This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Good evening welcome to the special edition of "Hannity." President Obama addressed the nation tonight in his annual State of the Union address. And unlike his previous addresses, this one came before a divided Congress with Republicans now in control of the House.
The speech ran 62 minutes during which the president vowed to keep America competitive, called for a five year domestic spending freeze, and he pushed for bipartisanship. But did the speech resonate with Americans?
We turn now to Frank Luntz. He's standing by with a live focus group in Atlanta tonight. Frank, I don't know what your focus group has to say. I'm going to give you a few of my thoughts.
First of all, I thought a lot of this was flat, surprisingly so, inasmuch as we've heard a lot of this before -- earmark reform, transparency, for example. It almost seemed like the "Yes, we can" magic disappeared a little bit, maybe because we've heard it before.
But the thing that struck me Frank, and I'm dying to find out what your focus group says, is the disconnect. I did not feel the president had this sense of urgency, how bad unemployment, the debt, the deficit is, when he called for $400 billion in savings, when he accumulated $3.4 trillion in new debt since he's been president. It seems like he's trying to sell the old same policies.
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Let's find out what our 29 people in Atlanta had to say. And I don't want you to feel under pressure because of what Sean Hannity just said. I want a word or phrase to describe what you thought of the speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Optimism.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Latitudes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Empty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Redundant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not connected with America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hyperbole.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama conflicting and Ryan was speaking just like every American I meet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopeful on Obama, but not compelling.
LUNTZ: I want to see a quick show of hands of everyone in this room, did he exceed or fall short of your expectations? Who would say he exceeded them, raise your hands? Two people. Who would say he fell short? A lot of you.
Sean, I want to go to one clip we did, because Obama talked a lot about bipartisanship, and yet the Republicans didn't respond too favorably to that. The red line that goes up -- the red line is Republicans, green line is Democrats. Watch how high the green climbs and red line falls when Barack Obama appeals directly to partisanship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party, bigger than politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: So the question is, what is it about this appeal to bipartisanship that those of you on the Republican side don't like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't believe it.
LUNTZ: Explain it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe him. He said that before. When he first got into office he was going to be the president to change everything, come across the aisle. It never happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is phony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is bipartisan? Is it if you agree with me? That's bipartisan? I mean, we've got two sides here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to use one of those curse words we can't use. You all didn't. You all didn't. The Republicans didn't. The first thing he said was I'm not going to work with him. I'm not going to work with you. What does that mean? That's like throwing down the gauntlet.
LUNTZ: Hold on one second. Sean, you've got a question?
HANNITY: Yes, I do. Somebody said it. He said all of these things before. He said it last year, during the campaign. And this whole campaign, it was only a couple months ago when he was calling Republicans enemies. They can sit in the back. For two years Republicans weren't invited to the table.
So in that sense are we just reading words from a teleprompter or has he lost the ability because he has two years experience for people to belief him?
LUNTZ: So here's the question, is it politics or principle that you heard tonight? Who would say politics, raise your hand. Who would say principle? I want to give a shot. Arthur, you said principle, tell me why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This president is doing the best he can at this point. He's trying to be in the center. He's not being -- it is not that he's trying to cause problems with the economy. He's doing the best job he can do. I think he's doing a great job. He's brought unemployment down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total experience, experience, and we are not making any progress whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2000 he said Bush is not the real president and everything. And then they are yelling at him for the same thing. Everyone is saying the same things again, it's 10 years later, the same thing, but we are worse off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was two years of railroading legislation in Washington, rolling over Republicans, accusing them of being cynical. And now it's hey guys, let's come to the table, have a drink and work together. It's nonsense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like getting romantic talk from Tiger Woods. Are you going to put your trust in him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got a lot accomplished in this lame duck session. When they did come together and pass bipartisan support, things got an accomplished. You have people here who are probably to the far right who don't want to see any time of compromise. When you have compromise, things get done, you get bills passed.
LUNTZ: Again, what is wrong with compromise? I want to understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to have some compromise. The nature of compromise is to give a little on both sides.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's really nothing wrong with compromise. People have to sit across the table and talk about what is good for each side and take the good things together. Not everybody is going to be happy.
LUNTZ: Is Barack Obama sincere about bipartisanship?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know.
LUNTZ: One at a time. Is Barack Obama sincere?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he is. And I think it should be the American people, it's what they want. We are all American, not Democrat, not Republican. We need to work together.
LUNTZ: I get it. Sean, the State of the Union is supposed to bring people together. It is supposed to appeal to all Americans, not just the Americans from your political party. I don't think that has happened tonight. They are just as divided now as they were an hour and a half ago. Back to you.
HANNITY: Well, Frank, you can't forget the two years. It's a big difference.
All right, we have a lot more with Frank Luntz coming up in just a minute and his focus group.
HANNITY: Welcome back to this special edition of "Hannity." And we check in once again with Frank Luntz standing by in my old hometown in Atlanta with a focus group of voters. Frank, you have another dial I believe you are going to run?
LUNTZ: Yes. Once again, watch the red line is the Republicans, green line is the Democrats. The higher the more favorable reaction. Barack Obama said the worst of the recession is over. Let's see if our people agreed with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: So I got two questions now for you all. How many of you believe the recession is over, raise your hands? Three of you. So obviously that must have undercut credibility when he said it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think with inflation at risk still and unemployment the highest it has been it is worse for us still. With the debt, it is kind of everyone is still worried. There's too much uncertain ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. He's talking about cutting spending, are you kidding me? All this guy has done is spend. In that clip he said we need to live within our means. What is he talking about?
LUNTZ: You're a small business owner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm a small business owner.
LUNTZ: Do you feel the economy is starting to turn around for people like you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm afraid of the economy for people like me. I don't feel like that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's talking cutting spending, but yet he wants to just freeze spending for five years and that's two different things.
LUNTZ: And then one other question for you all. He does say that he wants to cut spending. How many of you by a show of hands believe him? One, two, three, four. Now, 13 of you voted for him. Sean, there are 13 people behind me who voted for Barack Obama. All the questions I'm asking, only three, four, five of them feel comfortable with the things that he said or how he said them.
HANNITY: One thing, it is very interesting. I paid close attention to what the president was saying tonight. And I find the word "investment" to be code for an increase in government spending. He gave two very specific examples about the one company and another example. And he's talking about investment in education, investment in green jobs.
It all means more spending from my point of view. As one of your guests pointed out, he's had two years, $3.4 trillion he accumulated in new debt. He wants to freeze spending but freeze at the inflated levels that he began. So it doesn't seem like any significant cut, in my point of view. Do they think so?
LUNTZ: OK, do you think Barack Obama is serious? Do you think the cuts he's talking about are significant?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No! Let's look at the facts. In the first two years, 22 percent --
LUNTZ: One at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were not told the truth from the time he became president. Why should we believe him now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's disguising what he spent using words like investment as opposed to saying he's spending. He's not reducing anything. He's just transferring how it is spent.
LUNTZ: Did you support him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
LUNTZ: And yet you have problems with what he saying about cutting spending?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because everything he has said thus far hasn't been true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If both sides come together -- he was talking about both sides coming together -- and then determine what they can cut. It both sides come together then it will be true. It can happen if both sides work together like they did in the lame duck session.
LUNTZ: Sean, last question?
HANNITY: Frank, of the 13 people you say in the room that voted for Barack Obama, would -- are they leaning towards reelecting him?
LUNTZ: How many of you are definitely or probably voting for Barack Obama in 2012?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without knowing the alternatives?
LUNTZ: Without knowing the alternatives, who is pretty well behind him? Seven of you. Why are only seven of you who voted for him still most likely to be voting for him now? What did he do that was wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is the other candidate, is it you Mr. Luntz?
LUNTZ: You might not vote for Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you run I'll vote for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you ask a question like that? That's like, is the gun green or blue when it goes off?
LUNTZ: Because what that teaches me is that even in his base, there are people such as Lawrence who may not vote for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, because the things that he had to do, he had an opportunity. He didn't do it right. So now he has -- someone else has to come in and clean it up.
LUNTZ: Sean, great group. If I were Barack Obama watching this tonight, I would be a little bit nervous. And if I were Paul Ryan, I would be pretty excited.
HANNITY: Great focus group. Thanks to everybody, and that's all the time with have left. We have Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Karl Rove tomorrow.
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