CEO Blog: 1994 All Over Again

Based on the election results, the voters have sent the White House a clear message rein in spending, keep taxes down, fix healthcare and above all create jobs.

But the vote for the Republicans is not an endorsement of the Tea Party or their radical solutions that would privatize Social Security and roll back letting kids stay on healthcare, or for severe cuts in vital programs like Medicare and Social Security. The voters will be endorsing eliminating the departments of education and energy no time soon.

The Republicans are talking like they won all three branches of government. When the dust clears it is likely they will control the House, but not the Senate. And that means that neither party on its own will be able to pass a bill. And many Democrats outside the House held on or won with the Democrats holding West Virginia Senate and Massachusetts statehouse, among others.

Facing a similar message from the voters, President Clinton acted decisively.

He balanced the budget but he did it after fighting a government shutdown and only by preserving Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment. The negotiations were tough, broke down often, but in the end cleared the way for an economic revival.

Now, the voters want healthcare expanded but only if costs are controlled, taxes cuts kept but only until jobs are created, and are looking for an economic strategy that is more than stimulus or spending. They have rejected the extremes of George Bush and are calling on Obama to move to the center.

The president now faces a real choice continue his path in the face of Republican rejection and gridlock or seek to make real compromise on key domestic tax and spend issues.

Your Money Your Vote - A CNBC Special Report
Your Money Your Vote - A CNBC Special Report

But even if he makes a decision to regain the center as President Clinton did in 1994, it will take a Republican Speaker of the House who will also agree to compromise and be able to keep his coalition together.

Some of his newly elected ultra conservative members are already saying "no" to such a strategy.

They are new to Washington and the ways of government but the voters will be just as unkind to Republican obstructionists two years from now if they do not get the real message that the voters are sending now.

It's about the center, bi-partisanship, and practical not ideological solutions to our problems.

Mark Penn is worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and public affairs agency, and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, a strategic research firm. He served as a key adviser in the 1996 re-election of Bill Clinton and served as White House Pollster for 6 years, including the government shutdown and the 1998 midterms. He has helped elect over 25 world leaders including Tony Blair's re-election to a third term in 1995. And has worked with major corporations and CEOs including Bill Gates and Bill Ford. The Washington Post, in "Politics and Policy by the Numbers" summed up his influence in the White House and the corporate boardroom as a "unique vantage point: adviser to the preeminent innovator of the past decade in the realm of politics, Bill Clinton, and the preeminent innovator in the realm of business and technology, Bill Gates." In 2008 he was chief strategist for Hillary Clinton. Mark is also author of the 2007 best-selling book "Microtrends" - a look at the small changes that are having a big impact on our society. For more information about Mark, please visit