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Monitor Breakfast: Al From and Mark Penn

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Democratic pollster Mark Penn and Al From, founder and CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Mark Penn conducted a mid-November poll of 800 registered voters to survey America's political landscape after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Penn, on how Sept. 11 changed voters' perception of the government:

"I think philosophically the Republican philosophy of 'no government' is in ruins. As you look through this poll voters again reaffirm that they want government basically to have a role in promoting economic growth. Far fewer people in this poll now think government has too much power ... [Republicans'] whole philosophy is not something the American people are looking for."

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Al From on changes in the political terrain since Sept. 11:

"First, I think it is evident the terrain has changed, that security issues are very important - the premier issues right now. What that means is that in 2004 in particular, not so much in 2002, there will be a national security threshold that will be important to the Democrats and a domestic security threshold that is going to be important to the Democratic candidate to cross. Doesn't mean you have to even up the numbers on security but it means you have to be credible..."

From on how voter perceptions of the parties are changing:

"...one of the most important findings of this poll is that some of the old perceptions of the parties are beginning to return. Some of the pre-Clinton perceptions. Republicans have big leads on security, and on toughness to govern issues. Democrats have big leads on the compassion to care issues. That is sort of a pattern that was pre-Clinton and that we sort of broke. It is not only security; it is fiscal discipline, growing the economy, crime and welfare. We are not all the way back to the '80s but it is something we have to take a good look at.... What that means is people tend to look to the Republicans to lead and us to comfort. Which means we will do well in the congressional elections...."

From on the importance of independent voters:

"... something we have been saying for a long time that is underscored in this poll [is] that independents are the largest group of voters and these elections in 2002 and 2004 are going to be decided by a group of swing voters, who tend to be suburban, independent, middle aged, pretty affluent."

Penn on the unifying effect of Sept. 11 on the electorate:

"The Democrats have been doing the right things. So [President Bush] hasn't created a political conflict. This is probably the first crisis that has brought everyone together, increased patriotism and support for the institutions and increased unity as opposed to most crises which have done the opposite."

Penn on the voter response to calls to repeal Bush tax cuts:

"Most people would not outright roll back the tax cuts.... I certainly would not run the election of 2004 on repealing the tax cuts. That is almost back to Mondale-ism."

Penn on voter reaction to plans for military tribunals:

"There is no constituency for terrorist rights. So politically attacking something he hasn't held yet is probably not the wisest tack. What this poll shows is that if you are looking to fulfill what Americans want in these times, they are not looking for people who are drawing more partisan lines, they are looking for people who are going to be more constructive in dealing with the safety and economic problems... There is no constituency for attacking the president on something he is proposing.... There have been no trials. So consequently going against proposed trials is by and large a waste of political energy."

Penn on why Al Gore has a 49 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable rating with voters:

"It was a pretty divisive election. People who didn't vote for Gore - roughly half the country - came out came out with an unfavorable view and they stuck with it.... it is not typical. Obviously there was a post-election period that worked to probably Gore's long term disadvantage."


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