Frank Luntz Focus Group

Friday, September 11, 2020 - Frank Luntz hosts a focus group to test people's opinions, hear new ideas, and learn about what people are thinking heading into November.

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Frank Luntz is an American political and communications consultant, pollster, and pundit. His focus groups on cable TV have always given a voice to individuals drowned out by loud opinions and polls.
Frank Luntz is an American political and communications consultant, pollster, and pundit. His focus groups on cable TV have always given a voice to individuals drowned out by loud opinions and polls.

Frank Luntz is an American political and communications consultant, pollster, and pundit. His focus groups often highlight the ways in which small changes in language make a big difference in how the public perceives policy and politicians. Today, he turns his Focus Group questions onto a group of No Labels supporters, polling their views on key political, social and economic questions.

Frank Luntz hits the ground running by asking the No Labels group whether they believe this presidential election is the worst this country has seen. Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes. He then goes on to ask whether those assembled would support a “Clean Campaign Pledge” on the Presidential or Senate level. The responses given are mixed, but the majority of responses seem to be pessimistic about the candidates’ abilities or willingness to abide by a pledge even if it is promised.  

Go to NoLabels.org to learn more about how we are bringing together a bipartisan group of public and private leaders working to solve America’s toughest problems.

In this Episode

Opening Remarks

Rob:
Great. Well, I want to welcome as always all of our great no new labels supporters around the country. We're thrilled today to have Frank Luntz with us, probably America's most influential communications professional who's done an enormous amount of work in both the Fortune 500 world and the political world. He plays in an incredibly important area of the intersection of politics. Frank is going to ask us some questions today and effectively run a focus group with us, but you tell us, Frank, what's the best way for us to participate in the Q&A with you.

Frank Luntz:
So the best way to do this, because I can't see everyone on a screen. So you're going to have to be respectful of each other, but this is a chance to understand why you've made this commitment, what you want from this, what you want from American politics. I don't have to Google so many of you, like this is the most significant growth, I'm absolutely blown away. I could see the list before, but now that I see you all, I'm so impressed that you have devoted this time and this effort to make a difference and to try to bring people together. I know there are major Democrats on here, there may be Republicans on but first and foremost, we're Americans.

So my preference is to be able to... and I want to do the first polling question, because I want to put this out to you at the very beginning. We're going to take an hour and I'm going to be asking you a lot of questions. Do better than I'm doing right now, get to the point in the answers because I want to involve as many of you as possible. So whoever's responsible for this, I submitted three questions earlier and Liz, I think you've got it. So let's do the first question. Some of you like Frank Baxter have been around for a long time, and Peter Kelly. So I'm going to do everything in a Noah's Ark theory of politics.

Is this the worst presidential election of all time for you? Yes or no. As that populates and I'm looking at the results. Wow, that's pretty bad. So we've really got three times as many people who say yes than no. Please tell me what it is. We got 121 people here, 96 of them have voted. I want to know why? What is so bad? Only for those of you who say this is the worst presidential election of all time. I want to know specifically what bothers you. What we're going to do is we're going to keep each question up for one minute. Then I'm going to pull it.

Why is this the worst presidential election of your lifetime?

Frank Luntz:
So 75% of you say this is the worst presidential election of your lifetime. Let's pull the question down. I want to know what it is that bothers you so much about this election and just jump. I see Mack McLarty there and Mack, and I've had this conversation. By the way, Mack, this is a Zoom call. You do not have to win wear a starch, shirt and tie. I want everyone to look at how he's dressed. It's supposed to look like Fred Zeidman. You're supposed to look casual like you're just coming from a hospital. Mack, you're over dressed.

Mack:
Frank, I'm not. I had to talk to my banker today and borrow money and I thought I better look formally, business like.

Frank Luntz:
I have never seen you like this. When you take a shower, it's in a three piece suit, when you go to the [inaudible 00:04:05] I know you have a tie on. Let me hear from you all and let's do 30 seconds responses from four of you. Why is this the worst presidential election of your lifetime. Please jump in. I actually want to hear it. So Richard Davis, you're telling me on the chat room. I want to hear you speak first. So who's wants to answer first? Who wants to answer first?

Responder 1:
I do. Am I muted or no?

Frank Luntz:
Go ahead Fred. Fred you're up first, and then Richard Davis. If people want to respond just put your name in the chat and we'll call on you.

Responder 1:
I wore a tie every day from the day I was 18 until the Corona virus. So I'm enjoying having a neck for the first time in 65 years. Frank, you know how deeply I have been involved in, well, at least the last five or six presidential elections. There has been virtually no discussion anywhere on the things that are most important to the future of America in any of this election so far. It has all been personal, no one is addressing for lack of a better word, American exceptionalism, what has made our country great.

It is really gotten down into mud wrestling so far and I don't know that that's going to stop and there's been no discussion of great ideas and how we move this company forward. I realize times are a little different with some of the Black Lives Matter stuff and with the virus, but that's why this is the worst. We're all in this-

Frank Luntz:
Thanks Fred, I'm going to try to keep it to seconds. Let's go to Richard Davis.

Mack:
By the way, Rob, this is great. So you're the jerk and I can be the good guy.

Responder 1:
Everyone one has to play their part Frank.

Rob:
Richard?

Responder 2:
Can you hear me?

Frank Luntz:
Yes, Richard go ahead.

Responder 2:
Two things. One, I actually think one candidate has put out programs. That's fine, but I think it's the worst because it's a crisis for our democracy and the notion of even the slimmest possibility that Donald Trump, now that we've seen what he is as president could remain president makes this the worst election in my lifetime. The danger to the republic of him continuing in office.

Frank Luntz:
Thanks Richard. Maybe Howard Morgan next.

Rob:
I think it was Howard Marks.

Frank Luntz:
Then Howard Marks.

Responder 3:
Sorry I'm not on video, but it just seems both parties are prepared to do damage to the nation in a way that I not seen in my lifetime to get a result. At least historically both parties were constructive.

Frank Luntz:
Let's go to Maxine Clark.

Responder 4:
Thank you. I think the interference from outside is very dangerous and the impact of social media being able to infiltrate individuals social media, not even knowing who they are, but believing that what they're telling you is true is a definite change to this election in severity compared to past.

Rob:
Go ahead, Frank. We'll come back.

Thoughts on a Clean Campaign Pledge?

Frank Luntz:
There's something I want to do here and I want to propose something to you and then we're going to have a discussion on it. Let's take six different comments on this one. We got a whole lot of people on, on video as well, but I want to encourage you if you have video to jump on, because we want to see you. It's one of the reasons why I've never done a focus group on Zoom before, because I want it to be three dimensional. So we really want to see what you look like.

How about a clean campaign pledge from No Labels? The idea of putting out a commitment that we ask for all the candidates running for president, running for the Senate, running for the house, and I'd be prepared to write something like this with you guys, if you'd like to do this. A clean campaign pledge that allows you to disagree, but it does not allow for personal attacks. Does not allow for the smear of the ads that we've seen so often, that quite frankly would force our president to be more civil and more decent.

It would have a preamble, it would have a conclusion and then three, four or five different items. Is this something that you would want to do? Is this something that you think would be good for No Labels? Or honestly, be honest about it. Is this something that you want to stay away from, and that you'd rather focus on Congress and the Senate? Rob.

Rob:
So do you want to take individual comments on that, not a poll?

Frank Luntz:
Not a call, can we do a poll?

Liz:
Yes, we can do that poll, where we get the first answer.

Frank Luntz:
Then it's really simple, which is yes or no. So I see one person said good idea, I see somebody else said waste of time. Should we try to do a clean campaign pledge that would be that you would see the presidential candidates, Senate candidates, and house candidates sign? Let's roll this.

Responder 1:
Frank, what makes you think that Trump would ever go along with that?

Frank Luntz:
I don't. I believe that he would be embarrassed and that this is part of what No Labels is about. It's not just about whether a candidate will sign it, it's also holding them accountable. If they don't sign it, if they don't do it. One of the things that I've learned in politics I've been doing this now for 30 years, is that the only way to hold candidates accountable is actually in writing and that if he will not sign something like that or a Senate candidate, because we're going to have some ugly Senate campaigns as well. If they would not do it, then you've got a chance to hold them accountable, you've got a chance to particularly if the other candidates do do it.

I don't think in my mind, and then I want to take this to a vote because I want people to react to it. If you're not willing to play by the rules, if you're not willing to set the rules, excellent. Please as I complete this comment, please fill it out. I think that this is the only way to make candidates actually have to go on record and to put pressure on them in their debates. Because I will tell you that nationwide about 80% of Americans would want to do something like this. If this becomes a topic of debate, the No Labels becomes a topic of debate and then you have a chance to have a real impact. Let's vote guys.

Rob:
Great. So why don't we try Carolyn Dorsa.

Responder 2:
Hi. So I think that you might even get people to agree in writing, but they'll never live by it. They'll violate it, but then they'll say what they did wasn't a smear, was only factual, was real information and the other side is making it sound like a smear. So I think it's completely unenforceable even though conceptually, I think it's fantastic. If it could ever happen, but I don't think it ever would be enforced.

Frank Luntz:
Hold on. My challenge to Carolyn because this is supposed to be interactive. My challenge is, if we do nothing, if we just let it go, this thing is going to spin off the rails in the next 85 days in a way that we have never seen before. I agree with the 76% who say this is going to be the worst ever. So I'm trying to find some way to make a statement, to put a stake in the ground that will allow those who really want to abide by an appropriate approach, to be different, just as No Labels allows you to sign up or not sign up. It creates a place where you can go. Okay, somebody else

Rob:
Dale.

Responder 3:
Waste of time.

Frank Luntz:
Because?

Responder 3 (cont'd):
These people are not going to particularly... not these people. Trump will never abide by it, it's a waste of time.

Frank Luntz:
Okay. Somebody else. By the way, if the poll won't work then just take it off.

Responder 4:
Hey, Frank. I'll go. There's a little bit of a mix, a question for No Labels, how to use our voice. Our voice has been about getting legislation done for the American people by compromising with both sides. I think that does imply better behaviors, but you don't necessarily start there. That's the question for me, is it a mixed prioritization for us?

Frank Luntz:
And that's what you guys have to decide. Somebody else.

Rob:
Maybe Carol Del.

Responder 5:
I was just thinking that I feel like our democracy is very fragile right now and I'm not sure this would be the thing that would help the most. So I've put that out to the group, Frank, what would help the most? That's the bigger issue is the fragility of the democracy right now.

Frank Luntz:
So I'm going to give you a chance to answer that question. If you could wave a magic wand, as we continue to vote, if you can wave a magic wand, what would you change? Remember, it's got to be actionable, not just say, hey, everybody starts to talk to each other. What specific change would you make?

Repsonder 5 (cont'd):
That was directed to me Frank?

Frank Luntz:
Yes.

Responder 5 (cont'd):
Unfortunately I don't have a really good answer to that accepted to think bigger picture or longer term beyond this campaign that we elect enough people and keep elected those people who are willing to be problem solvers in both the Congress and the Senate. So I think we focus on that, which is the core mission of No Labels.

Frank Luntz:
By the way I think it's interesting. Rob, we've got a Chicago election, 59% said yes, 53% said no. Even I can do the math. That must mean that dead people are voting in this. This is really great. We got the final numbers, 59, 53. Let's take it down and let's get a couple more responses to this.

Responder 5 (cont'd):
Great lets go to Ron [Bagamini 00:14:28].

Responder 6:
Hi. Like everyone else. I think it's a great idea, just as we would talk and I just put a note and maybe you have no trash talk Tuesdays just to highlight the difference. So one day a week. It's almost childish, but on purpose. What do you think?

Frank Luntz:
I like that. That's an interesting idea and we're going to get to more of those ideas. So let's get to more on the idea of a clean campaign pledge.

Rob:
Great. Timothy Sloan.

Responder 7:
I would agree with Rob. I think it's a question of focus for No Labels. The idea in the pledge would be absolutely laudable, but I think we concluded that we want to stay focused on the house and the Senate, and we've worked very hard to be able to build the problem solvers caucus, and then the smaller group that we have in the Senate. I think it would be a mistake for No Labels at this juncture to wade in to the campaign. To follow up for you, if you asked me if I could wave a magic wand, that is for us to understand how we're actually going to vote this year. That's my biggest concern. We don't even know how we're going to vote. I don't think we're going to have a winner on the first Tuesday in November.

Rob:
Thanks Tim. Go ahead Frank, did you want to make a comment?

How do we reinstill faith in democracy?

Frank Luntz:
Just very quickly. I'm afraid that we're not know how to count. That we are going to be able to vote, that the issue is actually going to be the counting of the ballot, stamp will save you all. It's not just a post office, and that is a problem right now. But there have been voter machine failures all across the country in primaries where you don't have the same kind of turnout. I'm also nervous that people will vote by mailing and they will vote face to face and you'll have people condemning the results.

So this next question, after this, we're going to get to it in second, is how do we reinstill faith in democracy? Because what you said, Tim, and what was said before this I think is really important. We've had a lower percentage of Americans who believe in the effectiveness of democracy that any time that gallows in measuring that number. So that ought frightened all of you. Rob, let's go to one more comment.

Rob:
One more. Let's say Frank Baxter for a final comment on this question.

Responder 1:
On the former question I do believe it's going to be the worst election in my history and probably all history. Because one, I don't like the personality on one side and I don't like the policy and the other side, that'd be both very dangerous for our society. In terms of the current question, I'd be as strong yes. I think No Labels as some of that has a longer vision, regardless of whether these two characters play ball, I think that's pretty much, maybe Frank knows this better than me. I think that's pretty much the feeling of the whole country, and if we take the leadership there, we might be able to get some effect on this election. But over the longer term, my optimism is that there's a 2024.

Frank Luntz:
Rob, then I want to throw out another question, which is a followup to this. Let's take six people if you've got specific ideas, because that's what No Labels has been about. If you got specific ideas that could potentially impact the tone and the demeanor of the election, even if you don't think that Donald Trump will follow it. I'm going to be blunt as the moderator, that's the person who you're nervous about. So I know and I get it. If he wouldn't follow it, what would be a half dozen of your ideas that would make a difference that No Labels could potentially do? Anybody.

Rob:
Chris [Stather 00:18:23].

Responder 2:
Thanks Rob. Hi Frank. I think it's the idea that we just spoke about and I think it's important that No Labels come out as an organization that is in favor of ensuring and expanding the access to vote and that the votes are counted. I think the most dangerous thing to answer your first question is the idea that it is becoming more of a mainstream proposition because the president is talking about it to really question the legitimacy of the vote and to try and restrict access to the vote.

I think what we need to do is come out and encourage people to vote and encourage the access to the vote and be working to ensure that we've got the right resources to count that vote, and we prepare people for the time it might take so that we can have an election that has the greatest possible chance of having a high degree of people have competence in the results.

Frank Luntz:
Now let me just, again, just for 10 seconds, if you want to do that, you have to do that in advance. You cannot make that happen on election night. So that's the kind of thing that if you want No Labels to consider that, you're going to have to have this conversation and deal with this because when they go back in September, you guys would think you heard, they have now put off the first week of September. They do not come back until September 14th, and they're only going to be back in probably two weeks, maybe three max. This is something that you need to discuss and put forward in advance. Rob, somebody else?

Rob:
Thanks. So we're going to try to do quick 20, 30 answers. Carolyn Dorsa, your idea.

Responder 3:
My idea was to appoint an independent commission to fact check ad. So it's not enough to have the voice at the end say I'm so and so, and I approve this message. So what? We need like a league of women voters that would agree, they would fact check every ad that would run online and on TV.

Frank Luntz:
Then I've got an idea for you. I can't imagine a less partisan... Actually let me rephrase that because some of are partisan [inaudible 00:20:36] bi-partisan. Nancy's never going to let me do another one of these. That is such a good idea. Why doesn't No Labels? Why don't you all? We got 165 in this call, 167 people. You guys by a vote, and the only way that you either endorse an ad for being accurate is if at least two thirds you agree, or two thirds of you disagree. So you set a very high standard, but that is also something that No Labels could do.

I'm not saying do it, but I want you to consider it because I want you to think outside the box. I want you to pretend that Mack McLarty is not wearing a pressed shirt and tie, and I want you to really blow your mind on something like this. So as we go through that question, let's get a poll question on there. If we can pull it up on the screen. Yes or no. Should No Labels offered to be a fact checker for the ads that are running on a national basis because you can't do every statewide ad. Rob, let's get another person.

Rob:
Paul Hugger.

Responder 4:
My idea was that No Labels should take a position on apportionment. Maybe recommending what California has done at least to have a citizen apportionment board because we're just having a census and it's going to have a long tail on it. I think the lack of close to 50-50 districts has created some of the partisanship in Congress.

Frank Luntz:
Again, to respond for 10 seconds. You realize that you can do other things like this, which is No Labels because you want people to vote, could actually support making elections on a Saturday or making it a national holiday. That you guys could be active in other reform proposals. We've got 103 votes. Let's take this down, but I want to point out once again, jeez, this is Chicago. This is Los Angeles. How can we have 60.1%? No I'm sorry, we got it. 58, 42. There's your answer? So that's something for you guys to consider as being a fact checker. Let's take some more ideas.

Rob:
Let's go to Eric Stan.

Responder 5:
Hi there. I thought that what No Labels did in 2018 with the house reforms, I thought it was very effective and for me the reason I think that this election is so consequential is because I think that this has implications for our democratic institutions more broadly. So I would love to see new labels put out a platform similar to the house reforms and try to get... You can go after the presidential candidates if you want, but I think going after house and Senate candidates to have them get behind these reforms in advance would be interesting and you might get some takers on both sides.

Frank Luntz:
I want to emphasize that the time to do that is going to be when they come back in September. This is something you want to do, you cannot wait until October the recess and you cannot wait until the election. It's something that I urge to do before. Let's take a couple more ideas.

Rob:
Chris Anton.

Responder 6:
Thanks Frank. Hello everybody. I'm a brand new member and I'm delighted that this group exists. I was wondering if we could somehow publish facts that the working class Americans can understand, that's set forth the difference in policies of each candidate. Side by side, cost benefit, risk reward. I think that there's a great lack of facts. What will happen if the Republicans win or the Democrats win, either one, as opposed to the Republicans? I know we're not the League of Women Voters, but I think that that would be consistent with the No Labels mission as I know it. We deal in facts. We don't deal in personalities or parties.

Should No Labels be a public-facing organization, a Congress-facing organization, or both?

Frank Luntz:
So I want you guys before you go on and we'll take a couple more. I want to put up another polling question, which is somebody made the comment in the chat room about whether No Labels should be a public facing organization or congressional facing organization. One of them is internal. One of them is external. Is your goal to keep the pressure on Congress? Is your goal to involve the public in this effort? So if we can do a question and either [inaudible 00:25:17] to public or congressional. Which should No Labels do going forward?

I'm sure that I'm upsetting Nancy and please don't kill me, but this is how I learn and I'm making a commitment to you all. If you all going to approve it, I'm going to give you a chance to vote on me and vote on Rob at the end. So we're both going to be held accountable. So everybody vote in this process. Rob, let's get a couple more comments.

Rob:
Thanks, Frank. Let's go to Lee Adrian.

Frank Luntz:
Actually as Lee comes on, Eric churn and a couple of the people says the poll's choice you're correct. I just gave you a bad question. This an example of bad polling. Shouldn't be public. Assume we can do three choices. So congressional, public or both? So let's pull it down and let's redo it congressional, public or both. More comments.

Rob:
Great. Back to Lee.

Responder 1:
Yes. Actually I had a comment previously, an idea, and Carolyn had mentioned it, but I strongly endorsed the same idea, which is be a scorekeeper. It could be on national ads, it could be on campaign speeches. By the way, coming to your current question, that really requires that No Labels start to be a recognized brand if you will, a recognized force publicly. If we are going to pull it out scores and it does need to be subject to some kind of super majority voting so it's not one person's opinion. But it does come back, if it's going to really have force, it needs to be pushed out to the public, which inherently makes No Labels more of a public organization than it has been

Frank Luntz:
We got it up, and so please vote. Congressional, public or both. I want to make a comment. I thought that's very smart on the debates. I think this is going to be the ugliest debates that have ever happened in presidential politics. This is one where I'd say to you, you have to have an answer. That I realize that you're objective, that your goal is to make a difference and you're already doing it. You're already succeeding in the house and in the Senate. God help us if these debates go off the rails because you know how many people are going to be watching and you know that it's going to have a horrible impact.

I bet that even this organization right here, if we did a discussion the day after the debates, you all would be agitated and upset over what happened. So I urge you to consider that. Let's take one more comment and then we'll pull the pull down.

Rob:
Let's go to Jim Bernstein.

Responder 2:
Thank you. I'm not sure you're calling at me about my idea which was, I was kind of responding to Frank's thought that Trump is the elephant in the room. So I don't happen to find Biden to be a very compelling candidate, but I think one thing that would make him a more compelling candidate for me at least would be for him to get out in front of it and be able to say, what is his one value proposition? It is his many years of service and his knowledge of people throughout Republicans and Democrats in the house and the Senate.

I would like to see him get out in front of this and say, I'm going to have a Republican for state and a Republican for chief of staff, and to have people that are across the spectrum and I think it would give comfort. Then Biden could not debate at all because people would feel comfort with him and I think that'd be a very strong strategy and I think it would be better for the country to have a bipartisan group coming in, to lead the country rather than a extreme leftward leaning overcorrection of Trump or the Trump policies.

Frank Luntz:
You just gave me a great idea, but I just want to point out, 68% don't you do both, 28% only wants you to do Congress and 4% wants you to do public. That's pretty interesting.

Rob:
You know what that means Frank? We need to do more fundraising.

What do you want to have happen the very first day Congress is back in session?

Frank Luntz:
Well, that's what you're going to do. I'm going to disappear. I'm going to get off of this when you start to do the fundraising. So we're going to continue to do this for about another 20, 25 minutes. When this is done, Rob, you're going to have to send a doctor over to my house because I'm going to fall. I was trying to take notes in my phone as the comments you're making, but I cannot do the notes and this at the same time. Six of you, and make it people and not spoken yet. What do you want to have happen in the very first day the Congress comes back? It'll probably be the 4th of January, on the very first day when it's new Congress, six of you tell me what you want them to do or what you want them to introduce. Obviously it matters to you. What matters most?

Responder 1:
How about having the Congress sit in alphabetical order, not in two different isles.

Frank Luntz:
They could do that. That is doable. You know what? I'm driving the people nuts because I keep adding stuff. Let's put that up as a poll. Should Congress sit in alphabetical order or should they sit as they do now in partisanship? In fact I'll make it easy just to write yes or no. Should Congress sit in alphabetical order? This is something that you can report back. Anyone want to comment on that?

Responder 2:
Yeah. Frank, it's Peter Kelly. They don't sit they're rarely there.

Frank Luntz:
But when they come and vote.

Responder 2 (cont'd):
Yes.

Frank Luntz:
When they come and vote should they be in alphabetical order? And state of the union by the way, in say to the union Republican sit on the left and Democrats sit on the right.

Responder 2 (cont'd):
Especially state of the union. Absolutely.

Frank Luntz:
Well look at the results. You don't even have to continue this. It's 92% to 8%. Rob, nothing is 92%. The fact that I'm wearing a green and white shirt with the congressional logo, I don't know if you can see it, at least a 10% will disagree that this is a green shirt. So Rob, go ahead.

Rob:
Yeah, look the symbolism. It's a highly symbolic act, but maybe we're at a point where symbolic acts are the most we can hope for.

Frank Luntz:
Well, I want to report it. Let's pull this off 90% say yes, that's overwhelming. I think that's very cool.

Rob:
Let's try some other ideas. Alan George has one.

Responder 3:
Hi, it's Alan George. Having worked for [inaudible 00:31:57] for 30 years I've never worn a tie or a coat to work. I just want to point out.

Frank Luntz:
But you got to tell Mack that. I want to see that we actually have a change in behavior based on the labels. So the first thing we got to do is get Mack out of a tie.

Responder 3 (cont'd):
So my suggestion was just to follow on to what I thought was really a good idea with requiring seating to not be by party, but also require leadership to have great brand at least once a week. I think we heard this from several of the leaders we've had here who get together with their counterparts. Having food with people, his way to establish relationships to be and to develop consensus. It works really well. In our business, in any business, most of us have been in.

Responder 4:
Hi, Frank. Just committee meetings are the same way they have division between how Democrats and Republicans. There's no reason they can't sit either in alphabetical order or seniority order without respect to party. As we're trying to do in the house, let's try to do in the Senate that when something comes out of a committee with a solid bipartisan vote, that it gets a vote on the floor. Bipartisan bills should have the highest priority to get considered in any chamber.

Frank Luntz:
And then one question because you know the system, you know how it works. What is the definition of bipartisan?

Responder 4 (cont'd):
That would be something we would fight over, of course. But it would at least a sufficient number of the minority party who voted for the bill in the committee. It could be a 60% vote. It could be a 66% vote, that could be decided. But if we can get out of the committee, not just [inaudible 00:33:49] votes of bipartisan votes, that that should get a priority on the floor calender.

Frank Luntz:
By the way, I just want to say, I hope I pronounced your name, Gila. I'm looking at you right now and you are so still, and you've got that smile and it stays exactly. I thought that was a screensaver. I didn't realize that you were actually a real person there.

Responder 4 (cont'd):
I am.

Frank Luntz:
It is so well done-

Responder 4 (cont'd):
First act should be additional corona relief for state and local governments. They're hurting.

Frank Luntz:
On day one?

Responder 4 (cont'd):
Day one.

Frank Luntz:
Good.

Responder 4 (cont'd):
They're overdue.

Frank Luntz:
Let's do two more of these. And by the way, Jim, you've got the best background of anybody here, Jim Bernstein. Because it looks like your white boat has changed even from when we sat down here. So let's do two more and then we move on to another question.

Rob:
Let's try Neil Model.

Responder 5:
I go back to the old days when they could go and smoke and drink, and then they could get more things solved.

Frank Luntz:
So basically you want members of Congress to smoke and drink. I have never heard that advice ever given before but I love it. I can tell you Phillip Morrison and [Iser 00:35:06] Bush will hire you because of that recommendation.

Rob:
Let's go to Lee Adrian.

Responder 6:
Yes. We heard some interesting things and it's evident major legislation gets written by the two most senior people in one party or the other in both the house and the Senate. Why don't return all legislation drafting to committees so that we're not getting legislation dictated from Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell, but force it to be more of a group process in the committees.

Frank Luntz:
That has been a repeated complaint, going back as long as I've been involved which is now 1993 and every leader has been accused of that in both parties and in both chambers. The problem is the leadership never wants to give up power. Nancy Pelosi will nod her head, and there's no way she will do it. Mitch McConnell, I know that I've got a reputation for telling a joke or two. Mitch McConnell went through eight hours of open heart surgery this is because it took him six hours just to find his heart. There is no way that he's going to give up that responsibility. So I appreciate that. Go ahead.

Responder 6 (cont'd):
Frank, that may be true but if I can jump back in. No Labels did force some changes in house rules on Nancy Pelosi with the 290 sponsor change in rules. If No Labels can build the size of its caucus or supporting members in the Senate, maybe that's a pressure point for changing some additional house and Senate rules.

Frank Luntz:
That is brilliant, and I'm going to make the same request to you that I made earlier in this call, which is you can't wait until November to do this. I know that the tendency would be let's have the election and then we'll deal with it, things change that you're better off trying to do it now than waiting. Rob, let's take one more.

Rob:
One more.

Frank Luntz:
Lynn [inaudible 00:37:10].

Responder 7:
This is Lynn may I weigh in here.

Rob:
Go ahead Lynn, please.

Responder 7 (cont'd):
I'd like to go back to the issue of having meals together. When I was in Congress, that is exactly the way that we were able to reach across the aisle. My suggestion is that the problem solvers caucus hosts dinners with people who are not yet members, have a Democratic and a Republican host who is a problem solver and No Labels underwrites it, if they can, and that we build our base that way. Because it is the off the record off, off the capital kinds of dinners that build the trust and the relationships that we have seen that we've been able to engender in the problem solvers caucus.

Frank Luntz:
I have an idea for Lynn. I'm building a condo right now that is about seven blocks from the Senate. So it is off the hill technically, it's in seventh and eighth. It's going to have a whole gallery of political memorabilia that you could only see in the Smithsonian, and I'm actually getting a dining room table that seats 12 people. If there is a Democrat here who will join me in co-sponsoring which means we're going to pick up the meals, I will do that. Lynn, I don't know where you live, but if you live in DC, then you and I should do this together.

Responder 7 (cont'd):
I'll have to do it by Zoom cause I'm in La Jolla.

Frank Luntz:
Oh, so you're then the most beautiful place on the face of the earth. In fact, Mack, as a penalty for wearing a tie and a shirt to this, and I've yet to see anyone in this whole, I've been scrolling through and no one's stressed like you. How about you and I agree that once a month and we will do it in my condo. You and I would host this and we would bring in say, eight members together, and then there could be two other people from No Labels. You and I, we bring eight members together for a dinner. Four Republicans, four Democrats.

Mack:
I would be pleased and proud to do it and suspect we would be viewed as the odd couple, which may be a good thing.

Responder 7 (cont'd):
I'll join by Zoom to referee.

Mack:
Yeah. You got my commitment.

Rob:
Good idea.

Frank Luntz:
By the way, for the odd couple Mack is Felix and I'm Oscar Rob, go ahead.

Rob:
I think we had to Vaughn [Vashey 00:39:46].

Responder 8:
I was just hoping for the next Congress to rethink and I think you could do this without being too partisan, the ethics and conflict of interest rules for government officials. The obvious example would be you have the complexities of Trump owning a private business, and if a Bloomberg had won, you'd have similar complexities and these things just haven't been fleshed out enough.

Frank Luntz:
So let me offer, let me follow up on that, which is that on the very first day, they pass the rules for the house and the Senate. You may want to consider putting forward H. R. 1. which actually changes the rules. This is not something that is going to take months or weeks, that they have to vote on new rules in both chambers and you may want to put together a No Labels supported good government legislation that is nonpartisan, or I should say bi-partisan because everything is partisan these days. But that's something that can happen on day one, and if you're the guys that put it forward, then you'll get a significant amount of credit.

How can No Labels make the biggest possible impact over the next couple of months?

Frank Luntz:
Rob, I want to switch the question now. If you could give advice for No Labels to have the biggest possible impact in the time that we've got left in the house and Senate. If your voice could be hard and I get a chance to communicate to everybody on this call, let's take four of you. What advice would you give? And again, please make it specific. So it has the chance to make a difference.

Rob:
Do you mean Frank, like for the next couple months or?

Frank Luntz:
Yes.

Rob:
In the next couple months?

Frank Luntz:
Yes.

Rob:
Right now?

Frank Luntz:
Because we still got time.

Rob:
I just want to clarify.

Frank Luntz:
Anybody?

Responder 1:
Frank, it's Tim, I'll jump in. It's to reelect the members of the problem solvers caucus and the eight members within the senate. Because I think if we can demonstrate that the members of both those groups can be reelected. I think it reinforces the base that we have.

Frank Luntz:
So let me put a gun to my own head, which is, I agree with that. People who listened to me know I'm much less partisan now than I used to be, and know that I've really gone through a change and it happened before the stroke. It was happening to me over the last two or three years. I agree with that. But that's up to the people who on this call that I'm not going to do a fundraising pitch and yet I am. Which is, if you want to make a difference, you really do need to specify, which is to pick one or two senators and no more, and three or four members of the house and no more and genuinely get behind them.

The way that you send the statement is for Republicans to donate to Democrats and Democrats to donate to Republicans. That statement, because you have to challenge your own side. I have to be willing to take on Donald Trump, which I have been if you've been following my Twitter and I urge you to do so. I reached out to a couple of potential vice presidential candidates, I'm not going to say which ones to ask them to do the same thing on their side. But you can make a difference, you can make a statement, you can have an impact if you make it small and targeted and you let the world know about it.

I don't want to break ethics laws. I don't want you to put you guys in jeopardy, but I do want to say that the time to do that is as soon as possible, and this is the organization that has the potential to do that. Rob, let's get three more.

Rob:
All right. Tom [McInerney 00:43:40], is that your hand up I see?

Responder 2:
It is. I would say the second would be to get a good compromise in the middle, on the CARES Act because the American people need to help those who have been laid off during the crisis.

Frank Luntz:
Of course the problem there is that you've got Republicans who wanted to kill those negotiations and Democrats who wanted to kill them, and you had Republicans who support Democrats who supported it. This is the kind of stuff that you have to decide how involved you're going to get. It does matter, and the timing matters because people are going to... no one on this call is living paycheck to paycheck, I assume, and if you are, then you're spending way too much money and you need your hand slapped.

Right now I'm going to give you two pieces of data because I should be as upholster. 53% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That number, we've got the data that's coming out for this month. It's coming out right now and it's going to go up to 56%. The last time it was that high is never. More people are at the edge now than they've ever been before, that's number one. Number two is that Congress right now is condemned and the politicians are condemned for not being able to vote on something like this.

70% of Americans want one more vote, one more stimulus, one more bailout, one more paycheck protection or for small business, and they're really ticked off, they're not getting it. So let's try one more, Rob.

Rob:
For those of you who don't know on the call, I used to work in Congress for very long time [inaudible 00:45:25] Frank, for a long time. I ran a committee on [inaudible 00:45:27] over debt that brought the tax reform package that was recently passed.

Frank Luntz:
He's the best. Chris is the best.

Rob:
Served in [inaudible 00:45:35] of treasury for two years. Although I'm a very bipartisan person, and this Frank can attest and Nancy can attest which is why we really value this group and I've been a part for a long time. All I can tell you is this, as a consummate insider who has worked, I had closed so many deals in Congress for so long and in administration and having worked closely with this president. The best thing that No Labels can do is what Frank and what was said earlier, which is you have to give air cover to the members that are willing to risk their political backsides in getting to yes, and agreeing with the other side.

There is the echo chamber and what they'll hear at home, we'll tell them to do just the opposite. It's people like us and the people like on this phone call that give them the courage to be able to, and the wherewithal to be able to stand up and message that the way they feel appropriate, making sure that they can come back to Congress, and with that, our numbers will grow. With more and more members and Nancy and the group has done such a great... Mack you've done such a great job in this both in the house and Senate.

Seeing the Senate numbers grow like this has just truly been very impressive. But anyway, I'll make a quick it just, you really have to make sure that people who are willing to stand with us, we stand with them and make sure that they have what it takes and they need to be able to come back.

Are people concerned about the election going off in a reasonable and fair manner?

Frank Luntz:
Rob, because I'm a pollster and because we're heading towards the end of this conversation, are there two people who got any kind of polling questions? We now know who the two tickets are. Is there anything I can answer to you either about politics or about the economy in terms of public opinion? I'll take two of them.

Question:
Sure. Ask people if they're concerned about the election going off in a reasonable and fair manner?

Frank Luntz:
For the first time a majority of Americans now believe that there is something that is wrong with our electoral system. The majority of Americans, many more Democrats and Republicans, but it is a majority of the population believe that it is at least somewhat unlikely that we have an accurate free and fair election. That's the phrase, it's never been that way before and and it works its way through every age group in the country. It's about two to one Democrat over Republican, but we are losing or have lost faith in our democratic process and that is a tragedy and is a crisis.

Has COVID been politicized?

Frank Luntz:
I'm going answer that one from Adam, he says, it's so easy to do. Yes, a majority of Americans do believe that COVID has been politicized. I'll give you the best example is, are you pro or anti mask? 80% of Republicans are anti mask. I'm sorry. 80% of Democrats are pro mask, 70% of Republicans are anti mask. Even putting on a mask is making a political statement, and that tells you that we've gone way, way too far. So Rob, the way that we'll wrap this up is I always do a, for good of the order in a focus group like this. So we're going to open it up to any comments that anyone wants to make. A comment, a question, a statement, but again, keep it short. Let's do three of them

What will the debates end up looking like?

Question:
Frank, it's Fred. Tell me, I had written this in earlier, but what do you think the debates are going to end up looking like? Are we going to have them? Are we not going to have them? Are they going to be virtual? What do [inaudible 00:49:17]?

Frank Luntz:
This is what kills me is I was invited to actually attend these. I've never been able to because I've always been on television. This is the first time that I said, "I don't want to cover it." I don't want to do focus groups because it's going to be so ugly and people will be so divided that I think it will actually hurt the process rather than help it. I'm sure there's going to be debates and I am pretty sure that it's going to be without an audience, and I'm pretty sure that it's going to be done live and where they can have TV cameras rather than being just done as a Zoom debate.

But this will be the first time that we have those kinds of debates in a long, long time. But you know what? We don't need an audience. I think these guys don't need to play for the public. I think it's far better if they just face off with each other and I'm recommending that they be a panel not just one moderator. Because I think that we need a discussion and then we open them, the candidates up to two longer responses than just 60 seconds. I think 60 seconds means that they can give a soundbite. If you have a two or three minute response it means that they actually have to know something about the issue. Good question. Two more.

Worries facing No Labels as a Bipartisan Organization

Commenter:
Thank you. Hi Frank, I'm a relatively new member of this group but I want to go back to, there were a number of earliest suggestions that as an individual I favor. For example maybe proposing that the debates be held in some civil structure. There are a lot of debate formats that don't allow interruptions and ad hominem attacks and so on. But right now I am even as a new member feeling protective of the focus of No Labels, and I worry that some of these proposals are going to be perceived at least as [inaudible 00:51:20] said, because it will be clear who we're trying to muzzle in a particular way.

I worry about our reputation as a bipartisan organization and right now I'm more interested in keeping the focus on what we're doing in Congress. So I just wanted to say that even though I think a lot of the proposals certainly reflect good citizenship.

Frank Luntz:
Excellent, Rob.

What is the most important issue that people will vote on that will determine who wins?

Question:
What is the most important issue that people will vote on that will determine who wins?

Frank Luntz:
Good. It may be China because no one's got an advantage on China. Biden now holds an issue advantage on basically every single issue, and it's one of the reasons why he's up by nine and 10 points in most surveys. China's the one issue that Trump has the three point advantage, but the public doesn't like either candidate on the issue. So that's very significant. Number two is what happens if kids go back to school and they get sick. So COVID is going to be a really significant response.

Obviously the economy and it's not the stock market. Trump keeps talking about the stock market. What the public identifies or what matters most to them is the unemployment rate by far. So I think that there'll be people who will be voting based on, can you get somebody back to work or not. The last issue of the floor is healthcare. I think you'll see a lot of that in one of the debates, healthcare continues to be an issue that both Democrats and Republicans care about, and those are the four issues that they will be voted on.

I would like you to put together a question and I know you're going to go to Bill, but before you do, I need to know this and I need you to vote honestly, is this a constructive conversation? We're trying to pack a lot of stuff into a 60 minutes. Is this something that No Labels should be doing across the country? It is a possibility that they will do it. I want to know what you think about it. So if you-

Mack:
People can just type yes or no into the chat might be the easiest. I'll say for myself, Frank, I think some of these thoughts are fantastic for No Labels as we think about how to broaden what we're doing. We know we've been in playing in a very, very narrow way, and we know the system's not getting better and we need to do more. So I thought the conversation was fantastic and you're pushing us on specific things was really valuable.

Frank Luntz:
Okay. Rob.

Mack:
Maybe just we'll let Bill Gaston share some closing thoughts in our traditional manner. Go ahead, Bill.

Sign Off with Bill Galston

Bill Gaston:
This has been terrific as usual and come back and visit us often, or as often as you can. Let me just close with three points, two of which are a repetition of things that you've heard, No Labels members have heard from me and others before. Point number one is that we have a sort of a pole star political focus, and that is to organize blocks in both the house and the Senate that are strong enough to hold the balance of power if they act together. We've made real progress toward that end in the house and we're a lot farther ahead than we were a year ago or even six months ago in the Senate, but our work continues.

So what somebody said earlier about continuing to provide air cover for members of the house and Senate who are willing to take their political futures and put them on the line in order to cooperate for the common good, they need to be protected. We're the group that has chosen to take the lead because nobody else will do it to protect them and we need your help to keep on doing this that's point number one.

Point number two, we do have for right now and focusing on the Congress and the administration, a dominant issue idea, and that is to persuade the president to endorse and the Congress to provide the money for a national testing program that could get coronavirus under control by this fall. It is possible and we are trying to persuade the people who need to be persuaded to make it actual, that's point number two.

Point number three, and this is the new one spinning off this conversation. No Labels doesn't have infinite bandwidth and as many people have pointed out we should not in any way endanger our reputation for bipartisanship. Consistent with those two limits, we can undertake to be the fact checkers, not for the ads, because everybody's going to be doing that, but for the ideas and the position papers that candidates put out.

We can be the fact checkers and the truth tellers, not about values where we're going to differ, but the factual underpinnings of ideas that candidates are publicly advancing. We can do that and we can set up a system to get that done. That was an idea that came out of this conversation. But it was indeed productive Frank.

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