Frank Luntz Plays Favorites With Marco Rubio

The GOP focus-group leader made big bucks building the candidate’s image in Florida a decade ago

Republican pollster Frank Luntz stacked the deck for Rubio in the Iowa focus group.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
S.V. Dáte
Add to Briefcase
S.V. Dáte
Feb. 4, 2016, 8 p.m.

Polit­ic­al junkies who fol­low Re­pub­lic­an mes­saging guru Frank Luntz know how he felt that Marco Ru­bio per­formed in the most re­cent GOP pres­id­en­tial de­bate—his tele­vised fo­cus group, his Twit­ter stream, and his in­ter­views left no doubt that he’s a Ru­bio fan.

What they prob­ably don’t know about is Luntz’s close re­la­tion­ship with Ru­bio over the years, and how Ru­bio paid Luntz’s firm a third of a mil­lion dol­lars to pro­duce and pro­mote a book that Ru­bio used to im­prove his statewide name re­cog­ni­tion in Flor­ida a dec­ade ago.

It’s not clear wheth­er Fox News was aware of that his­tory when it broad­cast Luntz quizz­ing fo­cus-group mem­bers fol­low­ing the de­bate, eli­cit­ing re­sponses such as “con­fid­ent,” “elo­quent,” elect­able,” and “pres­id­en­tial.” (But not fol­low­ing up with one dis­sid­ent who called Ru­bio an “at­tract­ive op­por­tun­ist.”)

Fox did not re­spond to a Na­tion­al Journ­al query. Nor did Luntz, a pop­u­lar con­sult­ant in Re­pub­lic­an circles whose cli­ents, ac­cord­ing to Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­cords, have in­cluded House Speak­er Paul Ry­an, Rep. Tom Price of Geor­gia, and the Amer­ic­an Cross­roads su­per PAC in re­cent years.

Between May 2005 and Au­gust 2007, when Ru­bio was first speak­er-des­ig­nate and then speak­er of the House, the Re­pub­lic­an Party of Flor­ida paid Luntz’s con­sult­ing com­pan­ies a total of $345,451, ac­cord­ing to Flor­ida Di­vi­sion of Elec­tions fil­ings. That was the peri­od when Luntz helped Ru­bio pro­duce his “100 In­nov­at­ive Ideas” pro­ject, which in­cluded a book of policy pro­pos­als that Ru­bio pushed dur­ing his two years in charge of the state House.

(Iron­ic­ally, one of the ideas that Ru­bio suc­cess­fully im­ple­men­ted was mov­ing the Flor­ida pres­id­en­tial primary in­to late Janu­ary in 2008, which forced Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and South Car­o­lina to move their con­tests even earli­er. Luntz de­fen­ded the pro­pos­al in a 2006 St. Peters­burg Times art­icle: “You could po­ten­tially have someone who by­passes Iowa and New Hamp­shire and fo­cuses on Flor­ida.”)

In 2007, Luntz praised Ru­bio’s 100 Ideas pro­ject in a Wash­ing­ton Post op-ed, writ­ing that it brought for­ward “the prin­ciples of good gov­ern­ment and polit­ic­al ac­count­ab­il­ity.” That art­icle also failed to men­tion his role in the book’s pro­duc­tion and pro­mo­tion—a pro­ject that boos­ted Ru­bio’s name around the state, lay­ing the ground­work for his suc­cess­ful U.S. Sen­ate run in 2010.

Mike Fas­ano, a Re­pub­lic­an who served with Ru­bio in the state le­gis­lature, said he was aware that the party had paid for Luntz’s work, but had not known how much. “Oh, my Lord. I’m in the wrong busi­ness,” said Fas­ano, now the elec­ted tax col­lect­or of Pasco County. “When you have a guy like Frank who col­lects a pro-Marco group, of course they’re go­ing to say that Marco won.”

Luntz’s praise began not long after the de­bate began last Thursday. Just 12 minutes in, Luntz de­clared in a tweet: “Ex­cel­lent start for him to­night.” Halfway through, at 9:51 pm, Luntz tweeted: “This is @Mar­coR­u­bio’s best de­bate so far. He’s mak­ing people switch over to him.”

Of Luntz’s 29 tweets dur­ing the de­bate, eight com­pli­men­ted Ru­bio. A ninth offered Ru­bio some ad­vice: “SLOW DOWN! You’ve got great words, but you’re say­ing them too fast.”

Luntz’s glow­ing as­sess­ment did not square with many oth­ers who watched the de­bate, in­clud­ing Fox’s own Charles Krau­tham­mer, who in post-de­bate ana­lys­is said Ru­bio had “his rock­i­est night” of all the de­bates thus far.

In ad­di­tion to the mil­lions of Fox view­ers who saw Luntz and his group im­me­di­ately after the de­bate, Ru­bio’s win­ning im­pres­sion with the group was widely re­por­ted by oth­er me­dia, in­clud­ing CNN, Busi­ness In­sider, and The Dal­las Morn­ing News.

What We're Following See More »
"UNLESS THE MIRACLE OF ALL MIRACLES HAPPENS"
Trump Acknowledges Khashoggi Is Dead
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump said that "unless the miracle of all miracles happens," that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. Trump "expressed confidence in intelligence reports from multiple sources that strongly suggest a high-level Saudi role in Mr. Khashoggi’s assassination. [He] stopped short of saying the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death."

Source:
ALLEGED ABUSE GOES BACK SEVEN DECADES
DOJ Opens Probe Against Catholic Church in Pennsylvania
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation of child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, using subpoenas to demand confidential files and testimony from church leaders, according to two people familiar with the probe. The subpoenas, served last week, follow a scathing state grand jury report over the summer that found that 301 'predator priests' in Pennsylvania had molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades and that church leaders had covered up for the offenders."

Source:
REVERSED DECISION TO RELOCATED BUREAU
Trump Interfered in FBI Headquarters Decision
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAYS HE CONSULTED WITH POMPEO, POTUS
Mnuchin to Skip Saudi Investment Conference
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
AND CALL MILITARY TO STOP "CARAVANS" OF MIGRANTS
Trump Threatens to Close Southern Border
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login