GQ: Mark Penn On Why She Lost

The liberal bloggers say you don't have principles, you're this mercenary, you're a triangulating phony. Why do they hate you so much? Well, first of all, they don't know me. Probably a mistake in the campaign was not to get to know people like that early on.

But when they say you're a mercenary— I say, "Look, I'm a consultant. And consultants are obviously gonna be paid for their services." But unlike the other consultants now, I don't own the company anymore. I'm an employee. The other consultants are not employees.

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Is it possible that in some ways, that no matter what happened or what you did or didn't do, this was a phenomenon, Obama was a phenomenon, and there was nothing that could have been done to stop him? No, I don't think that's true. When a race is this close at the end, you could have done something.

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Highlights from the GQ Interview with Mark Penn (cont.)

In retrospect, when you look at the Obama campaign, what were some of the other things that were really genius? I think, at the end of the day, they really did what they had to when they had to. They didn't think twice about taking her on when they had to. They did it. They just did it. And I think they were right to go after the progressive voters who were Democrats in Republican states that were ripe for a candidacy like his, and they did it very well. And I think that they sold him as a brand.… They finely targeted several constituencies in order to put together their coalition and even to turn out unexpectedly large numbers of young people. They had a great organization.

Obama ran a great campaign, then. Well, I think, look, he had tremendous help from the media…

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Do you think Obama can win the states she won in November? Sure, he can win. I don't think there's any question he can win. It's a Democratic year, he's coming out of these contests as a very strong nominee, there's a tremendous amount of almost worldwide enthusiasm for him—so he definitely can win.

But? But he's gotta show that he's got the right experience to be president. He's gotta forge a stronger connection with working-class voters. He's gotta really introduce himself to those independent voters who are really gonna decide it for the first time.

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Do you think Obama's an elitist? I think that what you've seen is that he has not, so far, connected with the working class of America in a credible way. And he's gonna have to overcome that.

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One of the damning reports about you was that you thought the California primary was winner-take-all and not allotted proportionally. In an article in Time, Harold Ickes was quoted as having called you on that: "How can it possibly be that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?" Is that true? It is a false story, plain and simple. And it is being used to divert people from the real question of who, how, and when was the decision made not to build political organizations or spend money in a lot of the caucus states? I can assure you that was not the message team. And she did have, on the political team, some of the world's greatest experts on the subject.

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