Mark McKinnon

Mark McKinnon
Mark McKinnon
  • Born: May 5, 1955
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Political Consultant, Columnist, Television Producer

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Mark McKinnon is an American political advisor, reform advocate, media columnist and television producer. He was the chief media advisor to five successful presidential primary and general election campaigns, and is a co-founder of No Labels, an organization dedicated to bipartisanship and political problem solving. He served as vice chairman of Public Strategies, Inc., which was acquired by the international communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton Strategies, and was president of Maverick Media. McKinnon is the co-creator, co-executive producer, and co-host of Showtime's The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth and consulted on the HBO series The Newsroom and Netflix's House of Cards. He was a regular columnist for The Daily Beast and The Daily Telegraph (London).

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A competition of the best ideas - that should be what Congress is about.
A failure to act is a terrible, stunning legacy for any leader. But far worse when it is the president of the United States. And that's the point driven home by Romney's selection of Ryan, who dared to lead when Obama did not. Failure
A few words about Sarah Palin: She is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. She crackles with energy like a live electrical wire and on first meeting gets about three inches from your face. Women
A messy participatory process is representative democracy at its best.
A Rick Santorum presidency would be very, very dangerous for America.
A troubled economy is always the sitting president's fault. It was when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush, and when Barack Obama defeated John McCain by running against George W. Bush.
Advocacy groups and voters are not wrong to push candidates to declare their position clearly on policy issues. That is good citizenship. Hard questions should be asked of every candidate, every politician. And those public servants should be prepared to answer, but in their own words.
Ah, political physics. Someone wins an election and, poof, they are a candidate for vice president. Ridiculous.
America as we know it will end unless we end Medicare as we know it.
America glories in its tradition of the self-made individual. Political candidates compete to be a friend to entrepreneurs, and policymakers, imagining the next Microsoft or Google, design laws to back the innovator in the garage.
America's commitment to religious freedom and tolerance should not be conditional. Freedom & Liberty
As a husband and as a father of girls, I cannot imagine any woman in my family making the sacrifice of sanity required to run for office. The limited reward for public service cannot blunt the cost. Families, Children & Parenting
As a Republican, I never expected to be working with Hillary Clinton.
As history has repeatedly proven, one trade tariff begets another, then another - until you've got a full-blown trade war. No one ever wins, and consumers always get screwed. History ;War & Peace
As in nature, politics abhors a vacuum. Without a strong voice for more moderate leadership, the Tea Party is filling that vacuum. Nature ;Leaders & Leadership ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
CEOs make hard decisions; sometimes, the least worst is the right one.
Conservative women in politics run a punishing gauntlet. They endure psychological evaluations and near-gynecological exams their male and liberal counterparts do not. Women ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Consumers can choose from hundreds of channels today, including dozens for kids. At a time of dwindling resources, we don't need to be subsidizing PBS. It's time for Big Bird the mooch to compete with 'Dora the Explorer' and 'Bob the Builder.' Time
Contrary to conventional military and game theory, the most effective offense is sometimes a direct attack against your political opponent's greatest strength - not his weaknesses - to place him immediately on the defensive.
Convention speeches are powerful tools to bend the curve of public opinion. George H. W. Bush's 1988 convention speech is a great example. His son's speech was also quite powerful.
Debates require a lot of hard work and preparation. If you try to wing it, it shows. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Debt is a drag, a reality you may experience with every credit-card bill you open. But for a corporation or a government, it can be even more of a drag - on economic growth and job creation. Government
Defending birthright citizenship is about being on the right side of liberty. The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican Party.
Democracy is but an experiment in the long history of the world. History
Democrats love to criticize Republicans on guns, but they are generally mute when it comes to taking on Hollywood or the gaming industry. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Donors, like voters, increasingly expect candidates to exercise fiscal discipline.
Drone attacks subvert the rule of law - we become judge, jury, and executioner - at the push of a button.
Elections are about the future. And the GOP will not win a campaign focused on the past. Future
Every day I am being told to sign up for Tumblr, Yammer, Friendfeed, Plaxo, Last.fm, ping.fm or the hot social-media tool du jour that happened to get mentioned on Mashable.com. It is like a social-media arms race. Each one of these new tools is like a cool new night club. Hot today, gone tomorrow, replaced with something else.
Every president becomes a caricature. The press, partisans, late-night shows, and other arbiters of our culture these days boil down complicated and multi-faceted personalities into one-dimensional punchlines.
For most of my life, I've considered myself a political centrist. Life
George W. Bush is not preoccupied with his legacy - nor with his popularity. He never has been. He has always led based on core conviction and strong principles and has believed that time and distance would allow for context. Time
George W. Bush was president through some of the darkest days of our history and yet his optimism never waned. He is optimistic by nature, but he also understood the importance of always communicating a sense that things will get better. Nature ;History
Great presidents, and even those not so great, never complained about the hands they were dealt. Just the opposite. They assumed they were in the big chair to meet big challenges, no matter how difficult.
Having been heavily involved in the planning of a couple of G.O.P. conventions, my view is, we should just scrap 'em. Cancel 'em. Just figure out an appropriate forum for the nominee to give an acceptance speech and be done with it.
Hypocrisy is the scarlet letter in politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I don't buy the argument that there can't be a successful independent candidacy for the presidency of the United States. People who say, 'It can't happen,' are many of the same people who said we'd never elect an African American.
I don't claim any moral or ethical high ground, but I also have chosen not to run for public office. Shouldn't there be a higher standard of conduct for public officials?
I don't really care how or why Obama got to the right place on gay marriage. I'm just glad he got there. Families, Children & Parenting
I don't think that the press in 2004 was any more unfair to Bush than they were to Kerry.
I met Barack Obama, I read his book, I like him a great deal. I disagree with him on very fundamental issues.
I prefer for government to err toward less regulation, lower taxation, and free markets. And I'm a radical free trader. Government
I think Barack Obama is one of the most exciting politicians to come along in a long time. Time
I think that the press has a duty and an obligation to report on local government, state government, federal government - to be aggressive, to do its job. And its job is to report on whatever it's covering. Government
I think the press are good people; I think they're educated people.
I think the press has an interest in communicating to its viewers or readers, and their viewers or readers drive profit for those news organizations, so I think those news organizations have a certain bias toward their own readers. Yeah, I think they are a special interest. Of course they are.
I took a lot of heat from Republicans when I stepped out of John McCain's campaign after the 2008 primaries. I still supported McCain, and voted for him, but I just didn't want to be the tip of the spear attacking Obama.
If Democrats start consistently winning Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, the electoral outlook for Republicans in the future is mighty bleak. Future
If we cannot come together to pause, to respect our dead and the heroic lives of meaning they led, then ours is truly a civilization lost. Respect
If you're a Democrat and 'The New York Times' is calling for your head, you know it's time for an exit strategy. Time
If you're running for office, it's tough to be an incumbent. It's tough to run out of Washington. It's better to be an outsider. And Establishment support doesn't help; it more likely hurts.
I'll tell you, Liz Cheney is going to be a very good candidate. I worked with her during the Bush campaigns. She's smart, she's focused, she's disciplined - and she's got a great back story. She's got a large family. She's a great mom. And she's a hard worker. I think she's going to be a very effective campaigner. Families, Children & Parenting
I'm amazed, as quirky, individual and selfish as most of us are, that anyone stays married for long.
I'm no economist. I don't even play one on TV. I'm just a husband, a father, a taxpayer.
I'm saying it loud: I'm a Republican who supports gay rights.
Immigration is the most explosive issue I've seen in my political career.
Immigration reform almost happened under President George W. Bush. Twice. And it was comprehensive.
In politics, not all lies are all lies. And not all truths are complete. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
In Texas money goes further, with one of the lowest costs of living, one of the lightest tax burdens as a percent of income, and one of the lowest debt-per-capita ratios. Money, Coins & Minting
Infrastructure spending does not create immediate jobs, and more than half of those jobs will pull from the pool of the already employed.
It doesn't matter if I go on CBS, PBS or Fox. Whoever is interviewing me is going to want to create some conflict in the story, or it's not interesting. That's just the way the news is.
It's just madness. First email. Then instant message. Then MySpace. Then Facebook. Then LinkedIn. Then Twitter. It's not enough anymore to 'Just do it.' Now we have to tell everyone we are doing it, when we are doing it, where we are doing it and why we are doing it.
It's much more powerful and compelling to create a positive vision than it is to tear somebody down.
It's never popular among young people to be part of the establishment.
It's rare when a president wins the campaign without winning independents.
I've slipped on occasion into the realm of irresponsible invective, but I try to avoid it and generally recant when I fall short. Because name-calling does nothing to improve understanding or move the political debate forward.
I've spent the better part of my career in politics and public policy working on and fighting for education reforms. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Life inside the Beltway bubble dulls your thinking. Life
Limited government, low taxes, controlled spending and debt, and a restrained regulatory environment make Texas work. Government ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Marco Rubio is interesting because he checks so many boxes when you think about what a Republican nominee needs. He brings Florida, he's young, he's Hispanic, the Tea Party likes him. But that said, he's got issues, actually surprisingly, ironically, with Mexican-American voters.
Marketers know - no matter how deep the emotional connection or brand loyalty - when a product does not perform, rational thought overtakes emotion, and most consumers make a new choice.
Mention the name George W. Bush in mixed company, and you're likely to spark a lot of debate and emotion - hot and cold, good and bad. Not a lot of neutral reaction. He was elected in the most controversial contest in American electoral history and governed during one of the most tumultuous decades. History
Middle America believes in fair play, an equal opportunity to succeed or to fail.
Mitt Romney is a businessman, a turnaround artist, a CEO. That is who he is. The former governor has experience in the public and private sector.
Mitt Romney is a nice guy. But, we know where nice guys finish in politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
My brother is one of my true heroes. Steady and sober where I am impulsive and emotional.
Negativity drove me out of politics in the mid-Nineties. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
News is virtual now. It is not 24-hour news cycles; it is instant news cycles. It is live. News is live all the time, around the clock. Time
Normally, when politicians talk about 'cutting the budget,' they really mean reducing the amount of increase. Actual spending goes up while the politicians claim to have 'cut the budget.'
Now personally, I think the president should golf every day and never have a press conference. I want the leader of the free world to be as stress-free as possible. And if golf helps fade the psychic heat from the job, by all means tee it up often, Mr. President.
Obama killed Osama. Yes, President Barack Obama gets to crow about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
One thing is clear: Ron Paul defies labels.
Outside events can change a presidential campaign, a president, and the history of the nation: the Iranian hostage crisis, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the downing of the helicopter in Mogadishu, Somalia, the suicide attack on the USS Cole, and, of course, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. History
Party switching has all the emotional edges and baggage of divorce.
People who know Paul Ryan say, 'He will be president one day.'
Politics at bottom is not all that complicated. It's all about timing. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics only makes the difficult challenge of marriage even harder, with the demands of the job and the public spotlight it casts on a union. Families, Children & Parenting ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Presidential primary debates are an important part of our political process. But the media has wrested complete control from the parties and candidates over everything, including the number, the format, the qualifications, and the moderators. And they've become a circus.
Presidents should do whatever possible and practical to encourage an environment of cooperation and bipartisanship. And they should maintain a certain level of decorum, diplomacy and decency. But, at the end of the day, presidents get elected to enact change.
Public employees contribute real value for the benefit of all citizens. Public-union bosses collect real money from all taxpayers for the benefit of a few. Money, Coins & Minting
Public unions are big money. Money, Coins & Minting
Rand Paul comes off like an academic stiff who wants to give us a lecture on American civics.
Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on policy.
Republicans constantly claim to be the party that defends the Constitution. We have no legitimate right to that claim until we get right on gay rights.
Republicans working in leadership and the trenches are largely old, white, male, out-of-touch, out of ideas, technology averse, and living in the past. Leaders & Leadership ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Ronald Reagan was long thought to be the most conservative of Republicans. And by any standard today he is the most popular Republican in modern history. Yet he raised taxes 11 times, supported a ban on assault rifles and the Brady Bill, which mandated background checks, and established amnesty for 3 million undocumented workers. History
Running for president is hard. But it's good preparation. Because being president is a lot harder.
Sarah Palin is brilliant. She is a media magnet and a media magnate. She creates headlines and draws crowds wherever she goes, whether it's 98 degrees in the desert of Arizona or below freezing in the snow of Wisconsin.
Social Security and Medicare are necessary safety nets, but they are nearing insolvency as fewer pay in, more take out, and more take out more.
Sometime in the not too distant future, denying gays the right to marry will be viewed as historically corrupt - as corrupt as denying slaves their freedom. Future ;Freedom & Liberty
Special interests and opponents have figured out how easy it is to disrupt town halls and get their own message out. The days of the truly free-form town halls may be over.
Technology and social media have brought power back to the people. Power ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Technology has had more of an impact on the presidency and how the presidency communicates than anything. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Temporary tax cuts don't create permanent confidence, nor permanent jobs.
The GOP cannot expect to win the presidency in the future by simply relying on running up big numbers with white voters. Future
The Hippocratic Oath says do no harm. It's the Hypocritical Oath that says do no harm to one's political future. Future
The initial attraction of a political convention was that often the outcome was not preordained. There was at least some element of surprise. But, now it's like tuning in to a movie where you already know the plot and the ending. It's just not that interesting.
The job of elected leaders is to deliver results that represent the interests of the citizens who placed them in a position of authority with their voice, their vote. But these days, money talks louder. Money, Coins & Minting
The Newtown massacre created a tipping point on the gun debate in America.
The No Child Left Behind Act will be one of President Bush's enduring legacies. And it was engineered and inaugurated with a truly bipartisan coalition in Congress. Accountability, standards, and truly measuring student performance just makes sense. The only real debate about the law was and is whether or not it was adequately funded.
The office of the president is the most powerful in the world. It is also, at times, the most powerless.
The press doesn't just cover presidential campaigns, they influence them by making arbitrary decisions about who is 'top tier' and merits coverage.
The problem with State of the Union speeches is that they are, by their nature and design, alphabet soup. It's hard to know what a president really cares about when they run down a laundry list and check every issue box under the sun for fear they will offend some constituency if they don't. Nature
The Republican Party needs to, first of all, quit electing people in primaries that have prehistoric notions about women's issues. Women
The world is still changing. Faster than ever. And so should the Republican Party. Or condemn itself to a smaller and smaller base of core supporters and permanent minority status.
There are three opportunities that you have during a general election campaign where you can substantially move the needle of public opinion. One, is your convention speech; two, are the base; three, is the selection of your vice president.
There's no question that many factors contribute to voters' perceptions about debates and who wins and who loses.
There's only one way we're going to change our political climate and ensure we establish some respect in our discourse. And that is to show there is a real price to pay for being a disrespectful partisan idiot. Respect
To open up new markets and create American jobs, we need to make global bilateral free trade agreements a priority as they were under the Clinton administration.
To pull off successful attacks in debates, you have to execute with nuance and subtlety. It has to be artful.
Twitter is not a business. I know its founders would like to think it is. It is, for the most part, a diversion. Business, Commerce & Finance
Unfortunately, in American politics there are no standards for shame. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Voters are looking for credibility and are wary of polish. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter which candidate can more deftly read a teleprompter.
Voters crave authenticity.
Wages, investments, and home values are the three legs of the economic stool for most Americans.
War is often about making the least-worst decision. The same could be said about politics. But the stakes are higher in war, when the commander-in-chief is called upon to defend the nation. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;War & Peace
Washington doesn't have just a spending problem, or just an entitlement problem, or just a taxing problem. We have a leadership problem. Fix that, and the first three problems are solved. Leaders & Leadership
Weary of wily politicians who say one thing and do another, voters and advocacy groups insist presidential contenders commit to the cause du jour in writing, but candidates are foolish to comply. Words matter.
What strikes me when I leave Washington is the extent to which there's a huge disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country. The rest of the country is not hyper partisan.
When elected officials and others contribute to a climate and culture that fosters hyper-partisanship, we've got to blow the whistle.
When people see political ads, they think someone's lying to them.
When you look at the money spent by labor unions for Democrats, it comes as no surprise the Democrats crafted a campaign-finance 'disclosure' bill with the thresholds adjusted to exempt unions. Money, Coins & Minting
Who the hell ever dreamed up a tie? It's just such a weird idea, and yet it has been literally hanging around forever as the one constant and boring men's fashion staple.
Wind and solar power are land-intensive, a green sin, but not energy-dense, and affordable only when heavily subsidized. And wind power must be supplemented with hydrocarbons for reliability. Power
You know, Republicans should have a consistent philosophy. And if your philosophy is about limited government and not intruding in people's lives, you shouldn't just inconveniently take a social issue like gay marriage and say, 'Well, unless we think - actually we should be intruding your life.' Life ;Government ;Families, Children & Parenting
You know, the Tea Party is a - first of all, it is a significant movement, and I think the media and some pundits have tried to write it off as a bunch of cranks or something. But, in fact, it's really a very legitimate and fairly significant swath of voters out there.

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