Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “positive attitude” made him the clear winner in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, according to participants in a focus group conducted after the often contentious forum by pollster Frank Luntz. Only three people supported Gingrich when the debate began, but a large number in the crowd raised their hands when Luntz asked who supported him after it ended.
“He spoke to me and told me that we welcome everybody — everyone has an equal chance in this country,” a Vietnamese immigrant in the Las Vegas crowd said. “You know, my family — we came here from Vietnam as boat people — we came here to America, poor. My dad — he spoke to me and told me that: yes, you can work hard, get an education and be successful. And it's OK — And I support that.”
The focus group was broadcast Wednesday on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. Luntz asked the participants what changed the minds of so many people in the audience.
“He’s the only person in there I think that can run this country and make America again like the Reagan years — and he is so positive,” one participant said. “He’s the smartest man on there — and I say to all the Republicans: Give Newt a chance.”
A woman said that Gingrich’s comments in the CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate came naturally.
“He’s so natural with what he says — he’s not polished, it is not something he has rehearsed in his mind a hundred times,” she said. “It’s what he believes and it comes out so clearly and honestly and witty that you believe what he says.”
Luntz then asked about the dynamic between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, which often deteriorated into a shouting match, with one presidential hopeful talking over the other.
“Well, number one, they continued to fight,” a woman replied. “And it’s almost as if two cats or two dogs are going after each other.”
Many in the group felt Romney got the better of the scrap:
“He didn’t bring himself down to Rick Perry's level.”
“He kept his composure; Rick Perry's face got distorted.”
“Rick Perry was totally negative.”
“He knows he is losing these debates and he wanted to look good so he went on the attack.”
“I wanted to see Rick Perry come out and be a little stronger against Mitt Romney, but he went about it the whole entire wrong way.”
“I don't think he could hack it in the general election. He just didn't look presidential. And it's been that way in the past few debates.”
The group had only positive things to say about businessman Herman Cain, despite Luntz noted that he is the only person in the debate who has not held public office and times are tough in the nation.
“He’s been a CEO for a company for years and years and years,” one woman said. “He always had to have the vote of his board of directors as well as his employees, in order to maintain his position as CEO.”
“He’s got a very specific plan and it's very simple — and he’s able to talk about it,” a man said. “And I haven’t heard the other people — they talk about the 52-point plan and this plan and that plan. He’s the guy that's come out and said: This is what I am going to do.”
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