Mark Penn's Realism on 2010 and Jobs

| Fri Apr. 2, 2010 10:26 AM EDT

I ran into Mark Penn, the Democratic pollster and consultant (best known perhaps for not doing a swell job on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign), this brilliant spring morning in downtown DC. He's mainly handling corporate clients these days, not politicians. I had just posted yet another column noting that the Republicans appear to have a tremendous advantage in the coming congressional elections. So I asked if he is "pessimistic" about the Dems' prospects. "Realistic," he shot back, adding that the recent polls (see here and here) show the Democrats are facing a mess of trouble. The polls suggest that Americans, at this moment, have more confidence in how GOPers will deal with the economy. The elections "will be all about jobs," Penn said, echoing what just about every other member of the politerati says. (Sometimes conventional wisdom is correct.) And Penn noted that the jobs report released this morning—showing that 162,000 jobs were created last month—could help the Democrats. But that report also said that unemployment remained at the very high level of 9.7 percent. Doesn't that muddy the picture? I asked. After all, Republicans immediately released press releases claiming that the Democrats haven't done anything to lower unemployment. Any good news at all will bolster the Democrats, Penn replied, especially given how "the press covers this guy." He nodded in the direction of the White House. In politics, old resentments die hard.