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. Greg, Portland OR

    He's a coward of the worst kind. He'll never stand on principles, he doesn't have integrity or morals, but he's going to attack someone who does. He was perfect for Hillary, two peas in a pod. The sleazier you are, and the less character you have, the better for the Clintons.

    This man is NOT going to prevent me, or most Americans from taking our country back. Yes, I know with slithering snakes like Penn, country and honor are not on their list. What a wonderful surprise he'll get in November. I would love to see his fat, doughboy face on November 5th, the slime ball.

    August 12, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. FactCheck

    I have high praise for the NutraSlim ads that show Mark Penn in the "before" pose. They are highly effective at pointing out what a fat bag of crap he is.

    August 12, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. Election Watcher

    OMG, that is SO not fair! McCain is just as mean as Simon. Now what is that phone number again to cast my vote?

    August 12, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Concerned Texan

    Another unhappy loser that is afraid of those that don't look like him.

    August 12, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. Credit Card Republicans

    Just proves that many Americans love gutter politics.Slander,lies and half truths.

    August 12, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. What if?

    leading strategists says it did the job.....what job?....Same old TRICK, lies and focus is off the MAIN issues of the 98% of the American voters...........GOP one thing you forgot this election, we are not the fools you thank we are, may have worked in “2000” & “2004” to state "it did the job" by using an advertising that forgets to put McCain in it, ops.........that's right wrong who cheat on their first wives for woman with millions show, would be more like the type of ad needed.

    Leave it to the GOP to let us be the last they worry about, instead of so much focus on Obama celebrity, when are they going to run ads that will prove that McCain will produce all these jobs he promising, also promise and prove how low he can get the gas prices, also promise and prove how he will make sure we all will have the same type of healthcare he and his camp has with our tax dollars and an ad that also promise and prove how he will help the thousands of homeowners who lost their homes, financially get back into them. THIS IS WHAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED GETTING THE JOB DONE.....WOW, again trick of the mind by the GOP…….this a dumb statement for a leading strategists to say, when 98% of us are struggling from day to day.......again taking the voters for granted and thinking we will forget how the media has shown Bush and his administrative celebrities for the last 7 ½ yrs. With mostly negative news that has caused his rating to be below 25%, this is what the ads should be explaining to the American voters…THIS TO WOULD GET THE JOB DONE……won't work on us this time GOP.

    Obama 08

    August 12, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. Amy, Kazoo

    america, meet your new idiot.

    August 12, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. We're NOT "your friends"!!!

    Come on folks all you have to do is look at this guy's haircut to realize that he's a TOOL! Who cares what he has to say. It is a little disheartening that he sounds like he's making talking points for the Repubs, and he was Hillary's head campaign guy. More of this and I'm witholding my vote for her for her next Senate run!

    OBAMA 2008 + 2012

    August 12, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  9. Drinky

    Didn't your candidate lose and you ended up being fired for dealing with a nation who your candidate said you weren't dealing with?'re a good gauge of what works and what doesn't...NOT

    August 12, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. JP

    The ad simply states the truth. Obama has substance.

    August 12, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. john l.a.

    That's the reason Barack Obama will be the 44th POTUS. Penn obviously is not in the Democrats corner and it's not worth the time
    of day what he thinks. He lost Clintons campaign because Axlerod
    beat him at his own game, a smart, POSITIVE well ran SUCCESSFUL

    Obama '08

    August 12, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. Tony


    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. PW Va

    This idiot is a lone wolf in Democrat (or would that be Rethuglican) clothing.

    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Typical White Person

    Shari, NY August 12th, 2008 10:43 am ET wrote

    Show me an American (except the Indians) who do not have foreign roots!

    Indians come from India. If you meant Native Americans, please remember that they came across the land bridge from Asia.

    The point is that his upbringing, including the two most influential men in his mother's life who were both Muslims, does not lend itself to identifying with most Americans. Most Americans don't get "scholarships" to private schools. Most Americans don't get preferential acceptance to Columbia University because of Affirmative Action. And most Americans didn't grow up in a socialist environment.

    Hawaii is the place that gave us Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984)[1] – a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that a state could use the eminent domain process to take land and redistribute it. Chavez probably used that as his model.

    It also has a state tax rate higher than Ma$$achusetts!

    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Crush Rush

    Truth is Hillary was the Republican in drag.She lied from beginning to end.

    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  16. Lisa

    Is this the same Mark Penn who drove Hillary's campaign into the ground? Well then we know if is uneffective thanks Mark you clarified that for us!!!!!!!!!LOSER!!!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |



    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Kevin, NC

    The media keeps reporting this because they need stories. They will recycle trash daily if it keeps them working and advertising dollars coming in.

    I say bocott the companies that advertise with these various news outlets when they run crazy stories like this.

    Obama will win this year, and if he does well, he may win in 2012, but what ever happens we must make sure that McCain looses and the republican party takes a significant hit in Congress.

    August 12, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. RC

    what a joke. This guy has the brain of a chihuahua. As do most PUMAS. Cut off thier noses despite thier faces.

    August 12, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. Shari, NY

    Hillary supporters please take note of the following excerpt from the September issue of The Atlantic magazine. “Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination went from front-runner status to failure for a number of reasons, from badly managed money to blistering warfare between advisers. Clinton, the candidate who said she was ready to lead on Day One of her administration, did little to quell the infighting”.

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

    Someone made the comment on one of the Sunday talk shows that Obama should not have gone to Hawaii for his vacation (even though it is a state) but should have gone to Myrtle Beach instead since that would have sounded better. Where do people come up with these ideas? Mark Penn is in the league with the Republican slime machine. Why would anyone hire him?

    August 12, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. Boise, ID

    That's right. Obama supporters are mindless. Not like those smart McCain supporters. Fossil fuels cause carbon emissions. Drill here! Drill now! Carbon emissions cause global warming. Drill here! Drill now! Global warming is causing an increase in natural disasters. Drill Here! Drill now! The environmental risks of oil drilling and transporting is much safer since Valdez. Oops, close down the Mississippi river! A tanker is leaking! Nuclear energy is much safer since chernobyl. Oops, our nuclear sub is leaking radiation! I wish I was as smart as you republicans

    August 12, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. James

    And this is the mindset that Clinton wanted to bring back to the whitehouse? Are you true democratic Hiliary supporters paying attention to this (not you fake PUMA's)?

    This is why she lost. Not sexism. Not infatuation with Obama. Not the caucus system (which she didn't bother to strategise for but only saw the need to criticize and belittle it), not the super delegates "coronating" the other guy.

    August 12, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. WoMaN4McCain

    Yes, and we all saw just how effective Mark Penn and Hillary were. Seems to me they should shut their pie holes and just be gracious losers. Thanks to them, my boy McCain is having to run against Obama... instead of Hillary, who McCain could easily have mopped the floor with.

    August 12, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. D. Hunter

    Right, this is the guy who helped to destroy Hillary's primary campaign.

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