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Frank Luntz Post-Debate Focus Group Results

Hannity & Colmes

ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome to HANNITY AND COLMES. Right to our top story tonight. Today, it was the Democrats' turn. The presidential debates -- the candidates, I should say, debated in Des Moines in their last show-down before the Iowa caucuses in just 21 days from now. Our own Frank Luntz watched the debate with a focus group of Democratic voters. He has their reactions, and I think the two words that come to mind are John Edwards.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: John Edwards. It's funny because he was the first person when we started this effort, six seven months ago -- he won the first debate that we did, and now he wins the final debate before Iowa. We've done the same process --


COLMES: Why did he win?

LUNTZ: He won because they saw him as being presidential. The language he used was emotional. It was passionate. He was determined. But most importantly, he talked about something that he's left behind in much of his debate. Instead of a poverty tour, he's focused on the forgotten middle class. I want you guys to watch the language, watch the lines as they go up, as John Edwards communicates about the middle class values and the middle class approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, what we have to do is get rid of the structural deficiency in the American economy. We have to create jobs, protect American jobs, strengthen and grow the middle class, which is struggling mightily in this country today. And one of the reasons that we've lost jobs, we're having trouble creating jobs, we're having trouble growing and strengthening the middle class is because corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government.

And we need a president who's willing to take these powers on. It's the only way we're going to strengthen and grow the middle class, have universal health care, have a trade policy that actually works for American workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: He's off the charts -- and jobs, middle class, jobs, middle class, jobs, middle class -- If John Edwards had focused on the forgotten middle class, I absolutely believe he'd be leading in Iowa right now.

COLMES: Conservatives love to go after him for his lifestyle. Does that hurt him?

LUNTZ: His 2,000 dollar haircut.

COLMES: I was actually channeling Hannity. I channeled his voice into my body. He'll be up in a minute. Do you think that hurts him among people like my august partner to the right here?

LUNTZ: It does. I have to tell you, if that haircut had not happened, I think this campaign would have developed differently. I still believe that there's three weeks. There's enough time for Edwards to come in second if Hillary Clinton continues to crater in Iowa. The key for Edwards is not to attack her. It's to ask Democrats themselves, do you support this vision of fighting for the forgotten middle class? Do you support this vision of saying no to special interests and lobbyists, which Democrats hate? And finally, do you support a vision that says no to the corporate interests in this country that are bankrupting America.

If that's his approach, he could still come in second.

COLMES: He said more about middle class values.

LUNTZ: Let's see another clip. By the way, it's not just one shot. All through the debate, he was talking about the middle class; and every time he did, the dials went straight up. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: We need to help middle class families. I have proposed specific ideas to help them save, to help them send their kids to college, and to make sure that they can pay for child care. All these things are aimed at making sure that we strengthen the middle class, that we can pay for things like universal health care. You can't have universal health care -- I'm being honest with people -- unless you have a way to pay for it, and this is how we pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Every time that John Edwards mentioned the middle class or jobs, the lines went up, no matter what the issue was, whether it was focused on health care, the economy, trade.

COLMES: Middle class, middle class, middle class.

LUNTZ: There's a pattern. But there's one other segment that he talked about, which was very impressive, which was on education. We showed that earlier in the day. Edwards' approach to fight for rural schools and for suburban and urban schools -- the American people believe that our kids are being left behind. And they support anyone who has a genuine plan to change the education system.

I want you to hear the sound from our focus group, the comments that they made and why they supported John Edwards, because these were the comments of people who are no longer undecided. These are comments of people who have decided John Edwards is their candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very believable. He didn't beat around the bush. He talked about the strong interest groups that he's been fighting for all the time. And he has a plan. He came in with answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he was refreshingly authentic. I didn't expect it, and I was very moved by many of his words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Authenticity, number one. I think he would go after the corporations that are causing much of the trouble in the world today. I came in, he was my third choice, and now he's my first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was concise. he got to the point. He answered the questions without beating around the bush. And I was really moved when he talked about how he has worked all of his life like David versus Goliath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Almost none of those people walked into this room saying that Edwards was their choice.

HANNITY: We've got to always put emphasis on this very important here, those are Democratic primary voters. Those are not Republicans there that are deciding they're going to vote for Edwards here. I wonder to what extent, when people actually look at his plan -- he wants to nationalize health care. He's offering free college for every American. And he's really offering collectivism, socialism, redistribution in a way that America has never seen before. In a general election, if he were to get the nomination, these would be major issues.

LUNTZ: But, among Democrats, universal health care is a plus. All the things that you just mentioned, the Democrats are listening and going, check, check, check.

HANNITY: Are they going to look at his 28,000 square foot mansion, his big expensive haircuts? That's got to become an issue at some point, hypocrisy?

LUNTZ: Who was the greatest fighter for the forgotten middle class? Bobby Kennedy.

HANNITY: Ted Kennedy -- he claims to be, but he's not.

LUNTZ: Bobby Kennedy was wealthy and yet Bobby Kennedy fought for these people, and these people loved him.

HANNITY: But did Bobby Kennedy -- did he get 2,000 dollar haircuts?

COLMES: They cost less back then.

LUNTZ: I have never thought that HANNITY AND COLMES would be focused on the cost of a haircut.

HANNITY: Let's move to Barack Obama. Now, look, Barack Obama's leading in Iowa, New Hampshire. Now we have a poll out today showing him leading in South Carolina. Things have really moved in a positive direction for him, at least in the early states. Hillary Clinton still leads overall. What did you find out today about Barack?

LUNTZ: It's a combination of Hillary Clinton falling and Barack rising. We have one clip here where they asked him, 30 seconds, tell me exactly what you would do right when you become president. He enumerated one, two, three. Watch how high the lines climb as Obama explains his agenda for 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Paul Cohen, my new attorney record to review every single executive order that's been issued by George Bush. Any of those that have undermined our constitution or subverted our civil liberties are going to be reversed. Number three, we're going to have an open conversation with all the key players in the health care arena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Those are big numbers. One of the things you pointed out in prior debates, Frank, is that he did not have the ability -- or at least show the ability to answer the question in the allotted time and to be precise. Maybe he's listening to you, because he seemed to have really been able to condense his answers here.

LUNTZ: I leaned over to the assistant in the very answer, and I said, he's not going to have a good debate, because he paused a little bit. And you can tell with Obama in his first couple of answers whether he's good or bad. He was poor in the first answer. He amazing from that time on. Our group loved him very much, but they didn't think as highly about Hillary Clinton in this debate.

HANNITY: I want to talk more about that when we get back. We're going to take a break. We'll have more with Frank coming up right after this break. And then, trouble for Hillary as a New Hampshire poll shows her just now tied with Obama, but now she's losing to him. So what's going on with the Clinton campaign?

And the baseball bombshell, some of sports greatest names, well, have been named in this steroid report. We'll have that and the issue of can baseball clean up its act straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue with our friend Frank Luntz. All right, the battle between Hillary and Barack Obama, it is getting tense, especially over the suggestion by Shaheen in New Hampshire -- was he selling drugs. It showed up a little bit in this debate today.

LUNTZ: They didn't argue over that issue, but the two of them came at each other. And you're going to watch the lines go up and down. Hillary tried to be funny, but Barack Obama was funnier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With relatively little foreign policy experience of your own, how will you rely on so many Clinton advisers and still deliver the kind of break from the past that you're promising voters?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I am --

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to hear that.

OBAMA: Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well. I'll want to gather up talent from everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: That was a home run. But the Hillary laugh bothers people. Everybody that I talked to -- it's come up a couple times.

LUNTZ: We took a look at that segment that Jon Stewart created of her laughing on the five different Sunday shows, and it was one of the most damaging things to Hillary Clinton, because what it said to them is it's all rehearsed. It's not natural; that she was told to laugh at everything that was difficult. When you see it over five different shows, you wonder, something is up here.

She made a mistake in her campaign. This is someone who has done very well in the debates, out-performed Barack Obama. But her campaign is going negative, and they're making a big mistake. We asked our Democratic primary voters what they thought of the drug charge, of investigating Obama's Kindergarten teacher, and they don't like it at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's desperation. It's like you can't find anything wrong with him now, so you have to go back to when he was -- something he did when he was a teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not fully convinced that Hillary was aware that that was going to happen. I'm not fully convinced. I think it might have been a loose cannon in her campaign, because I think that was just stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see how she could not know. I think anything regarding her campaign, I think that's something should she know, which will affect her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sort of surprised that she would use those tactics, given what happened to her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she didn't know, she should have known.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If indeed he used drugs or didn't -- whatever -- I think it shouldn't be held against him, because he was just flexing his muscles on his way to adulthood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe that Hillary Clinton was aware of this, because I don't think she's that stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was trying to derail the express train that Barack Obama is on right now. He's fast tracked himself to a possible lead that can over-take Hillary right now in the Iowa caucuses. That's why they had no alternative but to resort to these tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just didn't accidentally happen the day before the caucus. You think about, I mean, you've got the debate, and then this distracts the voters from voting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: That is powerful, and that was across the board, men, women --

LUNTZ: Those were Hillary people. There were a lot of people that were Hillary people. What's happened now is that Democrats not only don't want Hillary attacking anybody else, they don't want people attacking her. They absolutely -- Obama has now created this shield around him, because of his presentation -- it's very positive -- and it's having an impact.

COLMES: No negativity. They let this guy Shaheen go. By the way, Shaheen didn't say, I want to know if Obama did drugs. He said, he's going to get those kinds of questions now that he's opened the door, which is why George W. Bush never talked about that.

LUNTZ: What's the final line, which is that the Republican attack machine is going to deliver it. This is Hillary Clinton delivering it.

COLMES: It wasn't Hillary Clinton. It was somebody in her campaign, who is no longer part of the campaign.

LUNTZ: The head of New Hampshire, who's the husband of the woman who may be the next U.S. senator from New Hampshire. He knows better.

COLMES: Do you think Hillary knew? Was she part of that decision?

LUNTZ: You know what's funny? Those voters know more than you media types do.

COMES: Was Hillary Clinton part of that decision?

LUNTZ: Those voters can see through all of this, and they don't like the negativity. They don't like people shouting at each other. They want someone to tell you what you are for, rather than what you are against.

COLMES: Hillary Clinton said, I didn't know about it. This person's gone. I'm not the --

(CROSS TALK)

HANNITY: He doesn't want to listen to what the focus group saying. He doesn't care what they say.

COLMES: May I talk, please?

(CROSS TALK)

COLMES: May I speak, please? Thank you. I'm not going to make comments about -- negative comments about other candidates. That's what Hillary Clinton has said.

LUNTZ: And what the American electorate is saying is how could she not have know, and if she didn't know, it was still stupid. Alan, a Democrat should never attack another Democrat, certainly not personally.

COLMES: What about you've got Giuliani and Romney killing each other on the campaign trail.

LUNTZ: We're talking about the Democratic segment. This is a Democratic debate. This is a fair and balanced network. So let's be fair and balanced and talk about Democrats.

COLMES: Who else do you want to put up here?

LUNTZ: We've got one negative, which is Senator Biden, someone who I respect very much. You always see in the show people who do well. On occasion, a candidate says something that they regret later. There's another rule of thumb, the 12th commandment, thou shall not mention religion in a Democratic primary. Let's take a look at the lines going down with Senator Biden's comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trust the American people. They're ready. They're ready to get up. There's a hymn in my church -- our church -- some of us here -- that says, may he raise you up on eagles wings and bury you on the breath of dawn, and let the light shine. It's time to raise this country up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Don't talk about church. Don't talk about hymns, not within a Democratic primary. Swing voters, independents, would have appreciated --

COLMES: OK for Republicans to talk about that stuff, but not Democrats?

LUNTZ: Because Republicans are religious. There's a difference between a Republican and a Democrat. And it's not just about race. It's not just about ethnicity. One of the biggest differences is in terms of religion. Republicans believe in God, and they attend church.

COLMES: Democrats do too. They just don't want it in their politicians.

LUNTZ: Then why did Joe Biden mention it?

COLMES: It's not like Democrats don't believe --

(CROSS TALK)

COLMES: Thanks for touching me. It's that Democrats don't care about it, they just don't want it in their politics.

HANNITY: Frank, he can't help himself. He can't handle one negative word about Hillary. It drives him nuts.

COLMES: You can't handle a positive one.


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