Republican Focus Group Debate Watching

I was on Fox News last night ever so briefly as part of a focus group of republican voters.

I signed a confidentiality agreement, so there are certain things I cannot say for ethical and legal reasons. However, after participating in a focus group, I can honestly say that I could have gotten a better feel for the debate watching it at home on television.

As you see on television, each member of the focus group is given a dial. The more they like or dislike what they hear, the higher or lower they turn the dial.

I was a Rudy Giuliani supporter backing John McCain, but I wanted to hear them to see how committed I was.

There were a few celebrities there for reasons I still do not understand. John Cleese of “Monty Python” fame was a very pleasant individual. “Entertainment Tonight” star Mary Hart was in attendance. I have always thought of her as a lightweight because of what she covers, but she is actually very intelligent, and a hard news junkie. I gained a new appreciation for her. Steven Weber and Joe Daly from “Wings” were there. Again, I can only shrug.

Pollster Frank Luntz conducted this affair. He did not come across as a very nice guy. He was abrupt with people, and was very tightly wound, as if his career would crash if one of the voters misspoke. To be fair to him, he might have been the most stressed guy in the room. I hope that his demeanor when the pressure is not on is that of a more likable guy.

One thing that he did zealously tried to guard was the integrity of the process. Yet some of the questions we were asked were vague. I was asked if I was a conservative or a moderate conservative. Because I am moderate on social issues, others would consider me a moderate conservative. However, I am hard right on economics and foreign policy, and resent being labeled a “moderate” by others. So I labeled myself as a conservative, which is truthful to me, but perhaps not to pollsters with other criteria.

As for the process, we were there for 3 hours, knowing that the entire segment that would actually be shown on television would be about 6 minutes. That would have been enough time to show comments from most if not all of the 30 voters. Instead, about a minute was given to John Cleese to discuss British politics. Another minute was spent on a Ron Paul supporter, even though there were only two of them in the whole group. This was a disproportionate amount of time that was spent on somebody that well over 90% of the group had no interest in.

So while people who know me recognized me on television, what I actually said was edited out. The only reason this irks me is because the question that was asked by Mr. Luntz about the low quality of the questions CNN asked was brought up by me.

As for doing the recap of the debate while I was there, it was impossible to type and work the dial machine. Yet it is for another reason that this debate recap will be more a synopsis.

The debate was dreadful. The best candidate, Rudy Giuliani, was not on the stage, having dropped out earlier. Ron Paul continued to suck up airtime with pointless rants. Mike Huckabee continued to be funny, likable, and unelectable. A debate between Mitt Romney and John McCain only would have been better.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper may not be a liberal partisan shill, but he most likely is one. He asked questions designed to encourage republican fratricide, with several questions designed to try and get the candidates to criticize President Bush. Legitimate analysis is not the same as cheap shots, and this was a debate of cheap shots.

McCain and Romney hacked each other to pieces, to the delight of CNN and other liberals everywhere. This is where the ethics of rating the debate were key.

I had to judge the candidates by how I liked their individual responses, not by how I liked them personally. For instance, Ron Paul did cause me to turn the dial near zero on a couple of occasions, but when he had a rare moment of sanity, talking about economics, I did rate those remarks highly. Conversely, the McCain-Romney argument over the difference between the phrase “timetable for withdrawal” had me rank both of them low.

McCain insisted that Romney wanted a timetable for withdrawal. Romney insisted that he did not. Those who agreed with McCain thought that Romney was being weaselly and evasive. Romney supporters thought McCain was hitting below the belt and taking the remarks out of context.

Mike Huckabee had many one liners that had the crowd laughing. He is incredibly likable. John McCain had some good one liners in the first half of the debate, but this was marred by his second half spat with Romney.

The main problems were the questions themselves. There was nothing about Iran or North Korea, and virtually nothing about Iraq or the overall War on Terror. The candidates were asked who Ronald Reagan were vote for if he were alive today.

I can only imagine that the democratic debate will be worse. Does anybody think the moderators will pass up the chance to ask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama about the controversy over whether he snubbed her by refusing to shake her hand at the State of the Union? I mean who cares about Al Queda when we have “snubgate?”

I can sum it up quickly. Yes, Obama deliberately snubbed her. He lied by saying he did not do so. Hillary is a phony by talking about her outstretched hand of graciousness. She is the least gracious woman on the planet, continuing to stare angrily with her arms folded as President Bush spoke. He is aloof, and she is nasty. She is unlikable, and he dislikes her.

This has nothing to do with policy or governing. It is nonsense.

The focus group had the potential for substance, but by reducing everything to 30 second sound bites, all it did was come across as shallow.

Bad questions by bad moderators led to bad answers. The focus group never had a chance.

One clip that I am thrilled was not aired was when each person was asked to say something to Sean Hannity. I cheerfully said, “Mr. Hannity, I met you at the 9/11 Freedom Concert. I think you’re fabulous, and I look forward to seeing you next 9/11.”

A reasonable person would assume that I meant that I wanted to see him at the next Freedom Concert to be held on 9/11 of 2008. A person wanting to manipulate that comment could make it sound that I was cheerfully hoping for the next 9/11 itself. A couple people thought the worst, but most of the group understood what I meant.

This is our world. Good people are packaged into tiny boxes with no air holes to breathe. Journalists gather like jackals waiting for a gaffe.

Most of the voters in this country are not imbeciles, but they are packaged as tightly as the candidates. The result of this is that the candidates never truly get to hear what voters want, and the voters rarely ever get to address these unknown concerns.

At least I was paid for my time, and the sandwiches they gave us were good.

On style, Mike Huckabee won the debate.

On substance, the entire process lost.


10 Responses to “Republican Focus Group Debate Watching”

  1. Jersey McJones says:

    “Bad questions by bad moderators led to bad answers. The focus group never had a chance.”

    With that sleazoid Luntz running the affair, I’d say it doubly never had a chance.


  2. AL says:

    Eric, You nailed it. The “did too, did not” spat by McRomney was painful, as were the questions. A lot of people were “in the trenches” during the past several years trying to get certain legislation passed in Washington, as both Huckabee and Romney were “in the trenches” while governing their states…it’s sad that we are reminded daily that someone was literally there…and I’m sorry I can’t get off that soap box. I was leaning toward McCain until this debate – I’m tired of the “say it enough times makes it true” games we’ve been playing by the press and politicians on both sides. I’m going with style until he gets eliminated…

    I watched Fox News for a while after the debates, but I didn’t know what I was looking for and missed you.

  3. Jersey McJones says:

    Oh God, yeah, that little spat between McCain and Romney was just aweful. Like a pre-schoolyard fight.


  4. GrannyT says:

    The majority of Americans have not voiced our voices by voting. It is NOT a 2 man race. Mike Huckabee is NOT unelectable. He was elected several times and left office with a majority approval rating in a highly Democrat state. His approval among Republicans was 71%.

    Romney was only elected once and could not have been re-elected because his approval rating when he left was horrible. Visit to see an example of things to come; proving how unelectable Romney is. He is NO conservative. A vote for Romney is a vote for McCain.

    If you want a TRUE consistent electable candidate, vote for Mike Huckabee.

  5. micky2 says:

    Granny, how much were you paid to post that ?

  6. Woody says:

    Eric – Your post is about the best analysis of the debate I have read. The childish bickering between McCain and Romney on timetables was anything but executive calibre. Huckabee has never been high on my list, but he was certainly the most easy to listen to last nite. He made the most sense in that moment. Even Ron Paul tweaked my approval when he called the McCain/Romney spat for being so irrelevant to the issues that they should be talking about. As a lifelong fiscal and social conservative, I am concerned for our Republican party. It is starting to feel like we have lost our way. I am a disappointed old guy (77) so it is easy to fall into the “younger generation has gone to pot” syndrome, but I tell you, after the legacy of debt being left by Bush, and what is going on in these debates, I am really worried this time.

  7. Brian says:

    I feel fortunate for not having responded to the email I was sent to perhaps join the focus group…furthermore…CNN has lost all credibility when it comes to these debates anyway…

  8. Jay says:

    WIth an achingly liberal lMSM running the debate process, it turned out sort of like one would expect it would, with the leading GOP candidates bitch-slapping each other. It’s going to be awful difficult to engender party loyalty after the GOP convention, but it would seem like the Dhimmicrats are even worse off.

    Another election leaving me pondering about what candidate to vote against…

  9. blogmasterpg says:

    Hi, my friend. As You know, I’m Italian, but the election of U.S. Predsident is important also for my country. U.S. is a big nation and has lot responsabilities in all the world. Only in My country there are3-4 (american, of course) militay-jet aerports: one in Sicily and one, the bigger in north-east builded when Urss was a problem for europe, ; Naval Base (Neaples) and 1 submarine base (Sardinia). Italy coniderated for (Thruman?) as a “Natural aircraft carrier” andtha’t exatly. 2,000 Year ago Roman’s Impere called the sea aroud Italy “Mare Nostrum” that means “Our’s sea” and in fact, now, it calls “Mediterraneo” that in Italian language is translate of latin “Mare nostrum”. OD; for return to Presidential of that year I think that “The match” is not ended. The new candidate of republican partie ( I never remember his name) is a good person. It’s not a Republican as reagan or Bush but I love it very musch and in my country is appreciate. Obama? Obama at Whita house is a dream for America freedom and rights. but if he will not a win is the same thing for the american’s minds. To have possibility Obama will be the President of United States of America means in your country there is a true democracy, not as in italy. Corruptions, mafia that change and doesn’t shoot mre, transforming on business or political men. We have big problems, but if someone help us i think we can resolve. I open a new blog: is a little thing, but the only possibility to change is an help of European’s nations (and usa) can give us. Most itlian’ people are good persons, but ‘mafie’ are very strong: south regions are very invaded from it; local goverment now also in central regions are warning. Most part of politics in all italy makes the same thing of mafia (without shoot, of course). Now if a man disturb noone kill him: there is another kind of die: the civil die. Displacement , mass-media massacre ( the most important mass-media controlled by politic) , as a social delete. Scuse me for my words, but i hope someone can understand what going on my country (and sorry for my bad english language)..

  10. micky2 says:

    The mafia pretty much runs if not also influences your government ?
    Thats insane. I’m sure they have in stuck there nose in quite a few areas. But I had no idea it was so widespread.
    Be carefull what you write frotello. It almost sounds dangerous.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.