Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Newt the favorite among Iowa Republicans in a focus group (video)

Last week, Frank Luntz had a focus group of 26 Iowa Republicans who voted in the 2008 Presidential caucus. Some of the reactions can be seen in the above video.

The rules, according to U.S. News and World Report: "Like the television show Survivor, the 26 would discuss the candidates after Luntz showed videos of each. Then one would be voted out of the 2012 Iowa Caucus."

The results unfolded like this, writes Paul Bedard:
Some went fast. Daniels was 'boring,' Barbour’s southern accent was 'a turnoff,' and Santorum was 'yesterday’s news.' Romney went down next, labeled 'another Obama.' Next was Thune, though the Iowans say he has potential. Christie, who doesn’t want to run, went next. The reason, says one panelist to Luntz, author of the hit Words That Work and the upcoming Win: “He doesn’t want the job, so why should we give it to him?”

The Iowans then argued for their favorites, like Pawlenty, whose 'blue collar conservatism' and victories in Democratic-dominated Minnesota were a hit. When he was next to go, some of his supporters vowed that he’d make the cut down the road.

That left four: Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin, and Bachmann, who then bested Palin because Bachmann was 'less polarizing.' But because Bachmann was seen by the group as the least presidential of the remaining three, she was dumped, followed by Huckabee, making Gingrich the surprise winner.

They liked a video of Gingrich effectively blasting the national debt and the radical fixes proposed by Obama’s debt commission, like ending the home mortgage deduction. One panel member says, 'We want to see him dismantle Obama in the debates, and he can do it.' Luntz’s own conclusion is, 'Principles matter more than pragmatism to these voters, and principles with solid debating skills matter most.'
This focus group squares with another Luntz group, back in 2005:
Gingrich continues to enjoy a gut connection with Republican voters. Back in 2005, consultant Frank Luntz held focus groups in Iowa and New Hampshire on the Republican candidates. In a report published afterward, Luntz wrote, 'We were genuinely surprised by the strongly favorable reaction' to Gingrich's 'speeches and interviews.' According to Luntz, voters ignored, or in some cases forgot, the controversial nature of Gingrich's speakership. 'The words he spoke were like nothing they had heard from anyone else,' Luntz went on. 'While he didn't start either session with any measurable support, he ended both Iowa and New Hampshire sessions with the most new converts.' Out of office, Gingrich has remained largely insulated from the scandals and debacles of the Bush Republicans. In fact, the 2006 midterm election results could be viewed as confirmation of what Gingrich has been saying for some time: that the Republican party and broader conservative movement have lost their way, and the time has come for a rebirth of the reform impulse that in 1994 brought the GOP to congressional majority status for the first time in 40 years.
If Gingrich jumps in, he needs to continue with the same message -- not dampen it down like so many candidates do -- and he needs to keep being willing to talk about it anywhere he goes.

If he does that, and if Luntz's focus groups are any indication, he could make up the small deficit he has in the current polls -- in a hurry.

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