Mark Penn’s finely tuned ear

MARK PENN’S FINELY TUNED EAR…. Following up on yesterday’s item, Mark Penn’s op-ed in the Washington Post included some odd observations about American politics, but it was predicated on the notion that this week’s British elections offer key lessons applicable to the U.S. Here’s how Penn perceived events across the pond:

Thursday’s elections in Britain could be a harbinger of what is likely to come to America in the not-too-distant future: new movements and even parties that shake up the political system. Cleggmania shows that even the most tradition-bound electoral systems are facing the pressures of rapid change made possible by modern communications. These movements may not win out of the gate, but they will become significant political factors. […]

Nick Clegg is a dynamic leader who was able to increase support for his Liberal Democrats through the country’s first televised debates. And he set off a firestorm.

Well, not really.

The Conservatives were projected to win an estimated 305 seats — 21 short of a majority — in the 650-seat House of Commons, according to exit polls by a consortium of TV networks. Official results also pointed to a hung Parliament. With two-thirds of districts reporting, the Conservatives had picked up some targeted seats but failed to deliver hoped-for gains in others.

The incumbent Labor Party appeared to have suffered its biggest loss of seats since 1931. Meanwhile, the insurgency of the dark-horse Liberal Democrats had apparently fizzled…. [Liberal Democrats] soared to prominence after Britain’s first U.S.-style election debates. But in Thursday’s voting, the Liberal Democrats appeared to fare worse than pre-election polling had predicted, barely holding on to their current number of seats in Parliament.

OK, so Penn’s analysis of U.S. politics didn’t stand up well to scrutiny, and Penn’s analysis of British politics was equally insightful.

Jon Chait offers the pollster some advice: “If I were Penn, I’d start writing some columns predicting that the GOP will gain between 5 and 100 seats in the House elections, or that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, just to pump up my batting average.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.