Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday was met with widespread approval from most of the country, but many Democrats, liberals, progressives, and other longtime opponents of the president were unmoved by the speech. One exception to this general trend in the media sphere was Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who tweeted his approval of many different aspects of Trump’s speech before concluding:
Tonight, I owe Donald Trump an apology. Tonight, I was moved and inspired. Tonight, I have hope and faith in America again.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
It may go away tomorrow…
But tonight, America is great again. #SOTU
For anyone who was following Luntz’s live tweet-by-tweet response to the State of the Union, his apology would not have come as a shock. As he reacted to the president's words in real time, Luntz seemed especially pleased by the way that Trump laid out a mix of statistical data and personal stories that reinforced his message on each key issue, but the GOP pollster was equally annoyed at Democrats for their sour mood throughout the speech:
Trump's language on tax reform is right-on. #SOTU— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
Focusing on people earning $55,000-$75,000 is smart. And he's being specific – $4,000 per family IS a lot of money.
Anecdotal tax-cut stories are less impactful than actual numbers.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
The GOP needed to emphasize the actual tax-cut numbers… And Trump did that tonight. #SOTU
The structure of tonight's #SOTU speech is well done: Started with taxes, moved to opportunity, and then to military.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
Many people watch only the first 15 minutes – they will like what they heard tonight.
If Roger Goodell wasn't listening before now, he is listening now.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
Trump doesn't give in and he doesn't give up. #SOTU
This speech is going to have a measurable impact on Trump's favorability and popularity. He's saying exactly what people want to hear.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
Whoever told @TheDemocrats to sit on their hands made a huge mistake. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/6vYeFJOyMp
I have criticized the President's language a lot in recent months.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
But tonight is Donald Trump at his very best. He's personalized his language and policies better than I've ever seen. #SOTU
This speech represents the presidential performance that Trump observers have been waiting for – brilliant mix of numbers and stories, humility and aggressiveness, traditional conservatism and political populism.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
Only one word qualifies: Wow. #SOTU
Even in foreign policy and national security, this speech a perfect blend of strength and empathy. These heroic stories break our hearts, but sturdy our resolve.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) January 31, 2018
This is the Trump his voters wanted him to be. #SOTU
Luntz was no mere keyboard warrior, however. On Wednesday morning, he walked straight into the lion's den at MSNBC to rhetorically spar with Trump's arch-foes Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. As Luntz reiterated many of the same points that he had already made on Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski forcefully and indignantly resisted the notion that anyone could have approved of Trump's message. Luntz summed up his frustration with the Morning Joe panelists (and hyper-partisan liberals in general) when he asked early on in the segment: "Why is it that everything he says drives the Left nuts?" Instead of offering a measured response to Luntz's question, the MSNBC pundits carried on by repeatedly characterizing Trump as a threat to America and a "racist" who is "dividing, disrupting, and destroying institutions of government" that protect the country. Mika even referred to Trump as a "great dictator" (a statement that perfectly corresponds with months of her show's coverage), language that Luntz immediately called out as being innappropriate.
For those who doubt that Luntz has been very critical of Trump over the past couple of years, it's worth looking back at some of the highlights of his displeasure with the President.
Back in 2015, at the start of the Republican primary season, Trump got into a very personal kerfuffle with Luntz after one of the pollster's famed focus groups lit up the then-candidate with some pretty harsh criticism after the first Fox News debate, including describing Trump as "mean," "angry," unpresidential, and a potential mole trying to destroy the Republican Party from within. The Washington Times reported on the Trump-Luntz fallout that resulted:
“I watch this guy do a really negative report on me,” Trump said then, Business Insider reported. “And the only reason he did it, in my opinion, is because I didn’t want to hire him commercially. I think it’s disgusting.”
Luntz responded with a denial — and then this: “[Trump] launches an attack on everyone who is even remotely critical.”
Politico in that same month ran a story with this headline: “Fox’s Luntz Blasted Trump at Koch Seminar.”
And it opened this way: “Donald Trump’s feud with GOP pollster Frank Luntz escalated Monday — with Trump calling on Fox News to fire Luntz from overseeing its post-debate focus groups, and Luntz launching a profanity-laden tirade to describe the real estate showman turned renegade presidential candidate. In an interview with POLITICO, Luntz said Trump … [was] ‘delivering a big f— you’ to the elites in America. … ‘But f— you doesn’t solve anything. F— you doesn’t make life any better. F— you makes you feel good, but it doesn’t get you where you need to go.’”
As the electoral season rolled onwards in 2016, Luntz continued to criticize Trump as a major cause for the national climate of "incivility":
Luntz credits Trump’s vulgar style with 2016 being the “worst year for incivility since they started measuring it several years ago,” citing parents having to explain many of Trump’s statements, such as one reference during a debate to the size of his private parts, to their young children. “Mitt Romney didn’t talk like this,” Luntz said. “He didn’t win either!” an audience member responded.
After Trump was successfully elected President, Luntz did not let up in going after Trump. One of the most important episodes in this respect was Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA last summer, which Luntz saw a major gaffe. At the time, Luntz was quite vocal about his opposition to Trump's characterization of the violence there as a two-sided affair:
More than a week after the initial violence, Luntz suggested in a tweet that Trump hated the news media more than Neo-Nazis and jihadi terrorists:
Trump doesnt just criticize media more than he criticizes neo-Nazis – he criticizes them more than radical Islamic terrorists. #PhoenixRally— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) 23 August 2017
Almost a year after Trump's election, Luntz was expressing sentiments similar to those of the Morning Joe journos that he was in such strong disagreement with just yesterday, as is demonstrated by some comments that Luntz provided to U.S. News & World Report last November:
Adds Republican strategist and veteran pollster Frank Luntz: "We can't talk to each other anymore. I can't conduct a focus group without people attacking each other. The cameras give them a license to be loud and obnoxious." Noting that Americans find less and less common ground, Luntz adds: "We are looking for a reason to be outraged. We have become the aggrieved society."
"The president sets a mood," Luntz said. "The president sets a tone....And each day the country becomes more divided, more polarized, more intolerant."
Luntz certainly has come a long way from this stance that he held just a few months ago, but don't expect the rest of Trump's critics to follow his lead. For the most part, it seems they're in the #Resistance for good.