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The Mark Penn Test


It’s a good one:

The question for someone considering whether or not to support Clinton in 2016 is, will a Clinton 2016 campaign pass the Mark Penn Test? The Mark Penn Test, which I just invented, determines whether or not a person should be trusted with the presidency, based solely on one criterion: Whether or not they pay Mark Penn to do anything for their campaign. Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.

And failing it is an expensive one, above and beyond giving away the White House in 2008:

Fired, but still well compensated. Since Clinton’s 2008 campaign ended, she has milked her donors — and Obama supporters — for millions of dollars to pay off her campaign’s debt. $5.4 million of the debt — all of it, that is — was owed to Mark Penn’s firm Penn, Schoen & Berland. Anyone donating money to Clinton since 2008 has essentially been paying off the man who did more than anyone outside the Obama campaign to prevent her from becoming president. The debt was only just paid off in full in January, just as Clinton left the State Department and shortly before the new pro-Clinton SuperPAC began operating.

Hillary Clinton blew the Democratic nomination in 2008 because she learned exactly the wrong lesson from the 1996 election. The real lesson was “fundamentals are so important that a relatively popular peacetime incumbent can win fairly comfortably even if he turns his campaign over to profit-seeking utter dumbshits like Mark Penn and Dick Morris.” Alas, the lesson that both the Clintons and too many members of the media seemed to learn was “Mark Penn and Dick Morris are political supergenuises. Let’s throw another pander to lacrosse security 12-burner grill no Dijon mustard moms.” To paraphrase Bill James, sometimes you eventually pay a price for believing things that aren’t true.

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  • Warren Terra

    Any invocation of Mark Penn can benefir from a link to Ezra Klein’s devastating 2007 review of Penn’s book Microtrends. Worth it just for the scorn heaped on Penn’s “sniper” inanity.

    • (the other) Davis

      Thank you, I hadn’t seen that before. That’s a fantastic takedown.

    • Rarely Posts

      I’d never read anything by Ezra that was this entertaining and thoroughly devastating. I’ll have to give him another look.

      • Warren Terra

        I have a lot of respect for Ezra, but that piece is in no way representative; it’s about the only time he’s been discourteous in print. His tendency towards respectfulness has helped his career and gotten him the ability to interview important Republicans, but it’s definitely a deliberate choice he’s made, and one that constrains his options.

  • c u n d gulag

    Jayzoos H. Keeeeeerist, betting on Rutgers and their abusive Coach to win the NCAA Tournamens!!!

    Penn is the Democratic versions of Bill Kristol, as their “Oracle At Delhpi!”

    Hillary, if you DO decide to run, keep this dandruff-flaked moronic loser, who looks like road-kill up close, as far away from your staff as possible,

    At least Cleopatra had the excuse of having committed suicide by being bitten by and Asp, and not kissing the @$$ of the one most incompetent, and least telegenic, human available to help her – unless “Murray, The Dog-faced Boy,’ decided to get on TV to advocate for his favorite candidate!

  • Warren Terra

    See also Davis, Lanny.

  • Penn is an unflushable bag of shit, no arguments there. But it’s not like the rest of the 2008 Clinton campaign covered themselves in glory, including Hillary herself. You’d be hard pressed to construct a more advantageous position from which to run and they fucked it up with both hands. It remains way too early for 2016 analysis – we still have two relative years of peace to enjoy – but if Clinton couldn’t appeal to younger, more liberal voters in 2008, why on earth people think she’ll be able to do it in 2016 is beyond me.

    Her and Biden combined are old enough to get you back to Reconstruction, and the kind of kids who will make up the backbone of those early state campaign organizations are mostly too young to even remember when her husband was President. Could she win? Of course! But declaring her some kind of overwhelming, field clearing favorite, which far too many otherwise sane people have already done, is Penn level stupid.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      if Clinton couldn’t appeal to younger, more liberal voters in 2008, why on earth people think she’ll be able to do it in 2016 is beyond me

      Fair enough, but who’s in the pipeline? I haven’t been following closely…are there any rising stars who would be likely to have more appeal to the yoots?

      • Brautigan

        Elizabeth Warren
        Sherrod Brown

        • Kalil

          If Elizabeth Warren runs, I will have to very seriously consider quitting my job to volunteer full-time.

          I know that some people on this site don’t give her very high odds of winning. I don’t care. Those odds are outweighed – dramatically – by the amount of good a Warren win could do.

          • Tybalt

            Yeah, she can’t win, barring the other side screwing it up even worse, which isn’t likely. But i totally get that sometimes you have to throw that all aside, because even if you don’t win, you move the needle.

            • Kalil

              I really don’t believe that she “can’t” win.
              Remember: the R’s best candidate last time was Mitt Romney, and they’re pretty clearly going downhill – both demographics and sanity favor the D’s.
              The primary would be harder, but if Clinton does in fact decide not to run (or if she pulls an ’08 and allows total morons to run her campaign into the ground), it’s an open field. Warren will have had the same four years of national experience that Obama had at that point, and given that she’s averaging a viral video a month, she’ll probably be matching him for name recognition in the D base.

              It’s be hard, maybe even unlikely. But then, how likely was it that a black man with a funny name (shared with a certain middle eastern dictator, no less) would beat the most famous woman in American politics and the most popular ‘establishment maverick’ and go on to seize the presidency? It happened, and look back on it, it seemed so easy as to be inevitable, but looking forward from ’04, I think the general consensus was “that’s impossible”.

      • Fosco

        Governor O’Malley might surprise

    • Then again, Clinton has done a lot to fix the problems she had in 2008. Because of her Iraq vote among other things, there were large chunks of the Democratic base that were eager and anxious for another choice, that didn’t trust her. Some polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire had around 40% of the primary electorate holding this view of her well in advance of those contests, so if it hadn’t been Obama to surge, it would have been someone else. Now, polls I’ve seen show that percentage in single digits. Completely ignorable. Clinton was a loyal and popular Cabinet officer, and has erased the doubts about her that people had in 2008.

      She doesn’t do an especially good job as a judge of ability or character, that’s for sure. Maybe she’d take it all for granted and lose again. But I don’t see an obvious avenue of attack like her Iraq vote was, or fundamentals nearly as susceptible to an Obama-like phenomenon recurring.

      • somethingblue

        She doesn’t do an especially good job as a judge of ability or character, that’s for sure.

        Which is kind of an issue for somebody who’s going to be choosing a Vice President, a cabinet, Supreme Court Justices, other judges, a Federal Reserve Chair, etc., etc., no?

      • Sev

        Speaking only for myself, it was Iran more than Iraq that tarnished her; some very bellicose AIPAC pandering.

        • Brautigan

          + being a member of “The Family”

          • DocAmazing

            That by itself should be the kiss of death.

            • Kurzleg

              That’s my personal position too. De facto royalty in the White House is something to be avoided whether the name is Bush or Clinton.

    • Big advantage for Hillary in 2016, should she run–and I’m not convinced she will–is that her Iraq vote is a tiny speck in the rear view mirror, whereas in 2008 it was a huge obstacle in the middle of the road.

      Also, I’m not sure who could beat her. Cuomo will get hammered from the left on anything not about gays and abortion, Martin O’Malley will have a hard time putting together a national operation, Mark Warner is probably the Gary Hart of the race, the guy with “new ideas” but who probably can’t excite minority voters, and Elizabeth Warren has a much thinner political resume than did Obama at the same point, and while I think she’ll be a very good Senator, she didn’t have much of a buffer in a race in Massachusetts, in which she had tons of money, an advantage she probably would not have in a presidential primary with HRC in the field. She’s also in her mid-60’s, and is not tested for the crushing pressure and work the way Hillary and Biden are.

      There are lots of ways Hillary could screw up if she runs, but I don’t see anyone right now who’s on path to being a strong challenge.

      For decades the GOP anointed a frontrunner and the primary voters confirmed it. This may be the election where we do that.

      • John

        Mark Warner oughtn’t be able to excite anybody. He gave my commencement address at UVA in 2002, and he was, er, not good at all. The idea of him as a presidential candidate is, I think, entirely being pushed by people who have never seen him give a speech. He has no charisma whatever.

        • Main person pushing idea of Mark Warner as a presidential candidate is someone who ran for president for a while in 2006: Mark Warner.

          • JKTHs

            Warner has new ideas? That’s news to me.

    • NonyNony

      but if Clinton couldn’t appeal to younger, more liberal voters in 2008, why on earth people think she’ll be able to do it in 2016 is beyond me.

      Because 2016 Clinton will have something that 2008 Clinton did not have: Barack Obama out of the running.

      Point me to another young politician in the Dem pipeline like Obama and I’ll concede she has a major problem. But I’m not seeing anyone like that yet.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Gillibrand’s name seems to come up a lot in conversation, but she doesn’t exactly have a national reputation yet. And I have a hard time imagining she’ll want to run against either H. Clinton or A. Cuomo.

        • NonyNony

          If it’s Clinton v. Cuomo he’ll be a bloody smear on the pavement halfway through primary season.

          I’ll concede that Gilibrand is one who might end up surprising me. If Cuomo ends up in a primary against Clinton and wins, though, I’ll eat my hat.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Yeah, that’s a dream for Clinton. Any misgivings about the Iraq vote will vanish if she’s running against Cuomo. You’re not going to beat Clinton from the right.

            • Davis X. Machina

              Cuomo’s an interesting case… how far off the reservation can you wander on economic and environmental issues and still get bailed out by your social-agenda stands?

              I’d like him to run just to find out — it would split sections of the netroots right down the middle.

              • Except what differences will there be between the contenders on social issues? I doubt there will be much daylight between them on guns, god and gays, nor on immigration, the death penalty, contraception or abortion.

                • Rarely Posts

                  It’s not just the positions one takes. It’s also whether or not you deliver.

                  Personally, as an LGBT activist and gay man, I’m going to give substantial weight to those political leaders who delivered political and policy victories. That includes Cuomo, Gregoire, and O’Malley. I’m also going give some weight to those who got on the marriage equality bandwagon earlier rather than later. That includes Gillibrand, Franken, and Biden. Similarly, if Cuomo succeeds in liberalizing abortion laws in New York, that would also count for something. If O’Malley succeeds at death penalty repeal in Maryland, that would count for a lot too.

                  At the same time, I’m not a single issue voter, and Cuomo’s positions on the environment alone probably disqualify him in my eyes. He also didn’t show nearly enough support for Democratic control of the New York legislature when a number of people switched parties at the last moment.

                  In contrast, O’Malley has delivered more on social issues than Clinton (gay marriage, possibly the death penalty), and that definitely should be given weight. If immigration reform happens, there may be some Senators (such as Gillibrand) and Representatives who should be able to capitalize on that.

                  Our bench is deeper than people are suggesting, and on a comparison on social issues, Clinton looks acceptable but less impressive than many others.

                • I think geographic context matters too. Cuomo finally getting SSM in NY, with the help of conservative mega-donors who happen to have a gay kid, it not to me all that impressive. Sure, the result is important, no doubt. But Mark Dayton diving in to the MN vote last year–which our side won by only 4 points–is to me a lot more impressive.

                • Rarely Posts

                  Also, what policy and political successes is Clinton going to run on? Despite years in the spotlight, her actual successes strike me as fairly meager. I know this won’t matter to many people, but it may matter to some of the activists and pundits.

              • Joshua

                The way I see it, the netroots basically held their nose while they voted for Obama last year. He was better than Mitt and the ZEGS, but in the end, everywhere I go I see people complaining, rightfully, about Obama’s handling of Wall Street and the broader new gilded age direction this country is headed in.

                Cuomo is no different – in fact, he’s worse. Way worse. I’ve said it before, but on economic issues, there is very little daylight between him and Chris Christie.

                I just don’t see the netroots getting behind him, even if he managed to pass SSM and gun regulation.

                • Especially since every significant candidate in the primaries is going to favor SSM.

    • sharculese

      In all fairness, Pareene addresses your first point:

      Mark Penn is just the worst example of the general Clinton family habit of associating with the most repulsive party hacks the Democrats have to offer. Her campaign was a dream team of generally useless hacks, from sweatered communications director Howard Wolfson to charmless fundraiser Terry McAuliffe to ill-tempered Harold Ickes (who, unlike the rest of the campaign, at least seemed mostly competent). These are the same Clintons who are responsible for the national stature, such as it is, of Dick Morris. In general, the Clintons run with a pretty lousy crowd. (And this is not even getting into Bill Clinton’s many gross rich man-child “friends,” like Ron Burkle.)

      • LazyMonkey

        Ugh. Thanks for reminding me we get to watch Terry McAuliffe hand the governorship of Virginia to the truly odious Ken Cuccinelli later this year. The fact that McAuliffe can’t see that he’s an unlikeable person is aggravating beyond belief.

        • sharculese

          I met a dude a couple week ago who sees absolutely no problem with McAulliffe and doesn’t understand why he won’t win the race, and I got a serious sad.

        • cpinva

          “Thanks for reminding me we get to watch Terry McAuliffe hand the governorship of Virginia to the truly odious Ken Cuccinelli later this year.”

          cucinelli is diligently working to make himself the single most odious man in america. his most recent action, to try and reinstate the va anti-sodomy laws, is just one in a string of recent events, seemingly designed to get everyone but the 50 most hardcore, anti-everything about modern life virginians, to not vote for him. it’s possible mcauliffe might actually look sort of good, by comparison.

    • ajay

      You’d be hard pressed to construct a more advantageous position from which to run

      She was a woman, called Clinton, who had voted for the Iraq War. That’s a terrible position from which to run. At least the black Muslim guy called Hussein had voted against.

      • cpinva

        “At least the black Muslim guy called Hussein had voted against.”

        no, he didn’t, since he wasn’t in congress at the time. of course, if voting for action against iraq (and i was against it from the get go) is an automatic disqualifier, every democrat in congress, who also voted for it (nearly all of them), are disqualified as well.

        • Nope. A solid majority of House Dems voted against it. And while Senate Dems voted 29-22 for it, over a third of them were already out of the Senate in 2008.

        • witless chum

          Nancy Pelosi doesn’t get enough credit, in my opinion, for breaking with Gephardt and leading the antiwar faction.

          • There were several reasons David Bonior embraced her over Steny Hoyer as his successor, and that was near the top of the list.

    • She voted for the war. That was a dealbreaker for a lot of people, myself included. Since that time she has gone on to do good work (Iraq war vote aside she wasn’t all that great a senator). Younger, liberal voters will remember that she was a superstar in the Obama cabinet, and tend not to recall her record as a senator.

      If she runs she will be the first candidate in quite some time (Eisenhower?) who hasn’t been either a legislator or a governor in the last public office held. In the 19th century being Secretary of State used to be a pretty good base point, and why not? Competence at getting elected to stuff is hardly the same as competence at running stuff. I’m not saying I’d vote for HRC, but that’s really just because I don’t know if there is anyone out there that I might prefer. She has a pretty solid case.

  • ploeg

    One can hope that a short break from public life can break certain ways of thinking about things. For some, she will always be the “socialist lesbian harridan castrating bitch-queen puppet-master” (and to be fair, who among us isn’t?), but I’m willing to reserve judgment until I see her campaign team.

    • Anonymous

      I want that bumper sticker, but first I need a bigger bumper.

      • ploeg

        To be clear, I will never think that Clinton is any of those things (socialist? really?), but Pareene distilled all the bugfuck craziness into one brilliant line.

    • Ken

      You forgot Vince Foster.

    • newsouthzach

      Hey now, I hear Mark Penn has some new analysis out showing that socialist lesbian harridan castrating bitch-queen puppet-masters are the new soccer moms. So she’s got that going for her.

    • rea

      For some, she will always be the “socialist lesbian harridan castrating bitch-queen puppet-master”

      At least no one can claim she lacks the character to be pesident . . . .

    • Bill Murray

      socialist lesbian harridan castrating bitch-queen puppet-master

      Isn’t this the great, lost Captain Beefheart album?

  • Mark Penn is the fault of Bill Clinton, with an assist from Dick Morris. He was pretty much a nobody in political circles outside NYC when Morris brought him in to the Clinton operation. Then Morris was caught with a toe in his mouth, got fired, and Morris was left in the inner circle of a crappy campaign for a supremely talented incumbent with a booming economy running against a lackluster has-been and they managed to not even clear 50%.

    Then he went on to get hired by a ton of candidates in Dem primaries, all of whom not named “Hillary” lost. Al Checchi, who lost to Gray Davis in the 1998 CA gov primary. Andrew Cuomo, who gave up against Carl McCall for Gov in 2002. Jim Blanchard, who finished third in the MI gov primary in 2002. Lieberman for president in 2004. Peter Deutch, who lost to Kathy Castor for FL Gov in 2004. And on and on.

    Mark Penn is a horrible pollster, and I don’t know any political consultants who wouldn’t have said that BEFORE Hillary’s presidential campaign. In Spring 2007 I had several discussions with a politician who was pondering endorsing Obama. My main arguments for Obama instead of Hillary were it was a change election in the Dem primary and HRC was seen as the past, especially because of her Iraq vote, that Obama had a great bio, that he could raise huge money, and that I was incapable of believing any campaign with Mark Penn as its chief strategist would be able to win a tough race. I don’t think on the Penn stuff I was prescient; for those who knew about his work, it was obvious he was craptacular.

    • I hadn’t even realized Jim Blanchard had made another attempt to run for governor. If Mark Penn can’t even sell to the voters the guy they elected a couple of times before as governor–that he can’t sell someone who’s essentially pre-sold–then that’s pretty damning.

      • witless chum

        Jennifer Granholm is a pretty solid campaigner. If it had been a two-way race, Blanchard might have done better, but former speaker of the house David Bonnior ran also. Plus a Green crashing the debates. Whoever won that primary was going to be Governor, though, as Granholm’s campaign was “Engler? WTF were we thinking?”

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          She is also a native Canadian. So she’s out.

        • “Ran also?” Had Blanchard not run and split the black vote Bonior probably would have won the primary. And he sure as hell would have been a better governor, because he would have come in and on the first day kicked them in the teeth, and they would have known they had to deal with him, rather than JG’s “let’s all get along and be bipartisan” schtick, which resulted in her getting pretty much not a damn thing done in eight years because she always got rolled by the Republicans.

          And honestly, she was a “good campaigner” with upscale moderate women, and did OK with upscale moderate men. But neither time did she do all that well at driving up turnout with minority voters, and she underperformed with working class white voters. She was a very good fundraiser, but she only won by less than 3 points over Richard Posthumus–yes, Dead Dick–and lucked out in 2006 that it was a great Dem year and she was running against the loathsome Dick DeVos, who’s good at buying Republican officeholders but horrible when in front of voters.

          If she actually did come back to run for Levin’s seat she would probably be shellacked in a primary.

          • “kicked them in the teeth”=kicked the Republicans in the teeth.

          • witless chum

            Hmm. You’re right, she did do way worse against Dead Dick than I remembered. She does well on the TV machine, but less so in reality, I guess.

            Beating DeVos isn’t impressive, because no one likes him and outside of Grand Rapids Amway is a pyramid scheme. That guy’s a swindler and dirtbag from a family of similar. He’s on the short list of people that Rick Snyder’s not worse than. And he was also the king of lying about the anti-gay constitutional amendment on the ballot a few years back. The little slime was all over TV saying that it wouldn’t ban civil unions just gay marriages, even though the plain language suggested otherwise, after which candidates he supported for supreme court ruled that, oh shocking, it did mean what it said and banned civil unions, too. He’s not content to just be a rich asshole like Snyder, he goes for that extra little kick in the teeth. See also union busting.

            • rea

              Just mentioning Amway doesn’t do full justice to DeVos’ wingnut connections–his extended family also owns Blackwater and funds Focus on Family and the Family Research Council . . .

            • burritoboy

              DeVos is more properly described as a person who wants to be a fascist warlord, not a scumbag and swindler. Plenty of scumbags and swindlers around – not as many people who have repeatedly attempted to set up a Freikorps.

              • But he got his money by being a swindler. Amway has largely escaped the being found a ponzi scheme in the exact legal sense, but just barely, and they’ve had the same problem in other countries.

                It’s one of the ironies of DeVos’ animus against labor: almost all the people that make him money are independent contractors/franchise owners. His animus is not that he’s got personal experience of trying to prevent his workplaces from being organized that leads him to be hostile to labor. It’s purely their political strength, which is an impediment to him successfully backing Republicans who will do his bidding on social issues.

            • I managed the campaign against the marriage amendment. It was almost entirely funded by the DeVos’s and Tom Monaghan. Even the money that came from the Catholic church, it’s almost certain that it was (a bit illegally) funneled through them from Tom Monaghan.

    • spencer

      Peter Deutch, who lost to Kathy Betty Castor for FL Gov in 2004.


      I will never forget Mel Martinez’s “Betty Castor – Disaster” ads that year. Christ, what an asshole.

  • Rick Massimo

    OT: Scott, in case you were worried whether Kevin Ware’s injury was going to result in terrible financial hardship, you can rest easy:


    You WERE worried about financial hardship for LOUISVILLE, right?

  • shah8

    Hillary Clinton is a poor manager. Poor managers make poor hires.

    Birds of a feather, flock together.

  • Hogan

    Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.

    Can we change that to “not shooting Mark Penn on sight”?

    (Heads on sticks are, as we all know, right out.)

    • Shakezula


  • Mark Penn’s Colossal Scrotum

    Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?

  • Rarely Posts

    Responding to the linked article:

    But this time, Clinton really is a prohibitive favorite. . . . . The anti-Clinton machine would have to crank itself back up, though it’s been dormant for so many years now that the default position among right-wingers since 2007 has been basically to proclaim unalloyed admiration and love for Hillary Clinton, as a means of insulting Obama in comparison

    She may be the “prohibitive favorite,” but it certainly seemed like she was the prohibitive favorite in 2007, and we saw how that turned out. Also, as for the “anti-Clinton machine,” they’re already on the case. I recently decided to wake up to right-wing radio (so I’d get out of bed faster), and they rant about Clinton every morning (Benghazi!!). Of course, the right-wing hate machine will hate on anyone; democrats just can’t afford to factor that into their analysis.

    Personally, I’m hoping that Clinton chooses not to run, even if she doesn’t hire Penn. (1) She made a number of bad hires last time, Penn being one among many. (2) I’m still bothered by her Iraq War vote. (3) she’s still seen as a raging leftist by the right and many independents, despite the fact that she actually is really moderate. In particular, she’s often been seen as a leader on gay rights when she’s really been a follower. (4) She is a fine campaigner but not a great campaigner — she had a lot of advantages going into 2008 and she still lost. (5) Finally and completely selfishly, I’d rather not have the bitter intra-party battles of 2008 repeat themselves.

    The tricky thing is that: (1) if she announces that she’s running, a lot of potentially good candidates won’t run, but (2) unless some other good candidates step forward, she might be better than most of the alternatives. Cuomo – enough said. I’m inclined to support Biden just because his brazen honesty forced the President’s hand on gay marriage (Biden’s endorsement was clearly unplanned), but he also got it wrong on Iraq and he puts his foot in his mouth constantly. Personally, I’m just hoping someone awesome steps up (maybe it’s O’Malley or Gillibrand or someone else?).

    Mostly, I just want to push against the “Clinton is the prohibitive favorite” line because the Democrats deserve a real primary, the election is years away, and I don’t personally feel ready to throw my support behind her in a primary. I also am annoyed that Clinton waited so long to come out in favor of marriage equality, but at least she finally has.

    • I don’t think most of what you write is incompatible with “Clinton is the prohibitive favorite.” I think it’s obvious she is. But I also think there’s a good case to be made that it’s partly because she keeps good competition out of the race or they don’t get sufficient support because donors and volunteers have conceded to Hillary. And much of what you say is essentially you don’t think she should be the nominee; you make a good case that she shouldn’t be the favorite, but obviously that’s different than whether she is.

      • Also, on her first day in office she’d be 69 years old. She’s obviously very vigorous. But still. She’d be 73 at the end of the term, and presumably then running for a term that would end when she’d be 77 years old.

        • ajay

          Also, on her first day in office she’d be 69 years old. She’s obviously very vigorous. But still. She’d be 73 at the end of the term, and presumably then running for a term that would end when she’d be 77 years old.

          Ike was 68 on his first day. Reagan was 69. Hell, Churchill was 70 in 1940. Clinton’s in better shape than any of them, health wise, and she has a longer life expectancy (what with being female in the 21st century).

          • No, Eisenhower was 70. On his last day. He was only 62 when he was elected; Hillary is already 65. When he was 64 he had a heart attack that required him to be hospitalized for six weeks. When he was 65 he had a stroke and also had surgery to repair a blocked bowel. And by the time he died at 78–one year later than she would be at the end of a second term–he’d had seven heart attacks.

            And I don’t think you really want to invoke Reagan to make the case that being that old coming in to office doesn’t carry big risks that the president’s performance will be effected by declining health.

            • And it’s not like Hillary Clinton hasn’t, you know, had a blood clot on her brain.

              Also, I’d say the odds that Bill Clinton will make it until he’s almost 80 are no better than 50-50. I’m not saying this would happen, but having her spouse go through a serious decline and/or die would probably more than a tad distracting for a second President Clinton.

            • And jeeze, you’re wrong about all three! Churchill was 65 when he became PM the first time, 70 when Labor took power. And yes, he served as PM again when he was in his mid-70’s, but when he took office the second time he’d already had one stroke, and had another one–kept secret–while PM. And during his whole time as PM, he was able to dictate his work hours, staying up late and not having to do much in the way of public events or travel. He seldom left London, which is very different than being president.

              • WSC travelled hugely during WW2, at a time when long-haul flying wasn’t exactly BA First Class. I think not so much the second time around.

      • Royko

        Being the prohibitive favorite more than a year out means very little, more than 3 years, even less.

        It’s early days and nobody knows nothin’.

        • Of course it means something. It means that if there isn’t strong opposition to the idea of her being the nominee–there was in 2006-7, but I don’t think there is now–then donors won’t feel an urgency to get behind someone else, like they did with Obama and Edwards.

          As I said elsewhere tonight, the GOP usually has a favored candidate going in to the nominating contests, and that candidate almost always wins. That hasn’t been the case with Dems in the past, but I think it’s far more plausible if this cycle HRC decides to run.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Actually, with the very notable exception of the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, the two parties have been very similar in this regard during the modern, primary-driven era of presidential candidate selection: in open primary races since 1972, the candidate, in both parties, who won the “money primary” in the year before the election won the nomination. The only money-primary winner in either party to fail to do so was Hillary Clinton.

            • I think it’s hard to say Phil Gramm and Steve Forbes didn’t win their money primaries (especially since the latter didn’t need to raise any). Same with Romney in 2008, when he mostly self-funded.

            • Oh, BTW, through 1-1-2004, Dean: $40m, Kerry $15m (plus had to loan $6m to his campaign).

            • Via

              Clinton didn’t win the money primary despite outraising Obama by $2M in 2007.

          • Royko

            Here’s Nate Silver on pre-midterm polling:

            If we’re going strictly by history (which would be foolish), then about the only thing we would know is that HRC will not be the candidate.

            Obviously I wouldn’t go that far, but there are just too many variables in play to make at this point any kind of accurate guess as to what the field will look like or what donors will do or what the political landscape will be.

      • Rarely Posts

        She’s definitely the favorite, and she’s even the likely favorite. I just don’t like adding “prohibitive” to it. First and foremost, I don’t think she should be “prohibitive,” and contesting the idea and laying out reasons increases the chance that she won’t be. Second, I don’t think she’s “prohibitive” given how far out we are. If the primary were held today, she would win, but a lot can happen between now and then. Also, as you pointed out below, her own age and health may seem like even more of an issue two years from now.

    • Scanner

      Has Biden’s last 4 years really been gaffe-tastic? I’m ready to be persuaded on this, but on a global stage my impression’s been that he’s been fairly steady. The man himself isn’t that personally inspiring, but a lot of those Obama behind-the-scenes books have him lined up about where I’d like to be. And he gave Jared Bernstein a job, which is like +3 Anti-Penn.

      • But he also made Bruce Reed his chief of staff. And Reed’s still there, while Bernstein has been gone for two years.

      • Rarely Posts

        Also, Biden is even older than Clinton. Both of them are approaching ages where it’s a factor, though not determinative, for the reasons given by Houle above.

        • rea

          Biden is 5 years older than H. Clinton. It’s hard to imagine electing a president who would be 82 at the end of a second term.

        • dave

          Also, didn’t Biden advise against the raid that killed Bin Laden?

  • socraticsilence

    i think a true challenger could come from out west– a hickenlooper or possibly even a schweitzer could pose an intersting challenge if one could consolidate the plains and mountain west

  • Fledermaus

    Grifters gonna grift.

  • JosephW

    “Hillary Clinton blew the Democratic nomination in 2008 because she learned exactly the wrong lesson from the 1996 election.”

    That’s funny. I don’t remember there being anything in 1996 about having to deal with a DNC that did everything it could to get a Presidential candidate out of the race.

    Let’s put things in perspective here. Hillary’s vote on Iraq didn’t seem to be of any concern to ANYONE in the Democratic Party when they eagerly hoped she would run against Dubya in 2004. AND, let’s not anyone forget the fact that Obama didn’t have to risk his political ass on any Iraq vote since he wasn’t in the Senate WHEN IT FUCKING COUNTED. (No. Barry was safely esconced in the Illinois legislature, a body which has ZERO say in national defense or military matters.) And when Kerry WAS finally nominated in 2004, HIS vote to authorize action didn’t seem to matter to Democrats.

    No. In 2008, the Democratic National Committee saw a young black man and decided to give their full support to him and to hell with anyone else. This was a man who was IN CHARGE of the Senate subcommittee on Afghanistan (following the Dem takeover of the Senate in 2006), but did NOT hold a single hearing, didn’t even bother to do anything regarding what was going on in Afghanistan, and that didn’t matter one whit to the DNC. Can we recall what the DNC decided to do at the end of May of 2008? Despite Obama’s having willingly removed his name from that state’s primary, the DNC decided to award the MAJORITY of the state’s reduced delegate count to Obama–not Hillary who WON the state’s primary. A good portion of the anti-Hillary movement came from the Democrats who despised Hillary’s refusal to run to be their 2004 candidate; she felt it was, for some insane reason, more important to uphold a promise she’d made the people of New York to serve a FULL TERM before considering a Presidential run than it was to serve her own selfish personal interests. But, apparently Democrats didn’t seem to hold a certain Sen Obama to the same standards (Obama had, in 2006, largely ruled out a run for the White House in 2008). No, when he decided to throw his hat in the ring, the DNC saw a “golden boy” to support over the woman who, just 4 years earlier, was their #1 choice (Iraq War vote be damned).

    AND. Let’s not forget about Obama’s own bad judgments when it came to “poor hires.” While he wasn’t actually paid for his work, it appears that a lot of Obama supporters turned a blind eye to Obama’s enthusiastic selection of (antigay) Donnie McClurkin to headline a tour of South Carolina (mainly to shore up the support of evangelical Black South Carolinians). And then, when he was called on the carpet over the selection, Obama’s initial response was that he didn’t know about McClurkin’s position on gay rights. But, again, aside from the LGBT community, Obama supporters didn’t really seem to care at the time. And let’s not forget that, despite his “sudden conversion” to support marriage equality last year, he was far less supportive of it in 2008–although in the late 90s, he seemed to have been waaaaay above the curve on marriage equality, according to a released questionnaire that had Obama’s signature on it, although in 2008, Obama said had been filled out by an aide.

    I know there’s a lot of willingness to be blind when it comes to Obama but I do wish that everyone naysaying Hillary would remember what REALLY happened in 2008. And let’s also recall that the DNC was NOT willing to investigate allegations made regarding improprieties in the Texas caucuses–which Obama won, despite coming in second place in the Texas primary.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      well, i don’t know. you make some good points about obama in general…

      but i remember a lot of people being critical of kerry’s vote in ’04 – and much beyond

      and i never bought into the idea hillary clinton was the ‘inevitable’ candidate. she had enough baggage already and no matter how good someone looks on paper you never know til they get out there

      as i recall the pressure on clinton to withdraw began when it was apparent she couldn’t win enough of the remaining delegates to get the nomination. obama himself wasn’t taken seriously ’til fairly late in the process, even though he had shown an amazing ability to bring new people into the tent (tho’ in my experience those people can’t be bothered to support any *other* dems, that is a separate issue). for all her mistakes, and she made plenty, she had enough support to get the nomination easily – in any other year. obama was just that much better

      • spencer

        but i remember a lot of people being critical of kerry’s vote in ’04

        Can’t speak for anyone else, but I sure as shit was. I voted for Kerry in the general, but he was somewhere around #5 in terms of my preferred candidates in the primary. His Iraq vote was part – but not all – of the reason.

      • JoyfulA

        Well, if Howard Dean’s DNC was responsible for Obama’s nomination, then Obama surely didn’t repay him very well.

    • Humanities Grad

      While there’s some good points here, I think your assessment of the DNC’s behavior in 2008 is at least to some degree revisionist history.

      The institutional Democratic Party (as opposed to Democratic party primary and caucus voters) initially threw the overwhelming bulk of its support behind Hillary Clinton in 2008, not Barack Obama. Remember all the carping about “superdelegates” in 2008? One of the major reasons that Clinton was able to hang in the race as long as she did was that she’d racked up a huge advantage in early endorsements from elected officials and DNC leaders. Many of them later defected when it became clear she couldn’t win, but she was the horse that they’d backed initially. If anything, the DNC establishment probably would’ve preferred _Obama_ to drop out of the race, at least until he started running off a huge string of primary and caucus victories.

      And put me in the camp that does believe that Clinton’s team ran a horrible, horrible campaign in 2008. While the Iraq vote was a black mark against her, I think it was more than offset by several HUGE advantages. She had basically 100% name recognition. She had (initially, at least) the backing of the institutional Democratic Party. And she had her still-very-popular husband firmly in her corner. By all rights, she should be sitting in the Oval Office right now.

      But for whatever reason, it seemingly took her campaign handlers months to figure out that the rules governing a primary race are completely different than the rules governing general elections. They largely ignored small states and caucus states, which allowed the Obama campaign to rack up huge delegate margins, and his campaign fought like hell to hold down her margins in the states she did win. So while she prevailed in several big primary contests (Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Texas primary) her victories wound up being pyrrhic ones–she had to expend millions of dollars to win those contests, but those wins only netted her a handful more delegates than Obama was collecting. And the modest gains she made there were more than outweighed by Obama’s ability to clean up in caucus states and the smaller primary states. It was her campaign staff’s job to know the rules of the game, and from the outside looking in it doesn’t appear they understood them very well.

      • LazyMonkey

        An excellent rebuttal. May I also add, any campaign that thought this song would get the young people on board has also failed a pretty important test.

        • spencer

          Oh dear Vishnu that’s awful.

        • Really, going right to “Fighting in a war/But we don’t know what we’re fighting for” in the first verse wasn’t playing to any strength. Wasn’t there a Fleetwood Mac song they could have used?

          • rea

            Wasn’t there a Fleetwood Mac song they could have used?

            I got a Black Magic Woman
            I got a Black Magic Woman
            Yes, I got a Black Magic Woman
            She’s got me so blind I can’t see
            But she’s a Black Magic Woman and
            she’s trying to make a devil out of me

            • BikeCrasher

              Ummmmm, Santana? Or is there some joke here I’m missing?

              • BikeCrasher

                Oh, hey! I learned something today. I hate it when that happens

      • The key things for Obama were:
        A. Winning Iowa. Had Obama not won Iowa it was over
        B. Winning SC huge. Iowa showed black voters that Obama could win white votes. SC showed that black voters could be decisive in choosing the nominee.
        C. Fighting to a draw on Super Tuesday, and still having money left over. Clinton spent everything on Super Tuesday, but they ended up essentially tied in the delegate count, and she was broke and wasn’t able to mount competitive campaigns for the next several weeks.
        D. Beating the living crap out of her in the four weeks between Super Tuesday and the TX and OH primaries. They tied up through Super Tuesday and from TX and OH to the end. But he racked up huge wins in the Potomac Primary, Wisconsin and the post-Super Tuesday February caucuses. His net delegate gain during that period was pretty much equal to his final margin of victory.

    • If any Democrat were running against Bill Clinton in 1996 I assure you that the DNC would have taken some effort to get that person out of the race. Certainly in 2004, establishment Dems openly disdained anybody who was against Iraq from the start. Once Dean blew his cash, it was either Kucinich or Iraq Resolution supporters.

      As for Michigan, the important decision was made in December 2007, when the DNC voted to strip Michigan and Florida of their delegates because they went early, contrary to party rules. It’s idiotic to think that the DNC would allow these delegates back in, contrary to party rules, without a political settlement between the candidates.

      • And as for Texas, one person’s “caucus improprieties” is another person’s “2nd place doesn’t know how a caucus works”. And since Clinton lost caucuses pretty much wherever they were held, smart money is on the latter. Your time’s better spent talking about how caucuses are a silly way to choose a candidate.

        • Seriously, the butthurt over the fact that your candidate hired complete idiots to run her campaign with predictable results is pretty pathetic more than 4 years after the fact.

    • Lady de Rothschild, is that you?

      • My guess was Lambert Strether.

        • Shakezula

          Avert! Speak not its name!

    • Lemme guess, you also have the Whitey tape, don’t you?

    • Joey Maloney


      Stopped reading right there. Thanks for playing, though.

      • You’re a hearty soul; I didn’t get even that far.

      • joe from Lowell

        Yeah. Calling an adult black man you don’t know personally by the youthful, diminutive version of his first name, when he doesn’t use that name himself, tells me a whole lot about you.

    • Rarely Posts

      After reading your comment, I want Clinton to run in 2016 even less. It’s amazing that anyone who supported Clinton in 2008 could still feel aggrieved about the system being allegedly rigged against her.

      Clinton had huge advantages going into 2008, the broader system favored her generally, and the establishment democrats largely were on her side or neutral. Obama’s campaign actually figured out the rules of the primary and focused their resources effectively. Clinton’s did not. And yes, the inability to identify where the real levers of power are and how to push them suggests that she would have been less successful as a President.

      • Tybalt

        And to bring us around full circle, it was people like Mark Penn (and Penn himself to a considerable degree) who couldn’t figure out the basic math of winning delegates. I wouldn’t trust her, or them,city a general election campaign.

        • Tybalt

          That should be “with”. Autoincorrection.

      • FMguru

        Exactly. 2008 should have been a coronation procession for Clinton, but her catastrophic staffing choices (and her unwillingness to change them once it became clear they weren’t working out) cost her the nomination (and, probably, the presidency).

        Her husband didn’t exactly cover himself in glory during 07-08, either.

        For all the flaws of our current primary process, I do have to say that the system usually works – the purpose of a primary is to select the strongest possible candidate for a national election, and it tests potential candidates by…making them run a strong national election campaign for the nomination. Sometimes candidates stumble and fall (Clinton 08, Dean 04) despite racking up a bunch of advantages and the nomination goes to the candidate who ran a better, smarter campaign. And you know? That’s exactly as it should be.

    • Shakezula


      • Halloween Jack

        Ugh, please don’t say that name two more times. (It would be interesting to see what he-whom-we-shall-not-name would do if HRC did run, since he’s supported Republicans exclusively for most of his blog’s existence, AFAIK.)

    • spencer

      No, when he decided to throw his hat in the ring, the DNC saw a “golden boy” to support over the woman who, just 4 years earlier, was their #1 choice (Iraq War vote be damned).

      Yeah, this is just flat out not what happened.

      • JoyfulA

        Especially not in the DNC led then by Howard Dean.

      • socraticsilence

        Seriously, there’s revisionist history (see the delegate decision bit- which occurred in May while the primary was for all intents and purposes over by mid-March at which point Obama had won I believe a dozen consecutive contests), and then there’s being delusional. This is the latter.

    • Royko

      I’m just one person, and the Democratic Party wasn’t particularly interesting in listening to me or others opposed to the Iraq War back in 2004, but I was personally upset by HRC’s Iraq vote, which is partly why I didn’t want her to run in 2004. I wasn’t particularly happy with Kerry’s vote either (he wasn’t my choice either) but once he was the nominee, I supported him.

      I fully admit that Obama took less of a risk with his Iraq position, but I don’t hold that against him — it’s not like he purposefully avoided getting in the Senate to early so that he could take a position that would have hurt in in the Senate in 2002 but helped him in 2008. If he’d been running against any of the Senators to vote against the Iraq Resolution, that would have been a point in their favor, but he was running against someone who voted for it, so it was a point in his favor.

      His position on gay marriage did bother me in 2008, and thankfully, that has been an area that he exceeded my expectations. But it wasn’t enough to lose my support.

      Lastly, the idea that HRC lost because the DNC rammed its favorite down everyone’s throat is just so incredibly off-base that I’d really recommend taking some time to take a step back and revisit your assumptions.

    • joe from Lowell

      Complaints from a Hillary Clinton supporter about the Democratic establishment are even less moving than complaints from a John McCain supporter about the press playing favorites.

  • cpinva

    this is all pretty hilarious. a big reason ms. clinton is the media’s “prohibitive favorite” for 2016, is because she’s one of the three democrats now living (two of whom can’t run for president again), that the average person would recognize. hickenlooper? get real. hell, half the time, his own mother probably doesn’t recognize him.

    with regards to warren, she’ll have more accomplishments in the senate, come the 2016 campaign, then obama did, when he ran. hell, she’s already tearing up republicans and bankers, on a daily basis, something obama’s never done, ever. heck, i’d vote for her, and i think so would a lot of other people, sooner than they’d vote for any of those others you mentioned.

    personally, i don’t think ms. clinton will run. my guess is, chelsea gets pregnant, and she wants to stay retired and be grandma.

    • LosGatosCA

      The good thing about being president is that you can be retired AND be president. Reagan and Bush II proved that.

      • cpinva

        true, but they were republicans, no one actually expects a republican to accomplish anything of substance in the white house, they just pray they don’t screw up the country entirely. obviously, that prayer didn’t work with reagan & bush. people tend to expect democrats to actually do something substantive while in the oval office, like clean up the mess the most recent republican occupant left.

    • I have to admit, I’m selfishly apprehensive about all the talk about Warren just because I’m tired of my state’s Senators getting poached over and over: by the Grim Reaper, the Obama administration, and now, possibly, the Presidency. I guess that’s not a bad way to leave office, though.

  • OmerosPeanut

    Has Penn ever worked for a Republican candidate? If not, I’d like the Mark Penn Test better as a means of weeding out Democratic primary candidates.

    Of course, that ruins the joke with too much exposition…

    • cpinva

      “Has Penn ever worked for a Republican candidate?”

      yes, though usually one masquerading as a democrat.

  • Joey Maloney

    And Hillary’s first big-name early hire is…Serpenthead.


    • 1) She ain’t running yet. These are folks who want her to run.
      2) Carville might not actually have a job with these folks yet:

      In an interview after this item first posted, Carville emphasized he has not joined the super PAC in any official capacity but is happy to lend a hand to promote Clinton.

      “I’ve been pretty clear that I’d like to see her run,” he said. “But I’m not a member of the organization or anything like that.”

      • Halloween Jack

        Yeah, I’m not seeing much there besides Carville hinting that he might give them some money. (Maybe some of his fee from G.I. Joe: Retribution?)

        • Shakezula

          Hush now, you’ll reveal the fact that it is way too fucking early to speculate about who will run for what when.

          Sorry, SL. I know it is hard to resist. And who could pass on a chance to stamp on the flaming bag of crap that is Mark “Oh fuck that with my big black non-existent dick” Penn? But still.

  • Shakezula

    Dear God’s burning ballsack. Mark Penn. Mark “Obama needs another Timmy McVeigh” Penn.

    Mark Get this fucking psycho in a bite mask STAT! Penn.

    Jesus, talk about getting mugged on Memory Lane.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    This whole thread is reminding me why, in 2008, I so preferred Obama to Clinton during the primary campaign. The two candidates were nearly identical on the issues. But Obama seemed to hire excellent people and make smart decisions. Clinton’s primary campaign was run by idiots and, consequently, full of mistakes. And the poor hires she made capped a career of bad decision making, from mishandling the politics of healthcare reform in 1993 to cozying up to The Family, from generally idiotic hawkery (capped, but by no means limited to, the Iraq War vote) to the idiotic, ex post facto special pleading that extended the 2008 primary campaign far longer than it should have gone (thanks, JosephW, for reminding us what this sounded like upthread).

    As readers of this blog’s comment threads know, I’m far from an unalloyed Obama fan. But I have never, for a moment, doubted that Clinton would have been a less effective president. Her general political orientation is very similar to Obama’s. But her political skills and judgment are clearly not as good.

    Clinton was a surprisingly good Secretary of State. But the difference having a cabinet post in someone else’s administration and being president involves precisely the kind of decision making that Clinton seems worst at.

    In 2008, Clinton benefited from the very reasonable sense that it’s time that we had a female President. Eight years later, this sentiment should be even stronger. My hope is that some other serious, female Democratic candidates emerge, so that the feeling that it’s time for woman to win the White House doesn’t automatically translate into primary votes for Clinton.

    • Steve LaBonne

      I’m in the same place. I was pretty sure after the health care reform debacle that Hillary didn’t have the management and political skills to be a successful President (or candidate for that office), and her pitiful 2008 campaign made it perfectly obvious that that was indeed the case. If we can’t have a progressive, let’s at least not have a Jimmy Carter-style fuckup in the White House, which is more or less what she would be. And it really pains me to say that because we should have had a female President long since.

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  • Agree generally with this as well but I would take Scott’s quibble one step further, the prolonging of the primary was a net good for the Democrats in that it brought out Democratic organizing and excitement about Democratic national politics(from both Clinton and Obama) into states — like North Carolina and Indiana — where that usually does not happen. Obama would have still won the general without all of that, but he almost certainly would not have won states like Indiana and North Carolina. At least in North Carolina’s case, this has continued to help the Democrats keep the state competitive.

  • Manju

    Marl Penn, Ha! He’s Lee Atwater, minus the ability to win.

    • Yes, he wasn’t as good at race-baiting as Atwater, was he, Manju?

      • Manju

        I dunno. He lost. Newt lost. Strom lost. Wallace lost. That doesn’t mean they were bad at race-baiting. They could’ve just sucked at other stuff.

        In Penn’s case, he lost because he couldn’t figure out how to run in a caucus, imo. The race-baiting got more desperate after that, culminating with a feminist hero and former VP candidate suddenly transforming into George Wallace.

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