I can appreciate the ideas because they are effective. I'm not just going to bury my head in the sand and pretend otherwise.

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. PG

    Mark Penn is an idiot. No wonder the Clinton campaign fizzled out. A person without backbone can do that to a campaign. Furthermore, "Jenny Craig" is recommended for him at this point.

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. Angela, Cleveland, OH

    The ad was very unbecoming to Senator McCain's before now above board stature. This deminishes him.

    Just like the most recent ad run by one of the more disgusting groups calling for biblical proportion rain during Senator Obama's acceptance speech. Hmm....hasn't our country suffered enough with the most recent floods in the midwest and also the loss of New Orleans? Now what, Denver needs to be flooded to punish them for hosting the convention?

    After what the bushies did to Senator McCain in South Carolina one would not think he would wallow in the gutter with them.

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. Hillary Get A Grip On Your People

    Who in their right mind would ever pick Penn to be their senior strategist? He's working for the other side!?!?!

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  6. Dia Akin

    Look at all the ads he quoted as "effective" and look where it got the candidates who used them.

    August 12, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  7. v.a.

    i sure hope he's right! we see how effective he was for the clinton campaign! looks like a winner, folks...

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  8. Pam

    Why does the media keep reporting what this guy says?

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. LT for Obama

    And why is this guy even talking? He was released from Hillary's campaign because of his backroom dealings.

    Also, why anyone is still bringing up Hillary and how or why she lost is really getting very, very old. Grow up and move on.

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. R.I.F.

    Who cares CNN. Will you please stop telling us what this fake Karl Rove says or thinks. Obviously his advise does't even work.

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  11. Erik, Austin TX

    This guy is like the Karl Rove of the Democratic Party, except for the part where he sucks at his job.

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. Connie, AL

    What America doesn't realize is these people are campaigning for 2012. I've never seen anything like it. There candidate lost the primaries, and their still fighting for Barack to lose the general. So it's not about idealogy or principles, it's about MONEY. Hillary paid this guy 5 million dollars, and now he wants another 5 million for the 2012 race.

    How low this country has sunk, to think that we would continue fighting a race that is OVER.

    August 12, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  13. It's Over

    Will someone please get a memo to all the former Clinton staffers that reminds them they lost. Now.

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  14. MsBlake

    Everything about Obama speaks to American Ideals and the progress made in the country. If he is not "centered" in American thinking and values then America must be in denial about our identity. Obama is a self-made man who comes from a background of both struggle and sacrifice. He is bi-racial background should remind Americans of that cliche portrait of the "melting pot."

    If any one is not fully centered on American thinking and values, its the Bush Administration that has disregarded any type of honest leadership.

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  15. Mark

    Yeah, Penn the guy who McCain should listen to.

    Then he'll be able to lose 20% in a few months as well :-)

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Andy in Charlotte, NC

    Sounds like something out of the Karl Rove playbook. Unfortunately, people in America blindly believe negative things about candidates without doing research. What a sad world. After all, Bush was elected in 2004 after 4 years of office! It makes me want to move somewhere else.

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  17. Malcom Little

    He's right- It effectively made McCain look like a bitter, angry, stupid, petty, mean little dork, with nothing of substance to offer America (except really ignorant ads).

    I sincerely hope the old man doesn't think we're all as dumb as he is.

    And Mark Penn would do well to just fade away. You lost sir, get over it.

    And please see to that horrific hair cut.

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  18. Amon

    I think the McCain campaign should take a lesson from Mark Penn.

    It'll make Plough's job that much easier.

    August 12, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  19. Tom. B

    Obama supporters certainly dont think for themselves. If they did they would realize that Obama is junior Senator with no experience at anything. He has flip flopped on every issue so that he could be more in line with what people actually want from a candidate He belonged to a racist/radical church until that became a political liability. And on top of that he was the least qualified of the Democrats.

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  20. jo

    this guy sound like Elmer Fudd. get over it sir.

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  21. Andy in Charlotte, NC

    If Hillary really wanted Obama to win, she'd tell this man to shutup!

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. Enlightened Voter

    He would know. It is effective becuase it pokes fun of the truth. Paris is a superstar for nothing but her parents money and a sex tape. Obama is a hyped up media persona, but has not achieved anything of SUBSTANCE. Wake up people.

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. Sacto Joe

    CNN once again pushes the story that they see as detrimental to Obama. Those who think this is a pro-Obama website are either blind or biased or both.

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. GE - MD

    If the voting publick makes voting decisions based on this type of ad instead of serious consideration of policy issues, the publick will get the government they deserve. They could choose to ignore this crap and I really wish they would.

    August 12, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. GO Away!!

    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.~~Shut your big Lying Mouth~~~You are a Reject
    and a Scumbag .....Why is this Guy in The NEWS?

    August 12, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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