Mark Penn, a strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, told a Harvard crowd Friday that the future of the Democratic Party hinges on President Obama’s success or failure in reviving a flailing economy.
“If Obama fixes the economy, that will be an unbreakable bond,” Penn said, noting Ronald Reagan’s success at forming a tight bond with voters after successfully leading the United States through economic troubles. “If not, there will be an opportunity for Republicans.”
Penn visited his alma mater to discuss the topic of his new book on microtrends and pointed out a few hinge points that helped give President Barack Obama an advantage during the election season. They included the fact that wealthy people making over $100,000 a year favored Obama over his Republican challenger Sen. John McCain.
“A lot of that has to do with the growth of a new professional class,” Penn said. “They are much more likely to be socially progressive. That is a sea change…it will be interesting to see if taxes on upper income will reverse this trend.”
Penn said another interesting microtrend is that the nation’s financial woes have created a new category of “mattress stuffers,” people who are buying gold, guns, and storing money in safes as a way to preparing for possible future troubles. Penn also took a few questions about Clinton’s 2008 primary loss. “It’s not so much that we lost as he won,” Penn said when asked what he learned most from the experience. “He had a great strategy that went to the activist Democratic base.”
Penn noted that many succesful primary candidates have emerged from Massachusetts because they were able to take advantage of free positive media coverage spilling over from the Boston media market into New Hampshire, a key primary state