Republican pollster Frank Luntz is one of America's most creative and controversial political strategists. His comments at the Republican Governors Association in Florida this week added to that reputation.
Luntz told the governors that GOP politicians are making some big mistakes in discussing the issues in the runup to the 2012 election.
He said that if that the campaign is framed as a contest over who will protect the middle class, "Democrats will win."
Luntz had many prescriptions for Republicans to improve their prospects. He said they should talk about "free enterprise" rather than "capitalism," which isn't as positive a word in the minds of voters. And he said it's unwise to say the government "taxes the rich"; better to tell Americans that government "takes from the rich."
Luntz said, "If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," which President Obama favors, voters think that's a good idea, but "if you talk about government taking the money from hard-working Americans, the public says no."
Luntz's point was that the public is skeptical that the GOP really wants to defend the "middle class." He is urging his party to talk instead about defending "hard-working taxpayers," language which he said Republicans can use with more credibility.
This may seem like minor tinkering with wordplay, and in a way it is. But Luntz is correct to point out that language is crucial in politics. He argues that the Republicans need to improve their narrative if they are to capitalize on the weakness of President Obama and the Democrats in the 2012 election.