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Frank Luntz on Bloomberg, Clinton

Hannity & Colmes

COLMES: A new Gallup poll to be released tomorrow shows that only 14 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress. It seems voter confidence in John McCain is slipping, as well as the Mason-Dixon poll out of Iowa showing McCain sinking to fifth place behind Mike Huckabee. And a similar poll out of South Carolina shows support for the Arizona senator in the single digits.

Do these polls change the landscape of the presidential race?

Joining us now is the author of "Words That Work", Republican strategist Frank Luntz.

Just when you think you have a line on who's where, what the hierarchy is, talk of Bloomberg, talk of Gore, talk of Newt. McCain seems to be sinking. Everything seems to be changing as we -- as we speak.

LUNTZ: It's because conditions are changing, and the American people have not settled on a candidate on either side. Even though Hillary Clinton may have 15-point advantage in some polls, she's got a three point advantage in others.

You watch Iowa and New Hampshire. If you really want to understand what's going on in the election, don't pay attention to the national numbers. Focus on those early states.

COLMES: You said Bloomberg jumping in hurts Republicans more than it hurts Democrats, why?

LUNTZ: Because the Democratic base is stronger at this point than the Republican base. The Republican base has eroded over the last two or three years.

Bloomberg has a record in New York. He's independent. He's hostile to special interests. He's got enough money, and unlike Ross Perot, he's prepared to spend it. All of those components matter in a race.

He starts with about 16 percent. In a FOX News poll we took at the end of last year, he starts with 16 or 18 percent. He can get as high as 30.

COLMES: Let's talk about Hillary and the Code Pink group. That they boo her. They booed her last year and booed her a bit this year. Is that the Sister Souljah moment she can have, the moment like Bill Clinton had, what we call the Sistah Soldier moment from 1992, where she stands up to a group perceived as more liberal than she is.

LUNTZ: She's going to have to do that more often. And it's not just standing up. No one is looking for Hillary Clinton to show leadership. She always does.

COLMES: Yes.

LUNTZ: But there's -- the way that she does it. We don't just want someone who's smart and someone who's articulate. We want someone who feels our pain, that old line of Bill Clinton.

COLMES: Yes.

LUNTZ: The problem with her is that she doesn't seem to do that. And you saw a clip earlier...

COLMES: From a strategic standpoint, standing up to a group perceived as a far left group, whether they are or not, but that's the perception. Doesn't that help her in terms of her being viewed as more of a centrist?

LUNTZ: But the issue is whether she's a centrist based on principle or a centrist based on politics. And as Sean pointed out before, it seems like she's playing politics.

COLMES: It depends on who she runs against. If the Republican candidate is somebody who's flip-flopped on abortion and flip-flopped on gun control and flip-flopped on a whole bunch of things on immigration. Then you've got two people who can be called flip-floppers by the opposing party.

LUNTZ: Something we've not talked about on this show is that voters want to understand the motivation of the individual. That's how they determine credibility. Is this person saying it because they believe it or just because they want to win?

And she's got motivation problems right now. Too many Americans think that she will say anything to get elected.

COLMES: How do you know that? Are there polls that show that?

LUNTZ: There are polls that show it. There are focus groups...

COLMES: Don't they show that about any candidate who might be running (ph)?

LUNTZ: There's focus groups that we've done on this show that have demonstrated that.

COLMES: Right. Don't they say that about Romney and about Giuliani, all of whom have had election year conversions?

LUNTZ: You're showing the polling numbers right here. That's the reason why people don't like Congress, the reason why they don't like Washington, because they think too many politicians are doing what Hillary Clinton is doing, saying whatever it takes to get elected.

HANNITY: Let's put this question I'm going to ask you in context. October of 2002, "I make this vote with conviction. He had weapons of mass destruction, alliances with al Qaeda."

Bragging the day after they captured Saddam. One year ago at this very same conference, here's what Hillary said. I think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: She starts where Bush is.

LUNTZ: Right.

HANNITY: That's a year ago. No timetables. Not only did she end up supporting timetables but defunding the troops. If a smart political operative puts these ads together. You know, Alan can tear into abortion all he wants. These are devastating for her.

LUNTZ: And this is the No. 1 issue for Democrats is Iraq. And for them to see that she's taken different positions in front of different groups within weeks of each other, that will turn them off against her.

For her, her character, her credibility is dependent upon her character. And if she is shown to be taking different positions, that crushes her.

HANNITY: But isn't that the heart and soul of her? Isn't that the rap on her, that everything, every move she makes, everything she says is about -- is calculated through this prism of "how I get elected"?

LUNTZ: That's why it's so important for her to show the human nature for her. Because she's not...

HANNITY: What is the human nature?

LUNTZ: She's got to raise that likeability level for people to feel comfortable with her.

HANNITY: And how do you do that? Is it the "Sopranos" ad that does that?

LUNTZ: "Sopranos" does it. She used humor in her debates, which is quite effective. Alan makes a good point.

HANNITY: Can that really change somebody's mind?

COLMES: You're onto something there. Go ahead.

HANNITY: That silly little Hollywood ad?

LUNTZ: She has been gaining over the past few weeks. Every time that there is a debate -- if you notice this in the polling, every time there's a debate she goes up a few points, Obama drops a few.

When there are no debates, she actually starts to filter back down...

HANNITY: Yes.

LUNTZ: ... because then voters people see her in the long form. They don't like it as much.

HANNITY: What does it mean at this left wing conference she comes in third? That's good for her.

LUNTZ: It says that she's got problems with her own base. And in her situation, she's got to find a way not only to appeal to the left. She's got to appeal to the center. Because in the end for her, it's not good enough to win the Democratic nomination.

HANNITY: I'll be honest. I'm convinced she's got the nomination wrapped up for the Democrats. I'm convinced that it's probably likely she'll pick Barack Obama as her vice president.

LUNTZ: Which I think would be a mistake, by the way.

HANNITY: Why?

LUNTZ: He's a tremendous -- he's a better speaker than she is. I think he's the best communicator on either side at this moment.

HANNITY: But you even say in short snippets, not long ones. You used your dials to prove that.

LUNTZ: Right. But Obama -- no, Obama is great in the long ones. In the short ones he's bad. She's great in the short ones. In the long ones she's weak. But African-Americans vote Democrat 95 percent of the time. You don't gain a single vote by putting Barack Obama on.

HANNITY: If this becomes particularly contentious, does she alienate some of the base?

LUNTZ: She's going to go to Indiana. She's got to go to Virginia. If Hillary Clinton is strategic, she will go to a red state and try to turn it blue.

HANNITY: Will she be able to do it?

LUNTZ: Indiana would do it, with...

HANNITY: Evan Bayh.

LUNTZ: Evan Bayh or Virginia with Warner.

COLMES: We've got to run, Frank.

LUNTZ: Or Ohio with the new governor and new senator.

COLMES: Would more African-American register to vote if Obama is on the ticket?

LUNTZ: Absolutely. And that's why the Democrats have an advantage right now going into 2008.

COLMES: Thanks for being with us.


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