GQ: Mark Penn On Why She Lost

Go back to the licenses. What happened was, Obama announced the day before [the debate] that he was gonna go after her personally. Called her disingenuous in The New York Times. Now, at that moment, and up until that moment, you know, we had won the experience primary; we won the new-ideas primary. A lot of the leads that we would rely upon in the big states were already built up. He was fading in the national polls, and he said, "Look, the strategy here isn't working. I've gotta do something different." And Obama did. He attacked her. And a lot of the press egged him on.

But he should have. You would have, right? I would have, yeah! But… So that attack, on the driver's licenses, was then played an absurd number of times by the media.

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...what other things could have turned the ship around? …the group that did the budget had set a goal of raising 75 million and keeping 25 million aside. In fact, over a hundred million was raised, and 25 million wasn't there.

So they just pissed away way too much money on Iowa? Well, I still don't know what happened—whether it was Iowa. Because even Iowa was not that large a percentage of a hundred million.

That's a huge amount, 25 million. Do you think there'll be some awful scandal about where it all went? No.

It was just ineptitude? I just think it will be very high. [He means the amount of money that was pissed away.]

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When you look at the highs and the lows, I assume the "3 a.m." ad was a high point for you. How did it come about? Um, had a long plane ride, and I'm sitting there looking at the polls coming back from Texas, and there's a pretty good chance we're gonna be out of the race in about two weeks, unless we come up with something different. So I spent the whole plane ride thinking to myself, We need to have a game changer. And so I wrote five game changers. Now, she had used a line that came from somewhere about "3 a.m." in one of her speeches, and so I built one ad around that. I built another ad around a lot of the positions Barack Obama had in his 2004 primary...

Of the five, how many ran? One… What I did was, I sent her the five game changers in an e-mail. And I said, "Look, I think we gotta do one of these, because the trends look like we're gonna go down in Texas unless we do something out of the ordinary and out of the box."

And she said? She said, "I like this one. Give it a try."

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You've been portrayed as having no allies. And on the other hand, you have Bill and Hillary's trust and respect to this day. Well, you know, I've been through a lot with the Clintons. Remember—and I think most people don't remember this—that after the '94 congressional elections, the old consultants were shown the door and the new consultants came in. The president was at 30 percent favorable; 65 percent of the people said they'd never, ever vote for President Clinton again. Nobody wanted the job…

Did your lack of allies hurt you? Well, you know, obviously in '96, I had a team of allies. We had a wonderful functioning team that made decisions in minutes. This was not… I didn't have that kind of team…Ultimately, I think this was set up in a way that Hillary wanted to set it up….I think she believed that diffusing things was a better way.

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