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Beginning in late July, Penn made a series of four neuropersonality presentations to Clinton and the White House team at the regular Wednesday-night sessions. Where Morris talked a blue streak and presented his ideas as if they came from on high, Penn was soft-spoken, professorial. In the first meeting Penn outlined the issues of greatest concern to voters. The economy, cited as the pre-eminent concern of 60% of voters in 1992, was mentioned by only 20% of his sampling. At the top of Penn's list, along with chestnuts like crime prevention and the minimum wage, were such family issues as banning tobacco advertising aimed at children, imposing order in the schools, providing for aging parents and lengthening maternity leave.
In the second and third sessions, Penn described the personality types and life-styles of voters. Clinton voters watched mtv; Dole voters preferred Larry King. Clinton people liked rap, classical and Top 40 music, watched Friends and felt unsafe; Dole people owned guns, watched Home Improvement and listened to '70s music. Clinton did well with intuitive types and emotion-based people rather than fact-based people. The problem was that swing voters, by and large, were thinkers, not feelers. To win over these skeptics, who were sick and tired of grand schemes and unfulfilled promises, Clinton would have to make a strong statistical case for his record, then roll out a parade of bite-size, easily understood policies that could remake his image step by step by step.
In the fourth and final presentation, Penn mapped out the electorate and posited two distinct groups of swing voters. Swing I voters (29%) were moderate, Democratic-leaning independents who could vote for Clinton but at the moment were not so inclined. Swing II voters (25%) were Republican-leaning independents. Swing II voters shared many of the concerns of the Swing I group on health care, crime and Medicare but took a harder line on fiscal issues and taxes, and when it came to welfare, they wanted a cutoff after two years. Says Penn: "The President had to prove his fiscal responsibility and toughness on crime and welfare before they'd give him the benefit of the doubt on anything else."
Wooing both Swing I and Swing II would require a hybrid message. "You don't win by being either tough on everything (like Dole) or soft on everything (the old Democratic cliche)," he says. "You need a synthesis." If ever there was a Zen candidate, a man who could hit two pockets on the ideological pool table at the same time by combining toughness and compassion, it was Bill Clinton.