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One rainy evening, on their way to a meeting in the Yellow Oval Room, Morris, Schoen and Penn were discussing their latest polling when Penn turned to the others and said, "Values. It's about values." In his presentation to Clinton a few minutes later, Penn told him that young, socially conservative families "can be appealed to not with religious values but with secular values like protecting their children and duty to their parents." The practical impact was to define a set of issues that Clinton could use to reach people with kids: smoking, education, flextime and family leave, and on and on through what became the values parade of 1996. "The truth was, 'family values' had been defined in an incredibly narrow way by the Republicans," says Penn. "It had been boiled down to a pro-life stance on choice and a position in favor of school prayer."
After the meeting, the President called Morris with a question: Was Penn right? Should he talk about values or economics? Morris backed Penn. But Clinton realized that it wasn't values or economics; it was both--it was values wrapped in an expanding economy. On the campaign trail, he would come to embody both.
THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION
The Clinton team's second air attack was launched in August, when the consultants began broadcasting some very tough spots attacking the G.O.P. plan to trim the growth of Medicare. They had scrapped a set of even tougher spots, because they hadn't "mall-tested" well. In a mall test, which Penn had pioneered as a way of refining television ads for AT&T, Clinton spots would be shown to voters in kiosks set up in malls in 16 swing states. At the kiosk, a Penn and Schoen employee would ask a voter questions about his or her political affiliations and views of the President, then enter them on a computer. After viewing the spot, the voter would answer another series of questions. The whole thing took 10 minutes. Penn and Schoen distrusted focus groups (they regarded them as too small and easy to manipulate). The mall tests could yield a 200-viewer sample in a single evening, and they replicated the way most people watched ads--by themselves.
The mall-test results for the first, hardest-edged Medicare spots reinforced Penn and Schoen in their belief that the G.O.P.'s position on Medicare had to be exploited without resorting to class warfare. They were latecomers to the value of using Medicare against the Republicans, a position that Stephanopoulos and others, using surveys by D.N.C. pollster Stan Greenberg, had been pressing for from the start. Penn and Schoen tested two sentences: "The Republicans want to cut Medicare so they can pay for a $245 billion tax cut for the wealthy" (the classic class-warfare argument) and simply "The Republicans want to cut Medicare." The latter tested much better.