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Frank Luntz Shares Results Of His Debate Focus Group

Hannity & Colmes

COLMES: Welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." And we get right to our top story tonight. The Republican candidates debated in Florida last night. We have extensive coverage of CNN's disastrous charade in just a few minutes. But we start tonight with how well the candidates did. Our own Frank Luntz was in Florida with a focus group. He has got the results.

Frank, according to your group, how did it go?

FRANK LUNTZ, WWW.LUNTZ.COM: We had a lot of people participate and they are mad as hell. I have got to tell you something, in listening to what the Republicans have to say right now, they are very nervous about the future. They are not happy about the direction in Washington. And they really want a change.

So they were truly attuned to what was going on last night. Now, if you want to understand what Republicans are looking for, passion, principles, and pithy commentary. And the candidate that stood out yesterday was Fred Thompson. We have used our patented the FOX News dials.

The higher that you see the lines go, the more favorable the reaction. The red line represents conservatives, yellow line, independents. If the lines climb to an 80, it's a political home run. Watch how favorable they respond to Fred Thompson when he talks about wasteful Washington spending.


FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things I would do for his generation is protect him from our generation.


THOMPSON: He is absolutely right. We are spending his money, we are spending his children's money and we're spending the money of kids yet to be born. In 2017, Social Security will be in the red. Pretty soon it will be out of money and it will go bankrupt. In fact, our entitlement programs put together will take over the entire budget by about 2040.


LUNTZ: Thompson had several points during that debate where he really grabbed the audience's attention. But what I know your viewers want to see is the conflict. And one of the toughest conflicts was Mitt Romney verses John McCain over the issue of whether it's torture or interrogation. The topic was waterboarding. And watch how the lines go back and forth as McCain and Romney go at each other.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe it's appropriate for me as a presidential candidate to lay out all of the issues one by one, get questioned one by one, is this torture, is that torture. That's something which I'm going to take your and other people's counsel on.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator McCain, 30 seconds to respond.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions which were for the treatment of people who are held prisoner, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war, because it's clearly the definition of torture. It's in violation of laws we have passed.


LUNTZ: Now, before I tell you how the voters responded, let's use their sound, what their words were in reaction to that conflict. Because I have got to tell you something, Republicans are very clear that they do not agree with John McCain and they do agree with Mitt Romney. Let's listen to that focus group sound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to respect John McCain, but I disrespect the way that he seems to resent the other candidates' answers, how he seems to imply that Mitt Romney is somehow misinformed because he won't conform to John McCain's view on waterboarding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mitt Romney actually won and on a couple of different instances. On the waterboarding, I think he acted very presidential in that aspect because you are not going to get the specifics and what's going to happen in a particular situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain was the sole speaker that had a question about waterboarding. And I don't have any problem with pouring water on the face of a man that planned the murder of 3,000 Americans on September 11th.



LUNTZ: I mean, whenever these -- we had 34 participants, and when they applaud the answer of each other, you know that there is a reaction. I have got one more bit of sound for you and then we will have the give and take, and that is to let our 34 real Republican, Republican primary undecided voters, let's listen to what they had to say about the individual they thought won the debate. It was either Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson.

Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought Fred Thompson won the debate. And I was really between Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney won it. And I think the main thing that Romney has going for him, his message is positive. He seems to be an optimist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What impressed me about Mitt Romney was that it sounded like he was going to get the right people to work with him and for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Fred Thompson won because finally we are starting to see him be a little bit more -- showing more leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mitt Romney actually won. And on a couple different instances, when he said, I made a mistake with the abortion issue and he came right out an admitted that.


LUNTZ: It was clearly -- we had two clear winners last night, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, both of them will benefit over the coming days.

COLMES: Frank, I'm surprised to see that the focus group went for Romney given the totality of the debate. He had a problem with the issue of gays in the military. He went at it with Rudy Giuliani on immigration. Neither of them have great records according to conservatives on those issues. So I'm perplexed as to why, in that particular group, he did so well.

LUNTZ: Well, first off, in that conflict over immigration, Romney's position is much closer to mainstream Republicans than Rudy Giuliani. And even though it was a personal attack on Mitt Romney, they thought that he was presidential in his presence. He never lost his cool. He always kept his smile. And his responses, as has happened in all of these debates, he can respond in 60 seconds to every single question. They find him disciplined, focused.

And with Fred Thompson, they found him to be very homey, very folksy, and they appreciated the fact that there was more passion in Fred's participation in the debate than they had seen in previous debates. Those two clearly stood out.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, first of all, I was very impressed with the focus group, Frank. I mean, honestly, all across the board, smart, passion, they care deeply about it. But you mentioned at the start of your report tonight that they seemed nervous about the election. I want to get into that in a little bit more detail. Why would they be nervous?

LUNTZ: They are afraid that as they watch -- and these people, Sean, are watching both Republican and Democratic debates. I'm not surprised that they are getting very high ratings. They look at what the Democrats offer. And to them it doesn't sound -- and I'm going to use this word deliberately. It doesn't sound American to the Republicans. And they are nervous that the Democratic candidates will take the country backward. Point one.

Point two is that they want to see the Republicans with a genuine focus. And they find that the Democrats have been more precise in terms of issues than their own candidates have been. And third, and I apologize for this, Sean, they are very disappointed with President Bush. Republicans who voted for him are disappointed in what has happened over the past two years.

HANNITY: Well, the polls have been showing that and they are equally more disappointed with the Democratic Congress at an 11 percent approval rating. All right. Stay right there, Frank. We have more with Frank Luntz as he looks as who he thinks the losers of last night's debate were, by the way, which in my opinion, clearly the "Clinton News Network." We will have all those details.

We're going to look at the disaster for CNN. A questioner with a direct link to the Clinton campaign, another of the Edwards campaign, and Obama supporters. Now we must have missed the Republicans at the Democrats YouTube debate. We are going to document this disgrace. We are going to show you how a few clicks of the mouse could have spared CNN their latest embarrassment.


HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." We continue now with the author of "Words that Work," pollster Frank Luntz is back with us.

Frank, before we get to those who you do not think did that well tonight, it's very interesting throughout this whole process, you have been analyzing this for us. There are some candidates have good nights some nights, some not so good nights. There has been a little back and forth in the debates, right?

LUNTZ: Well, Mike Huckabee, for example, and he is neither the winner nor the loser, had the best one-off sound bites, "what would Jesus do?" Huckabee response: "He wouldn't be running."

HANNITY: That was good.

LUNTZ: Or when he talked about spending, Huckabee has got the single best sound bites but you have to find a situation where you are combining both policy, politics, and pithy comments.

Now, Sean, there is one issue that stands out with the Republicans more than any other. It's not the culture wars, it's not social issues, it's illegal immigration. And you touch that. If they perceive in any way that you are a supporter of either amnesty or funding for illegal immigrants, you are going to get a negative reaction.

We've got two clips. Remember, the lines are supposed to go up? When Rudy Giuliani and John McCain talk about illegal immigration, the lines go down. Let's take a look at Rudy Giuliani's response when he was accused of holding a sanctuary city.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reality is that New York City was not a sanctuary city. There were three areas in which New York City made an exception. New York City allowed the children of illegal immigrants to go to school. If we didn't allow the children of illegal immigrants to go to school, we would have had 70,000 children on the streets at a time in which New York City was going through a massive crime wave.


LUNTZ: Now, the challenge for Giuliani is that he has got a record that he has to defend. But what Republicans are looking for is what he is going to do in the future. And on the issue of illegal immigration, they don't find him tough enough. But if Rudy Giuliani had a difficult night, John McCain had an absolutely awful night in his position on illegal immigration. Let's watch the lines cave here.


MCCAIN: We never proposed amnesty. But you know, this whole debate.


COOPER: Come on, please, let him answer.

MCCAIN: You know, this whole debate saddens me a little bit because we do have a serious situation in America. The American people want the borders enforced. We must enforce the -- secure the borders first. But then you have still got two other aspects of this issue that have to be resolved as well.

And we need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well. And they need some protections under the law.


MCCAIN: And they need some of our love and compassion.


LUNTZ: Well, the fact is the love and compassion from what our respondents had to say should be focused on those who came here legally, those who have been American citizens, paid their taxes, and obeyed the law. And they don't have compassion for those whose first effort on the U.S. soil is to commit a crime.

But let's listen to the sound when the respondents, after watching for two hours, you heard how favorable they were towards Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, they were not favorable towards John McCain or Rudy Giuliani.

Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I was most disappointed in John McCain. I was really for him for a long, long time. And I didn't like what he had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still keep expecting Giuliani to act like a frontrunner and say something different besides, my name is Giuliani, I'm from New York and on 9/11. That's all he ever says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought McCain was just a bit emotionless with a lot of answers to his questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giuliani is supposed to be our saving grace and the one guy that if we compromise our principles a little bit can beat Hillary. And the more I see him debate, the more I see him on the defensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I was a Giuliani supporter, and now I'm not. I just don't think he has the experience anymore. He didn't have answers. He wasn't ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain disappointed me. And to me he looked like a tired person, that he wasn't really wanted to be there.


LUNTZ: Sean, nine of our 34 participants at one point supported John McCain, not one of them after they walked out of that debate was a McCain supporter. Rudy Giuliani had the most support in that room when the debate started, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney both had more supporters when the debate was over.

COLMES: Frank, I'm just curious, when we were playing the McCain dials and he was talking about love and compassion, caring for the children of people who came to this country illegally, and the dials were going down but the audience was applauding. So how do you explain the dichotomy between those two?

LUNTZ: Because you can hear the audience. If you have actually been in those debates, the candidates have enough people, that 30 or 40 individuals who support your candidate are going to applaud you in what you have to say. I can't overestimate just how angry Republicans are with illegal immigration and how they want their presidential candidate to stop it.

COLMES: All right. Frank, we thank you very much for being with us once again tonight.

HANNITY: Thanks, Frank.

COLMES: And coming up, CNN's Republican debate infiltrated by a Democratic campaign operative. The so-called "most trusted name in news" asleep at the wheel and gets duped because of its lazy research. We will talk about it coming up.



COOPER: Bill Bennett earlier mentioned that he was getting some reports from friends of his on the Internet that Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who asked a question about gays in the military during this debate, was on a steering committee for Senator Hillary Clinton. That was certainly something unknown to us, and had we known that, it would have been disclosed by us. It turns out we have just looked at it. Apparently there was a press release from some six months ago.

Hillary Clinton's office saying that he had been named to some steering committee. We don't know if he's still on it. We're trying to find out that information. But certainly had we had that information, we would have acknowledged that in using his question if we had used it at all.


COLMES: That was CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, offering what seemed like a weak explanation for how a member of Hillary Clinton's steering committee was allowed to ask Republican candidates this question at last night's debate.


BRIG. GEN. KEITH KERR, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.


COLMES: It seems "the most trusted name in news" didn't take the time to fact-check its citizen videos. A simple Google search would have showed General Kerr's partisan involvement. A statement from CNN now admits that the general should never have been allowed on the air.

But they found enough time to pay for his plane tickets, pay for his hotel and set it all up weeks in advance. They couldn't use the simplest of tools at their finger tips perhaps to find the press releases that tied him to the Clinton campaign. Well, joining us now, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and FOX News contributor, Harold Ford Jr. We welcome back Mr. DeLay and let's start with Harold Ford here.

As the Democrat watching this, what were your thoughts when it came out that this particular individual was tied somehow to the Clinton campaign?

HAROLD FORD, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It had to be an embarrassment for CNN. I have great respect for anybody that has served the country. And I would hope that CNN's apologies would go as they have obviously gone as far enough to say they wouldn't have done it had they known it. I'm not here to defend them, I'm a FOX and News Corp. employee.

But I thought the question was one that gave the various candidates an opportunity to express their views. And it's clear it's one that they believe is a differentiator between Republicans and Democrats. So, it was.

COLMES: I thought it was a good question.


FORD: End of the day, I thought it was a decent question. I just wish they had vetted it better.

COLMES: Congressman DeLay, I thought it was a good question. But you know, they should have put up on the screen or should have indicated in some way that there was a link so there were no questions about affiliations. And I think this would have gone away. It wouldn't have happened if at least we knew the background of the person asking the question.

TOM DELAY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Alan, it wasn't just this one incident of this general who is openly gay and asked a question. It had nothing to do with what people are thinking about today. It was the entire debate. The entire debate showed that CNN has a complete disdain for our presidential election process. They have a disdain for politicians in general. To start the whole debate with that silly outrageous song.

COLMES: I thought it was funny.

DELAY: I hope they are going to have that song -- a song like that for the Democrats. They picked -- out of 5,000 questions, they picked these questions that reflected their agenda, had nothing to do with what the agenda that is being debated within the Republican primary and the Republican Party is outrageous.

COLMES: What, immigration is being debated, isn't that one of the big issues? A number of things came up that are very much in play. And by the way, the Democrats had that snowman, Congressman, remember that?

DELAY: Alan, let me tell you something, even the immigration part, which is the number one issue with the Republicans -- the Republican Party, even those questions were so shallow and so meaningless, it never got -- it never allowed the candidates to get into the meat of immigration. The way that they asked the questions were silly, shallow, and twisted to reflect the "Clinton News Network" agenda.

COLMES: By the way, I have a problem, the fact that 34 people get to ask questions out of 5,000, and nobody is talking about the fact that one of them is a -- he was identified as a Republican, Grover Norquist, who is a lobbyist, basically, ties to Jack Abramoff, and here is a guy who gets to ask a question, he has got private meetings with Karl Rove, and this is supposed to be a debate where people of all stripes, the average person who doesn't have access, gets to ask questions.

DELAY: Well, it shows you once again CNN doesn't know what they are talking about when it comes to taxes. Republicans are talking about fundamental tax reform. To scrap the tax code, a 20th Century tax code and build a 21st Century tax code. That is the issue. They could not get past their Democrat liberal bias to even ask the question so that you could get into depth about fundamental tax reform.

HANNITY: Congressman DeLay, I agree with you totally. Congressman Ford, good to see you both again. I actually agree with a lot of the analysis he has here. I thought Fred Barnes had a good piece when he wrote about this. He said, 30-plus questions, six on immigration, three guns, two abortion, gays, exactly the issues, in the view of liberals and many in the media which, for Republicans, make them look particularly unattractive here.

I mean, this seems like a monumental mistake, especially flying this guy in.

FORD: I work for the same network you do. I mean, I'm not going to.


HANNITY: Wait a minute, you are not a Clinton operative?


FORD: I'm not going to be here to defend anybody. But I will say in fairness there were many Democrats who believe that the questions asked at the Democratic YouTube CNN debate also lacked some of the depth (INAUDIBLE) texture that many wanted.

And I would say to my friend and former colleague, Tom DeLay, that the reality, this is where a big part of the country thinks about Democrats and Republicans in politics. This is not to defend CNN. I hope that going forward we...

HANNITY: Well, there is a problem.

FORD: No, no, CNN.

HANNITY: It goes deeper than this, though. You had one woman, Journey, and they identified her "concerned young undecided person." Michelle Malkin, on her Web site, actually put up there that in fact she is a John Edwards supporter. You know, it didn't take Michelle very long to find this.

They found another guy, for example, they identified him as a "concerned Log Cabin Republican supporter." Well, it turns out that if you looked on the Internet, he turned out to be a Barack Obama supporter.

They also had a "concerned undecided mom" who was a John Edwards supporter, Congressman. I mean, it was one after another, including this guy who...

FORD: Again, I'm not here to defend CNN or any of those people. My only point is that when the Democratic debate took place on CNN with YouTube, we had many questions -- similar questions. Maybe we ought to do them right all here at FOX and do it right here on "Hannity & Colmes."


HANNITY: It would have been done a lot better. Yes, Tom DeLay.

FORD: . and get the questions right.

DELAY: Harold, I have got to tell you, there were -- in that Democrat YouTube, there were no gotcha questions like these were. These were nothing but gotcha questions with a liberal bias.

FORD: No, no, I have got great respect for you, but...


FORD: . I'm not going to let you get.

DELAY: Harold, if I could finish.

FORD: It goes both ways. This goes both ways.

DELAY: Harold, I let you finish. Harold, I let you finish. Let me finish.

HANNITY: All right. Tell you what, I will let you both finish, go ahead, Congressman. You have 15 seconds.

DELAY: Well, this is the way Democrats debate. They try to talk over you.

FORD: Are you calling Sean a Democrat?


HANNITY: All right. Congressman, hang on. Congressman DeLay, it's Sean. We are getting crosstalk here. Let me come back. We will throw it back to you as soon as we get back, I promise.

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