One-time Hillary Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn acknowledged -- sort of -- that Barack Obama had passed the infamous 3 A.M. test that Penn and his aides had artificially created as a criteria to be elected president.
Appearing at the Time Warner Summit conference on the 2008 election, Penn proclaimed that the state of the presidential race had broken down along the lines of which candidate voters assumed was best able to handle that late-night crisis moment.
"McCain really faltered in terms of answering the call, being contradictory and he blew a lot of electoral points that had been building up to that," he said. "The dynamic of this election is about who will be able to handle the economic crisis. They have looked to the response so far and voters have said this is the type of crisis that Obama can handle," and they don't see that with the McCain campaign.
The remark represents a full-circle moment of sorts for Penn, who throughout the Democratic primary was highly critical of Obama's experience and ability. The famous 3 A.M. ad that he engineered before the Ohio and Texas primary -- which questioned which candidate could handle a unexpected terrorism scare -- was, Penn said, the most discussed spot of the cycle.
Moreover, since the Democratic primary ended Penn has remained hostile towards Obama. On Monday he did not offer anything that could be interpreted as a measure of endorsement or support. But he did seem bullish on the Illinois Democrat's chances (at this point, who isn't)?
Penn had harsh words to say about Gov. Sarah Palin, who he said had wilted under press criticism.
"I don't think you will see her in politics again unless she goes back and gets the experience that she doesn't have right now," he said.
In addition, he admonished the media for -- among many things -- being too easy on John McCain.
"No one has really gone back on McCain and gone through the Keating Five and whether or not it is fair or unfair," he said, "which will be particularly relevant considering we have a banking crisis. And yet the background stories on that, whether favorable or unfavorable, have been zero."
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