Pollster Frank Luntz says former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty performed poorly in Thursday’s Iowa GOP presidential debate when he launched weak salvos in a back-and-forth squabble with fellow Minnesotan Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Luntz also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney looked the most presidential of the eight participating candidates, and Newt Gingrich hit a populist vein by taking on the mainstream media.
Both Luntz and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said Romney and Gingrich came out on top in the two-hour debate, with Romney increasing his front-runner position and Michele Bachmann still right behind.
“I thought that Newt Gingrich won the battle, I think Mitt Romney won the war, I think Tim Pawlenty had the funniest line of the evening — but his battle back and forth between him and Michele Bachmann hurt him, challenged him,” said Luntz, a Fox News contributor. “Some of the language tonight was very powerful — when Mitt Romney gave seven specific ideas — that’s what the Republican electorate is looking for.”
Gingrich “took on the media tonight, which is something that everyone watching this debate said: ‘Hooray, go for it,’” Luntz said. “I was in the room for the first two-thirds of it — that got the greatest applause of any line this evening — he also took on that super commission, the super committee in Congress.
“Newt was the attack dog — and he did it in a way that the public would have said: ‘Go for it,’” Luntz continued. “But Mitt Romney sounded presidential — no one laid a glove on him — the challenges on him were not significant.”
Luntz also said Pawlenty was not “effective” in his back and forth with Bachmann, and “in the room itself, she held her ground by standing for principle, and he looked more like he was just attacking for politics.”
Hannity asked Luntz whether Pawlenty came off as desperate.
“It comes off as someone who isn’t focused, it comes off as someone who really should have prepared much better for this debate, as someone who just dials — that language is not effective,” Luntz said.
Trippi also said Gingrich did well and he was surprised at the former House speaker’s ferocity of attack on the debate’s moderators.
“He came in — he wanted to take that attack on the press, he was looking for it,” Trippi said. “It was a choreographed moment, and Newt had plenty of them. And he did it in a way that I think really helped him.”
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