Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the latest Republican debate because of his consistency and ability to credibly answer questions, according to the vast majority of members of a focus group assembled by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. This was the second debate in a row where a Luntz group backed Gingrich — the first last month in Las Vegas.
The group members also said in a segment broadcast on Fox News’ Sean Hannity show Thursday they would be comfortable with Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee.
Luntz asked the group whether Gingrich was too confrontational in Wednesday’s CNBC-sponsored debate and if he came on too strong — both accusations that have followed the former speaker throughout the string of candidate forums. Most said Gingrich’s style served him well.
“I think [for] some of the independent swing voters [Gingrich] might be a little strong,” one participant said. “I hope they listen to what he says as opposed to how he acts.”
Another man in the audience agreed: “I thought he brought passion to the conversation and an absolute command of the issues — he knows what he’s talking about — the rest are all about sound bites.”
Several in the focus group said they were pleased when Gingrich attacked the media over the substance of their questions. “I want him to take on President Obama like he took on the media,” one woman said.
“That’s what I was excited about — to seeing him debate President Obama — and if he can do that the way he did tonight, he’s going to do very well,” another woman said. “He literally had every answer to every question, through his history.”
Luntz asked why Gingrich wasn’t doing better in the national presidential polls.
“He is improving in the polls — I think people are just now revisiting him. We are through the part about all Rick Perry is the star of the day, — Romney is the star of the day — Herman Cain is the star of the day,” one woman said. “Now, we are looking for somebody who can, Number One, debate Barack Obama, who’s got a knowledge of what needs to be done — and I think, really, he knows where the skeletons are in Washington — and that might be a plus as well.”
Luntz then asked the group who took second place in the debate; the overwhelming choice was Romney, with comments centering on the presidential stature of the former Massachusetts governor — though some conceded although they would support him if he was the nominee, they might do so with some trepidation.
“I care about the economy — and his tax plan will lower the rates and it will be fast enough and not too dramatic where it might shock the system,” one man said.
“This was an economic debate and that’s where Romney is the strongest,” a woman said.
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