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 »
"The Justice Department inspector general referred its finding that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators who were examining a media disclosure to the top federal prosecutor in D.C. to determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime." The referral occurred "after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his own boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath." The referral does "not necessarily mean McCabe will be charge with a crime ... although the report alleged that one of McCabe’s lies 'was done knowingly and intentionally.'"
A federal appeals court in Chicago "upheld a nationwide injunction against making federal grant funding contingent on cooperation with immigration enforcement." The three Republican appointees ruled that the Trump administration "exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the new conditions without approval from Congress ... One judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, Reagan appointee Daniel Manion, said he would narrow the injunction solely to protect Chicago. However, the two other judges assigned to the case said the nationwide injunction appeared to be justified."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley "decided Thursday to delay markup" on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller until next week. But he remains steadfast in his support for a committee vote, despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "pledge to kill it" if it gets to the floor.
"The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is poised to subpoena the Justice Department for former FBI Director James Comey’s memos, which the agency so far has failed to produce. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., warned such a move puts Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in jeopardy of being placed in contempt of Congress and the special counsel investigation of being shut down prematurely."