WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Republican strategist Frank Luntz came down hard on Donald Trump’s Republican presidential debate performance, calling it a “destruction of a candidacy.”
The CBS News contributor explained to “CBS This Morning” why Trump did not do well with the post-debate focus group he conducted.
“What do you say when you won’t guarantee to support the Republican nominee, when you call women some pretty horrific names, when you insult the moderator of the debate, when you don’t answer questions specifically, when you can’t even explain why you even went bankrupt. I have to tell you, this was an amazing debate performance. Not amazing because it was effective, amazing because I saw the destruction of a presidential campaign over those two hours. It really was remarkable,” Luntz said Friday.
Luntz was referring to Trump’s interaction with Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly when she asked Trump about his calling “women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'”
Trump didn’t deny it. And when Kelly was undeterred by his attempt to laugh off her question with a joke about comedian Rosie O’Donnell, he fired back.
“I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” Trump said. “And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Trump didn’t care for Kelly’s questions or his poor performance in Luntz’s focus group. The billionaire went on a Twitter rant following the debate by saying Kelly “bombed” and calling Luntz “a clown.”
“I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never been called a clown and those focus groups are accurate,” Luntz responded on “CBS This Morning.”
Luntz thought this debate would propel Trump even more in the national polls.
“I thought that Trump had the capability – because of his presentation, because of his persona – to take it up to 30, 35 percent. I saw this with Ross Perot and Trump has many of the similar characteristics,” he said. “Now make no mistake, his popularity may even go up slightly, but the negativity around him — because in the end you still have to be liked by a majority of Republicans to get the nomination – what I saw yesterday was the beginning of hostility that I haven’t seen toward a presidential candidate. Trump was the number one person walking into that debate. Almost all of his supporters abandoned him because of what he said.”
Luntz added that Trump’s language was not what Republican voters wanted to hear.
“As a person he’s fun to be around. As a businessman our group unanimously said that they would hire him to run a business if they owned one,” he said. “But when you’re talking about a Republican presidential nomination, when these people want to defeat Hillary Clinton, that’s not the language, that’s not the strategy, that’s just not what they want to hear.”
Thursday’s affair was the first of only six Republican debates before voting begins next February, a sharp reduction in the number of face-to-face meetings from 2012. And with fewer debates, there are fewer opportunities for candidate to make their mark.
Yet no candidate will leave the race after this first clash. With money flowing freely to the outside groups known as super PACs, almost everyone in the race is backed by the money needed to spend on infrastructure and advertising that will shape — and reshape — voter’s attitudes in the coming months.
That includes even the self-funded Trump, who may stick around longer than some people in the party may prefer. Republican strategist Liz Mair said the debate “has done Trump a tremendous disservice for exposing him for exactly what he is — a philosophically ungrounded, unappealing entertainer.”
The former reality television star doesn’t much seem to mind.
“I don’t think they like me very much,” he said of the debate audience. With a shrug.
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