Luntz Described as ‘Evil Cleaver’

Here’s a recent description of pollster Frank Luntz, courtesy of a political blog: "the boyish charlatan who’s been concocting spin for conservative candidates and causes for what seems like a century now, but who still manages to look like the evil Cleaver brother."

Not exactly a Luntz fan, huh? But love him or hate him, he’s always interesting. And he returns for the Indiana Chamber’s 2011 Legislative Reception and Dinner. A few topics likely to emerge: 2012 presidential contenders, how serious is Washington about debt reduction, state legislative battles (think Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio to begin with) and more.

Here’s a BizVoice story when we had the opportunity to sit down with Luntz in 2008. I’ve heard him a few times now; can’t say I always agree with everything he has to say. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it.

See and hear for yourself on March 16.

Luntz and Words: Winning Combo to Return to Indiana

The mission of Columbia Journalism Review is to encourage and stimulate excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. But, like quite a few individual members of the media today, there appears to be a strong — make that overwhelming — liberal lean.

CJR takes pollster and communicator Frank Luntz to task for his role in advising health care reform opponents. Luntz apparently coined "government option," which was less popular than the "public option" terminology preferred by reform supporters. CJR notes that Luntz "has had a long career fashioning language that helps his Republican clients."

Sure, Luntz has been more closely associated with GOP interests, but he’s also angered Republicans with some of his work on environmental language. The bottom line: don’t take shots at Luntz; just credit him for what he brings to the table. An excerpt of the CJR article is below.

We interviewed Luntz for BizVoice magazine in 2008; he was the special guest at the Indiana Chamber’s Legislative Reception/Dinner in 2010 and will return with new information and insights on March 16, 2011. Whether you agree or disagree with his take, you won’t want to miss what he has to say.

Back to the CJR and its unbalanced report:

Word came that Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon had directed his staff to avoid using the phrase “public option” to describe a proposal hotly debated during the health reform debate. That option, proposed by Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker and embraced by some—but not all—of the progressive advocates, would have injected a real element of competition into the insurance industry. 

The public option was not to be. After months of equivocation, the president threw it under the bus in his efforts to placate the insurance industry, the hospitals, and the doctors, who were hardly fans of something that could lower their profits and incomes.

Now we learn that Frank Luntz, the Republican wordsmith extraordinaire, was at work behind the scenes to craft the language that public plan opponents could exploit.

Last year, Campaign Desk pointed out that Luntz was busy selecting the “right” language months before it looked like the public option had legs. In a twenty-eight page document called “The Language of Healthcare 2009” that became public in the spring of that year, Luntz advised making government the bogeyman. He told Republicans to use words like “politicians,” "bureaucrats,” and “Washington” to fight health reform. He suggested that they use the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled.” … We advised journalists to describe what the public option would do, rather than just pass along Luntz-tested terminology.

It’s hard to say whether Luntz’s focus group-tested language succeeded in fomenting the dislike for health reform now registered by the pollsters. For months, polls showed that large segments of the public liked the idea of a public option, and still do. 

Luntz Memo on Finance Reform Draws Attention

I had an opportunty to talk briefly with Frank Luntz in preparation for his post-Legislative Reception appearance before an Indiana Chamber audience of business and legislative leaders on February 16. He promises new polling data on just what the public thinks of the business community and updated language for companies to utilize to emphasize their contribution to community well-being.

Outside of that conversation, Luntz is being credited (or disparaged, depending on your view) for his role in fighting financial regulatory reform. A recent report included the following:

Republican message guru Frank Luntz has put together a playbook to help derail financial regulatory reform.

In a 17-page memo titled, "The Language of Financial Reform," Luntz urged opponents of reform to frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.

"If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated," Luntz wrote. "This is your critical advantage. Washington’s incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."

Luntz continued: "Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests."

On the specific issue of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Luntz argued that opponents should stress the high-cost of creating an additional regulatory body in addition to the damaging effects it will supposedly have on "small business owners" (as opposed to, merely, small businesses).

"Owning a small business is part of the American Dream and Congress should make it easier to be an entrepreneur," wrote Luntz. "But the Financial Reform bill and the creation of the CFPA makes it harder to be a small business owner because it will choke off credit options to small business owners."

More than 300 Hoosiers have purchased their tickets to hear Luntz in person. It will be most interesting.

Not All Will Like These Luntz Words

At the Indiana Chamber’s "An Evening With Frank Luntz" on February 16, maybe we will hear the pollster/communicator talk about climate change. According to CQ Politics, Luntz did just that recently.

Not that we weren’t already in for an interesting evening (following the annual Legislative Reception), but this could add a little intrigue.

Luntz’ forte is formulating terminology that can redefine political policy debates. During the Bush administration, he wrote a memo suggesting that Republicans could dampen public concern about global warming by stating — over and over — that the environmentalists’ proposals were loaded with "scientific uncertainty" and would impose an "unfair economic burden" on the nation. By embracing the Luntz approach, climate change skeptics successfully sowed seeds of doubt on climate change and delayed federal action.

But that was then. Now Luntz is applying his "language guidance" talents to help the greens sell their proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Based on polling conducted at the end of 2009, Luntz said that the vast majority of Americans believe that global warming is real and that mankind is contributing to the problem.

According to Luntz, Americans tend to dismiss the scare tactics that environmentalists and global warming skeptics use to shape public opinion. "If you really want to scare Americans, it’s not about glaciers that are melting or the struggle of the polar bear," he said. "What scares Americans is the idea that this great technological industry will be developed in China or India rather than here in America."

Luntz’ report was released at a time when the environmental community is waking up to the reality that the ambitious, economywide climate change bills passed last year by the House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are dead.

As the environmentalists and pro-legislation businesses decide their next steps, they’re likely to keep Luntz’ advice in mind. "The American people don’t accept the status quo," he said. "The American people not only think that we can do better as a country, they want us to do better as a country. And they don’t care whether it’s Republicans or Democrats who are offering it — they expect more."

Luntz Will Speak; You Should Listen

When people talk, Frank Luntz listens. And then Luntz discusses what he heard and what he wishes had been spoken — and many powerful and influential people pay close attention.

Luntz is a top political pollster and communications professional. But he delivers his message in a very "common man and woman" sense. In fact, when I had a chance to interview him for our BizVoice magazine about 18 months ago, he was munching on a salad after contributing to the state’s economy by dropping a few dollars in one of our riverboats. He said he never could have imagined the opportunities he has had, but then quickly demonstrates why world political leaders and many more have called upon his services.

Luntz returns to Indiana on February 16. An Evening With Frank Luntz, a special dinner program, follows the Indiana Chamber’s annual Legislative Reception. Both are at the Westin in downtown Indianapolis. Luntz’s latest bestseller — What Americans Really Want … Really: The Truth About Our Hopes, Dreams and Fears — will be one of the topics, but expect much more. You won’t be disappointed. Order your tickets or tables today.

Being Frank: Join Well-Known Pollster After Legislative Reception Feb. 16

"When Frank Luntz invites you to talk to his focus group, you talk to his focus group."
–President Barack Obama, spoken on June 28, 2007, to a PBS-sponsored focus group following the Democratic presidential debate at Howard University

Luntz’s new book, What Americans Really Want … Really: The Truth About Our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears, came out last fall and is a New York Times best seller. He’s also drawn some attention regarding the surprising findings of his recent poll of gun owners.

A recent poll found that both National Rifle Association (NRA) and non-NRA gun owners are in favor of legislation designed to keep guns out of dangerous criminal and terrorist hands.

“By overwhelming numbers, they believe that [protecting] Second Amendment rights and keeping guns from criminals are complementary, not contradictory [goals],’ said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey.

Luntz asked 832 gun owners (including 401 NRA members) to give thoughts on a wide variety of issues including whether more could be done to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them.

Of those polled, Luntz found that 82 % of NRA members supported prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns; 69% favored requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns; and 78 % backed requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen. Among gun owners who did not belong to the NRA, the numbers were even higher.

Luntz will be joining us following the 2010 Legislative Reception on February 16 at the Westin in Indianapolis to discuss issues of both a federal and local nature. Register now for this exciting event. One ticket for both the Legislative Reception and the Frank Luntz Dinner is just $149.

Luntz: Pacers Image Turnaround One of a Kind

Like him or not, Frank Luntz is known nationally by many in the political arena as a top pollster. One of his most recent polls, however, focuses instead on the basketball arena, and shows very encouraging results for the Indiana Pacers. Luntz recently spoke to Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business about the rebuilding of the team’s image, stating that 90% of fans polled believe the team has kept its promise to "clean up its act." He also offered that he’d never seen a turnaround of that magnitude in professional sports before.

Watch the video here.

Saving the World One Idea at a Time

After having the chance to interview Newt Gingrich a few weeks ago (the full story will be online and in our September-October edition of BizVoice on August 29), it wasn’t too surpising to read that he had some grand ideas in response to the Wall Street Journal question: How would you spend $10 billion of American resources over the next four years to help improve the state of the world?

Gingrich has an uncanny ability to define a challenge, craft a solution (usually relying heavily on technology and/or the Internet) and put together the people to try and execute. Do those solutions and his tactics (especially during his term as U.S. Speaker of the House) work? Not always. He is the first to admit as much.

Frank Luntz, the communication guru who worked closely with Gingrich on the famed Contract with America, may have put it best, describing the silver-haired Georgian as probably the "smartest politican" he has ever come across. Luntz added that the strong understanding of issues would also be a drawback as sometimes Gingrich "would go over the head of his audience."

No such concerns when Gingrich appears at the Chamber’s 19th Annual Awards Dinner on November 6, two days after the election. He will provide an early, in-depth look at where our country is headed — a message you won’t want to miss.

For now, check out the "prizes" Gingrich would offer with the $10 billion.

Luntz: A Little Rest, a Lot of Energy

Frank Luntz was getting ready to speak to the Indiana Chamber board of directors as part of that group’s spring meeting. I had just finished a 40-minute interview (see the BizVoice magazine story) when the political and communications guru said he needed to take it easy for a little bit.

Before closing his eyes, he assured me his constantly buzzing PDA wouldn’t let him rest for long and that he’d be ready for his nearly two hours with the board. OK, he had just told me about some of his many recent travels. He was in Indianapolis that morning (he has an ongoing relationship with the Pacers, precipitated by work he did for the Simons and their shopping mall empire) before coming down to French Lick. And, to be honest, he looked like long hours were the norm rather than the exception.

Ten uncomfortable (at least on my part) minutes later, I said it’s time to go — and, as promised, he was ready. Board members were treated to a powerful and interactive session in which Luntz shared strong messages on politics, communicating effectively and more. It’s based on his book,  "Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear."

You will see and hear plenty of Luntz as the November elections approach. Read more today in BizVoice.