08 February 2011

Words that Work with Hawkeyes

Frank Luntz ran a focus group of 24 prospective Iowa Republican Caucus goers in which he showed the group over an hour of political video while scientifically monitoring their responses.  For most mere mortals, such an experience might be as traumatic as the brainwashing scene from “A Clockwork Orange”.  However, this focus group consisted of Hawkeyes, who lives revolve around the quadrennial hobby of spending three hours on a cold and snowy January evening arguing with their neighbors as to who should be President.

My suspicions are that a strong percentage of Iowa GOP caucus goers have some strains of evangelical influence.  After all, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) came out of nowhere to win the Iowa Caucuses in 2008.  So I figured that Huckabee boosterism would still be strong, but that such support could transfer to spiritually talking favorite son like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).

Luntz asked the group several times to declare in unison who they would support.  I thought that I heard several cries of Huckabee in the cacophony.

But what really surprised me was the results of the intensity meter.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th ) offered a taste of his hardball opposition to Obamacare combined with a succinct and  confident free market solution to growing the economy and his favorables seemingly went off the charts.  This focus group also had very favorable reactions to responses made by Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN 6th ).

Until more candidates throw their hats into the ring and policy positions get hardened, I am listening electively to the primary process.  Even though it should not, this movement really surprises me.  Iowans stereotypically are known as being plain talkers.  I have been more influenced by Iowan Caucus voters affirmation of religious candidates, as they have vaulted the candidacies of President Jimmy Carter (1976), Pat Robertson (1988) and Mike Huckabee (2008) et ali.

Luntz wrote a book instructing politicians on Words That Work.  This focus group is showing that while the evangelical right may want to be heard during this primary campaign, they will eventually throw their support to a candidate who offers a plain talking spirited defense of bedrock Republican issues of free market capitalism and small government.

I suspect that the mealy mouthed insider-speak of Between the Beltways of the Republican Establishment will not cut it this cycle. Go along to get along neither works at an Iowa Church Social nor as acceptable Tea Party chatter.

Now Newt is a known commodity due to his prominence as Speaker of the House, being a Fox News commentator and for having a messy prior personal life.  This Hawkeye focus group did not hold the negatives against him when Newt is talking the talk.  The same is true of Rep. Bachmann, who has been pilloried by the Lamestream Media as being an airhead for her Tea Party State of the Union.  So the warm fuzzy Hope and Change rhetoric will not sell with the GOP electorate and these voters want to rally around the flag if they risk perishing in the general election fight.

Personally, I thought that Gingrich might play the primary game to influence the debate and increase his future professional prominence.  This focus group is causing me to rethink the political viability of his candidacy.

The background Huckabee support makes me wonder what will happen if he decides to stay on his Saturday night gig on Fox News.  To whom would these evangelically convicted voters gravitate. Maybe they might be reeled in by the Sarahcuda?

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