Conservative pollster Frank Luntz sat down with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric Wednesday and explained why he thinks Donald Trump’s presidential bid is “the worst campaign that I have ever seen in my professional life.”
Perhaps best known as the wordsmith behind many Republican talking points, Luntz had quite a few zingers about Trump, including one about the GOP nominee’s sometimes stilted delivery of prepared speeches.
“Stevie Wonder reads a teleprompter better than Donald Trump,” he jested.
He also suggested that Trump’s campaign should do whatever it takes to keep its candidate away from his hyper-aggressive Twitter account. “Break his fingers, take the iPhone away,” he joked.
But Luntz also offered some serious analysis on why Trump’s campaign was such an unexpected success in the primaries and where, he thinks, the candidate has since gone wrong.
When Luntz’s focus-group participants are asked what they think is wrong with the country, he said they always have an answer, and it’s usually a “very deep, very emotional, very personal” one. “Often, we’ll have women and men almost in tears” when talking about issues like the depletion of manufacturing jobs and unemployment in general, their feelings of a lost sense of security or their concerns about police.”
“Trump spoke to those people,” he said. “This candidate tapped into something unique [but] has absolutely lost his focus.”
The problem with Trump’s campaign, Luntz argued, “is that it’s become too much about him and not about the people he represents.”
Indeed, Luntz has been on the receiving end of Trump’s scorn when criticizing the real estate mogul’s campaign.
.@FrankLuntz, your so-called "focus groups" are a total joke. Don't come to my office looking for business again. You are a clown!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2015
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2016
In his Wednesday interview with Yahoo News, Luntz said the turning point in Trump’s campaign came in the aftermath of both party’s national conventions this July. Luntz pointed to Trump’s attacks on the Khans, the Gold Star parents of a slain Muslim American soldier who spoke out against Trump’s anti-Muslim policy proposals at the Democratic convention. He also cited Trump’s suggestion that “Second Amendment people” could prevent Clinton from taking their gun rights away.
Since then, Luntz said, Trump has proceeded to alienate the people who helped him get the nomination by spending time attacking the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, decades-old allegations against former President Bill Clinton and the opening of his new hotel in Washington, D.C.
“Every day there’s another batch of emails, and every day we learn more about what she has done,” Luntz said. “No one knows about it because he speaks so loudly that all the cameras are on him, removing the oxygen in the room that should also be about her,” he added.
“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear,” he said. “It’s not how loudly you speak — and he speaks way too loudly — but what people learn from what you say. And people don’t learn anything from Donald Trump.”
To test this theory, Luntz said he recently presented news reports on Clinton’s emails to a focus group, “and it changed an entire room of undecided voters.” But once he showed the group Trump’s own attacks against Clinton over her emails, Luntz said, “They all went back to being undecided.”
He added, “Not only did he not win them over, he actually turned them off because his language is wrong, his presentation is wrong.”
Despite regularly promising to surround himself with the best possible advisers to make up for his own lack of policy knowledge, Luntz said he thinks the people closest to Trump are ultimately to blame for his campaign’s downward spiral.
“There are states where there is not a single Trump headquarters,” Luntz said. “He spent more money on hats than he did on survey research, than he did on understanding voters.”
Luntz also said he was grateful not to have been involved with the candidate’s White House bid.
“This is a campaign that is an absolute joke,” he said.