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Hannity

YouTube Debate! Frank Luntz Gets Inside Scoop on Reaction to Candidates

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 23, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story tonight. The Democrats are just wrapping up their debate in Charleston, South Carolina, tonight, and our own "Campaign Carl Cameron", he's on the scene. He's got all the details -- Carl?

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Sean. We're in the "spin" room, and it should start filling up with the "spinners." The campaign staff will come out here and tell us how they think their candidates all did in just a matter of seconds.

This was supposed to be the intersection, the debate in which new and old media got it together. The questions were to be posed by YouTube videos submitted by folks from around the country, and that's what happened. We had at one point a video where a snowman was asking about global warming, and there was some cute stuff, but there was also a lot of serious moments.

And it may not be that the high-tech, low-tech stuff makes the headlines tomorrow morning. This could be that this happened at the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, heavily, heavily steeped in military tradition, and a big, big portion of this debate was spent focused on the Democrats' Iraq strategy, or more precisely their strategy to get U.S. troops out of Iraq. How that plays here at the Citadel and here at Charlestown, South Carolina, could be very interesting in the next day or so. Here's a sampling of some of the rhetoric from Democrats talking about how eager they are to get the U.S. out of Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: With all due respect to some of my friends here, yes, we want to begin moving the troops out, but we want to do so safely and orderly and carefully.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: So we have to begin a phased withdrawal, have our combat troops out by March 31st of next year...

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I believe we should bring all the troops home by the end of this year, in six months, with no residual forces, no residual forces.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Let's get those troops home, and let's take a stand and do it now. Send a message to Congress now. We cannot wait until the next president takes office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: There was a lot of rhetoric back and forth. At one point, Joe Biden essentially admonished all of his Democratic colleagues, saying, look, that they're not being honest with the American people, because no withdrawal can happen as immediately as some of them would seem to say they would like to. And then just a few moments ago, in the debate, Mr. Biden had a video that he himself ran, in which he said, "Look, I have a plan, too, to get the troops out of Iraq now."

There was another moment that was particularly important in terms of the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The question was whether or not each of the candidates would meet with the leaders of Syria, Iran, and other hot spots around the country as a promised meeting in the first year of their administration. Barack Obama immediately said, yes, he would be willing to meet with Syria's president, Iran's president, et cetera, because he felt that diplomacy would be necessary.

Well, the next person asked was Hillary Clinton, and she said, no, she wouldn't. And it ends up sort of embarrassing Obama. What Mrs. Clinton did was say that she didn't want to be used as a potential propaganda tool by despots around the world who might take advantage of that opportunity were she to agree without parameters to a such-and-such meeting. Well, it left Obama a little bit exposed, and the Clinton campaign tonight is pushing that out aggressively, showing that it illustrates her experience in leadership, as opposed to Obama's inexperience and naivete -- Sean?

HANNITY: All right, thanks, Carl.

Also in South Carolina tonight is our own Frank Luntz, author of the book "Words that Work." Now, tonight, he's been watching the debate with a focus group of voters. We always want to know what the voters think.

Frank, thanks for being with us.

FRANK LUNTZ, AUTHOR, "WORDS THAT WORK": Hi, it's my pleasure. And, gentlemen, we saw something really interesting tonight. I want to take it right to the voters.

By a show of hands, how many of you walked in here supporting Hillary Clinton as your first choice for president? Raise your hands, raise them high. You all were first-choice Hillary voters. How many of you thought she won the debate? Look at what happened, Sean.

Now, how many of you walked in here picking Obama as your first choice, only your first choice? Now, how many of you thought Obama won the debate, raise your hands? Check this out. What is it about Barack Obama's performance today, anybody?

Ryan, we'll start with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack, his opinions were right on. He answered the question. He didn't change or modify his answers according to what his preplan was for the debate. Other people seemed to can themselves and pose themselves. He was genuine. He had specifics.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that he was definitely on the mark. He was believable. He answered the questions. He stuck to a plan, and he made you feel like he could succeed as president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe he was very knowledgeable, and I really liked the way he answered all of the questions. Although he hasn't been in the -- he's not been a senator that long, he really does know what's going on in Washington.

LUNTZ: Now, Nancy, you're one of the oldest people. James, you're one of the youngest people in this group. Who won your heart?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama did, definitely. I thought he shared how he's a unifier, and the way he was so charismatic, it just kind of -- I wasn't alive when JFK was around, but the speeches that I've heard of him inspiring people, I can see how he can inspire our nation.

LUNTZ: Now, you guys are all talking about personality rather than issues. Why is that? Why is it Obama's personality that is so strong for you all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politics. We need somebody that's going to inject some enthusiasm into this country. We know that politics happens up there behind closed doors most of the time, but if you get somebody that's sincere and will stand behind issues...

LUNTZ: Why not Hillary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not Hillary? I think that -- I don't think that her heart is really where it needs to be for the middle class.

LUNTZ: Lawanda?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not Hillary?

LUNTZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary is not as motivating as Obama was. I mean, Obama made you feel like he understood the problems, the struggles, and he truly wanted to change. Hillary is just kind of going with the flow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I completely agree. To me, Hillary just was reading off of a sheet the entire time. She would manipulate her answer to whatever she thought the question was going to be and not what the question really was.

LUNTZ: Now, up to this point, we've done these sessions up to this point, and Obama has not done all that well, and Hillary Clinton has. Is there something about their performance tonight that particularly stood out to you? Diane, I know that you thought Hillary did better. Explain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don't know that I'm going to vote for Hillary or anybody else at this point. I can't make up my mind. But I felt Hillary is -- she's a statesman, stateswoman. She's presidential.

LUNTZ: And you didn't find Obama to be that way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It's all about personality and charisma, I thought.

LUNTZ: Nathan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought Obama was truly speaking from the heart. And even his facial expressions seemed like, you know, he was really sincere about what he was saying. And I believe he's all across the board for the everyday people.

LUNTZ: Amy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe Obama came across as being very trustworthy. And right now, I think that's what the American people need. I think we need a president that we can stand behind and that we feel like we can trust.

LUNTZ: Now, let me ask you as a group. Which one seemed more like they understood people's concerns?

GROUP: Obama.

LUNTZ: Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, Hillary, it seemed to me that Hillary is running for Hillary. Barack Obama is running for the people. That's what I heard tonight.

LUNTZ: But more of you came into this room supporting Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But don't we need that type of charismatic person to make those connections with foreign nations? We need someone who is believable, someone who's trustworthy, and someone who wants to create peace.

LUNTZ: And who is that person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama.

LUNTZ: Interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Hillary has skills, knowledge. She's been around a long time. I think she has a lot to bring to the plate, but I think tonight Obama was really on target. And he convinced and pulled in, I think, those of us that were sitting here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think tonight's election showed how electable he could be, because a lot of y'all came in thinking Hillary was going to be it, and he was able to change your minds. So I think it really showed the potential that he has to be our leader.

LUNTZ: Now, did anyone actually change their preference? Did people change their preference here? You did. You actually changed your preference?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LUNTZ: What specifically, Cindy, caused you to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He makes me feel comfortable. I feel I can trust him. He's very confident. He's thorough in his answers.

LUNTZ: And who were you supporting before you walked in here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary.

LUNTZ: Did she disappoint you, or did Obama do so well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he was far better, far better.

LUNTZ: Amy, you switched your vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I switched my vote, but honestly I would love to see the two of them pair up. I think they would be unbeatable.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: That's what you want, you want an Obama-Clinton ticket? These guys are great. You guys back in New York, do you want to ask them any questions?

HANNITY: Yes, Frank, by the way, it's Sean. Can you hear me OK?

LUNTZ: I hear you perfectly.

HANNITY: All right, I love the honesty of everybody in the room, Frank. I only wish they were Republican, if you could pass that message onto everybody. When they say "team up," is there one person they prefer at the top of the ticket versus the other?

LUNTZ: OK. If there's a team of Clinton-Obama, how many of you in this room want Clinton on top? Raise your hands. How many want Obama on top? [Editor's Note: Obama on top is the clear favorite.] This is what is remarkable. And, by the way, Sean, one of the things that stood out, I asked them all, how many of you like this YouTube format, where you have real people asking questions? How many of you, by show of hands, prefer the YouTube format? Look at this. They want real people talking on the real issues. It was a very interesting evening tonight.

HANNITY: Wow, very impressive. Now, I'll tell you what, now, Frank, you're putting together the dial positions to specific answers that the candidates gave. So little bit later in the show, we'll put in the final touches on this. We're going to go back to Frank Luntz and see during specific answers how our focus group reacted to the words of the candidates. We'll more from Frank Luntz coming up in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We take you back now to Charleston, South Carolina. Frank Luntz standing by with a look at some real time reaction from voters who were switching tonight's YouTube Democratic presidential debate.

Frank, what is the switching and dial position stuff all about?

LUNTZ: What happened tonight is that we took a group of 30 South Carolina Democrats and they watched the entire two hours. They came in here supporting Hillary Clinton, a plurality did, and they left here supporting Barack Obama.

What I'm going to show you now are some of the dial results, how they responded on a second-by-second basis to what they saw. They use these dials about the size of a remote control. The higher you see these lines go, the more favorable the response is.

Red line represents moderates. This yellow line represents liberals. Watch what happens when Barack Obama begins to communicate a response to the question of reparations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I did a -- I did a town hall meeting in Florence, South Carolina. In an area called the "Corridor of Shame." They have got buildings that students are trying to learn in that were built right after the Civil War. And, we have got teachers who are not trained to teach the subjects they are teaching in, high dropout rates. We have got to understand that there are corridors of shame all across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: That concept, the "corridors of shame all across the country," he took a very tough question and talked aspirationally and that phrase, corridors of shame, I'm paying attention to what the candidates have to say, that phrase is something that I think you are going to hear a lot from Obama coming forward.

COLMES: Something else, Frank, was the issue of him being African- American that came up tonight and he dealt with that as well.

LUNTZ: It was a very tough question. It's one that the people thought -- they didn't know how he was going to answer it, but as you are about to see, he hit this one out of the park. And he used both humor and pathos. Let's take a look, and again, watch how high the lines go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I'm catching a cab in Manhattan, in the past I think have given my credentials.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: But let me go to the broader issue here, and that is that race permeates our society. It is still a critical problem. But I do believe in the core decency of the American people. And I think they want to get beyond some of our racial divisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Awesome. They want to get beyond some of our racial divisions. Here is someone who could be -- and South Carolina has got a significant black population. It represents anywhere from a third to over 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote and he reached out and he did it effectively. The African-American voter appreciated it without turning off the white vote. This is someone who has really got the message down quite well.

HANNITY: Hey, Frank, there were two moments in the debate where he directly confronted Hillary Clinton and he gave a very different answer on the war and you have a clip of that as it relates more specifically to the troops.

LUNTZ: This is, to me, the most important part of the debate. And I was watching it and when he mentioned Hillary Clinton's name, I was expecting the lines to go down because the one thing the Democrats have told us, don't attack another Democrat. There is an 11th commandment out there. And, yet, he challenged her.

And watch how high the lines are going to go when he differentiated his position from Senator Clinton's position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And that is something that too many of us failed to do. We failed to do it and I do think that that is something that both Republicans and Democrats have to take responsibility for.

When I am president of the United States, when I send our troops into battle, I'm going to be absolutely sure that it's based on sound intelligence and I'm going to tell the truth to the American people as well as the families who are being asked to sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: He is off the charts. I mean, this is as high as it can go. He is explicit. He has drawn the contrast. He has hit a home run. What I would like to do is I want to play for you the sound of what they had to say about Barack Obama so you can really understand, it's not that he is a good politician and it's not his experience. It's as much his presentation and more importantly it's that he seems to represent people rather than politics.

If you guys back there can roll the sound, this is why Obama will be shown as the winner of tonight's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is the complete opposite of what we have had in office for the last really two decades. And that's what we are yearning for right now is a change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm just always impressed to see him -- he doesn't look for words. He brings it right out. And he talks about the right thing for me as a senior citizen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not your typical politician. He is more of an outsider. He hasn't been around as long as everyone else. He hasn't been tainted necessarily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is very charismatic and appears very personable. And so it draws people to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way he speaks, he speaks with passion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people want to follow that passion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he is believable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Hey, Frank.

LUNTZ: And you notice.

HANNITY: Go ahead.

LUNTZ: You notice that it's not about issues. It's actually not about substance. It is about style. But I have got to tell you something, what the Democrats have been saying nationwide is, we want somebody who is listening to us. We are tired of Washington, we are tired of the president. We want someone who understands us, who empathizes with us, that they can communicate to us. And we want someone who breaks the partisan boundaries. That is why Obama did so well today.

HANNITY: You know, first of all, I want to remind our viewers here these were all Democrats looking at Democratic candidates here in your focus group. And by the way, I was very impressed with them and very impressed with their honesty here. And two other things, they seem to unanimously want Hillary and Barack Obama to unite.

What was the reaction to the other candidates tonight?

LUNTZ: The one who did the best among the second tier was clearly Senator Joe Biden. They appreciated his directness on Iraq. And in fact, what was interesting is that they responded so favorably to Obama's style but they responded almost as favorably to Biden's substance.

HANNITY: What about Edwards?

LUNTZ: Edwards did not do as well. And while he had some very good sound bites, he really didn't score with the passion and they felt that he didn't quite hit the same level of relateability that Obama presented. It was a good night for Joe Biden and good night for Senator Obama.

COLMES: We thank you very much, Frank, for being with us tonight. Very interesting to talk about all of this.

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