One does indeed hope that should Clinton go on to lose the primary it would have the salutary effect of permanently discrediting Mark Penn. (Although, alas, always losing competitive campaigns hasn’t been much of a bar to cashing checks from Democratic candidates in every cycle in the past.) And I also agree that choosing Penn has to be seen in itself as a significant strike against Clinton, especially since her shrewd political intrinsics are supposed to be a major selling point. I don’t know about you, but I don’t fully trust someone willing to put her primary fate in the hands of the architect of Joementum! to win the general election.
Speaking of prescient Mark Schmitt posts, this critique of Penn’s largely worthless polling contains a passage that seems especially relevant:
Penn also makes a particular use of his political typology, which is to declare that a certain voter category of his own devising is “the key” to the election because it could go either way: soccer moms, office park dads, wired workers, etc., or in his corporate work, “Mom-fluentials.” Even if the category is firmly defined, and even if it is a “swing” category, that form of analysis rests on two other assumptions: That almost all other demographic categories are not swingable, and that the electorate cannot be expanded — that is, that non-voters cannot be made voters. But neither assumption is justified: As I argued last fall, Karl Rove showed that the Republican base could be expanded, and so can the Democratic base, and in 2006, virtually every demographic category increased its Democratic vote significantly. To define a particular group as key is to deny those other possibilities, and in doing so, leads to a particular narrowing brand of politics focused exclusively on the concerns of the group defined as “key,” which in Penn’s case is reliably the upper half of the middle class.
Obama’s upset win in Iowa is probably in some measure a result of his understanding things about American politics that Clinton’s team doesn’t. And the fact that Penn’s strategy is always focused on the upper-middle-class may explain why Obama’s apparent status as the “wine track” candidate hasn’t held up.