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Frank Luntz has been one of the most respected Republican pollsters in modern politics. Despite the tidal wave of errors that led to a 2016 fiasco for the polling industry, Luntz’s commitment to the Republican Party could never have been called into question up until that point. His involvement with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America that won the House back for Republicans in the 1990s was indicative of his success in political communications. Throughout the 2000s, Luntz continued to draw the ire of liberal Democrats when he successfully crafted the terms “death tax,” “climate change,” and “government takeover” to oppose Democratic communications promoting inheritances taxes, global warming, and the Affordable Care Act.
This week, Luntz resurfaced and made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Biden’s former coronavirus response coordinator released an interview that made public Luntz’s involvement with President Biden’s COVID-19 task force. Allegedly, Luntz crafted focus group sessions for members of the president’s team to advise them on a more effective communication strategy for vaccine outreach. Reports indicated that Luntz was also involved with calls between the White House and television networks across the nation to persuade them to employ different arguments and vocabulary when promoting the vaccine to listeners. This level of cooperation between the White House and media networks is already troubling, and Luntz’s involvement, given his more notorious reputation among the GOP today, drew conservative Twitter’s ire.
Despite his successful work and dedication to the GOP, Luntz has recently come out strongly against the America First faction of the party, proclaiming soon after Biden’s inauguration that he was no longer a Republican due to the party’s continued involvement with Donald Trump. His long-established relationships with current Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have led many Republicans to criticize their involvement with him. Conservatives on Twitter almost all uniformly began attacking Luntz as an icon of the Republican establishment swamp ousted by Donald Trump’s political revolution.
Upon receiving backlash on Twitter for his involvement with the Biden administration’s vaccine promotion efforts, Luntz commented that the topic shouldn’t be political and remarked, “I don’t care if people b–ch at me.” Luntz’s work in the field of political communications for the GOP made him a hero. Still, these latest revelations may set him up as yet another pariah in the rapidly changing Republican Party.
Despite the pollster’s efforts to bridge the political divide on the COVID-19 vaccine, neither side seems particularly welcoming to him. Democrats on Twitter cite his past achievements with the GOP as a primary reason to bar him from being involved with the Biden administration. At the same time, Republicans on social media have firmly turned against him for similar reasons regarding their rejection of Liz Cheney (R-WY) as part of the House Republican leadership.
Though Luntz has long been part of the Republican Party, many problems have arisen from these recent revelations. Critics view his actions as further examples of efforts by media pollsters to manipulate Americans into getting the vaccine through any means possible. Even now, America First Republicans continue to lambast mainstream GOP leaders like McCarthy and McConnell, and their relationship with Luntz may prove too much for Republicans to accept without consequences. The potential coaching of Biden-allied media networks seeking to influence viewer opinion rather than report honestly with the assistance of a former Republican may be too groundbreaking for even establishment Republicans to ignore for long if attention is kept on the issue.
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