Mark Penn thinks President Obama can beat the odds and win reelection if he follows Mark Penn's advice:
Only two Democrats in the last 90 years have been reelected to a second term -- Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. The rest of the Democrats have seen their presidencies cut short, and so the historical odds of Obama winning a second term are at first glance not encouraging. But I do believe President Obama can overcome those odds and win reelection if he takes the right road.
Beat the odds?, asks Brendan Nyhan:
Penn is collapsing the distinction between FDR's three re-election victories and subsequent presidents, who have only been re-elected once at most. If we consider the full set of cases from the last ninety years in which elected Democratic presidents were alive and eligible for re-election, the "historical odds" are far more favorable to Obama than Penn suggests:
FDR 1936 - re-elected
FDR 1940 - re-elected
FDR 1944 - re-elected
Truman 1952 - did not run
LBJ 1968 - did not run
Carter 1980 - defeated
Clinton 1996 - re-elected
If we count the cases where the incumbent did not run as defeats, the Democrat was re-elected in four out of seven cases. By this standard, Obama has a better than even chance. And if we count Democratic vice presidential successors who were already president but ran for the first time at the top of the ticket (Truman in 1948 and LBJ in 1964), then the odds are even better: 6/9.
Compare the Democratic track record for presidents seeking re-election to the Republican one during this time period:
Coolidge 1928 - did not run
Hoover 1932 - defeated
Eisenhower 1956 - re-elected
Nixon 1972 - re-elected
Reagan 1984 - re-elected
Bush 1992 - defeated
Bush 2004 - re-elected
The odds are four out of seven - identical to the Democratic number.
Penn, as I never tire of pointing out, is a complete and total fraud. The advance of his career to this point is remarkable and, from the standpoint of anybody who votes Democratic, frightening. Yet here he is expressing a fairly common bit of Clinton-era mythmaking, which holds that the Democratic Party was in desperate shape and managed to win and hold the presidency only through the strategic genius of the New Democrat method. It is, at best, a highly overstated claim.
In other Clinton anti-nostalgia news, Michael Kinsley fondly recalls Lanny Davis:
Lanny Davis was special counsel to the president in the Clinton administration and a personal friend of the Clintons. He called me shortly after I got to Microsoft to say how sorry he was that we’d missed each other as I was leaving Washington and how much he hoped to stay in touch. Oh yes, and he felt terrible about all the bad publicity and unfair government harassment my boss, Bill Gates, was getting. He would love to give him some help and advice. Could I put the two of them together? The answer, of course, was that I couldn’t. But the odd thing was that, at that point, I had never even met Lanny Davis.
Clinton was a good president but he certainly let in some odious characters.