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Hannity

Government Shutdown Showdown: Which Party's Winning the Language Battle?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And tonight, we are keeping a close eye on the budget battle in Washington. A shutdown could be underway by this time next week and if that happens, House Speaker John Boehner says, Senate Democrats are to blame. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: They have done nothing. They haven't passed a plan, they haven't put a plan forward in terms of what they are going to do to cut spending. And I think it is time for them to get serious about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: So, could a deal be reached in time to prevent Congress from closing its doors?

Joining me now with reaction is the author of the brand new book "Win." The president of The Word Doctors, the one and only Frank Luntz. Dr. Frank Luntz, good to see you.

FRANK LUNTZ, AUTHOR, "WIN": Sean, the battle of language even if there is, or isn't a shut down, the battle of language has already started. Right now, the Republicans have the advantage because the Democrats have started off so weakly. I got to point out, one word to you before we even start the conversation and that is Senator Schumer of New York talking about extremism. That is all he is talking about and he was caught on tape as some of the viewers know saying repeatedly always call the Republicans extremists, always talk about extremism. That doesn't play in this debate. The American people want principle, they don't want politics.

HANNITY: Well, I want to get into this because, you know, Schumer gets caught on this call, I think people seeing politics here, I don't think this helped the Democrats. And then having Howard Dean followed that up with his statement that he is rooting for a shutdown. You know, I think the American people realize, $14 trillion in debt, this is unsustainable. This is our kids and our grandkids futures here, Frank.

LUNTZ: And in fact, when you talk about whether it is a $30 billion cut or $60 billion cut, Americans would say do whatever it takes. Number one, there's got be a light at end of the tunnel. There has to be some big success story at the end. Number two, it can't be about typical partisan politics or both political parties lose. And number three, they have to understand that Boehner used the word plan. It is a plan of action is what they are looking for. Not an actual strategy but get it done.

HANNITY: Yes, you know, I was looking, first of all, I know the unemployment rate is at 8.8 percent nationally. Gallup has it at 10 percent. We don't include those that have given up looking for work Frank, we don't include the under employed here. A lot of conservatives got nervous over statement that John Boehner made earlier in the week, when he said, look, we only control -- first he said, no deal was made after it had been reported so. So, good for him in that respect. We control one half of one third of the government, we're going to continue to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can to keep the government open and funded through the balance of the fiscal year.

Now, a Rasmussen survey shows, 57 percent Frank, they support a government shutdown. Do you think there is too much fear there?

LUNTZ: But you've got to take it one step further. Because if they would support a government shutdown if they felt that it would lead to significant budget cuts, to shut the government -- and I got to be blunt, Sean, to shut the government down for the sake of shutting it down has the support of only 20, maybe 25 percent of the American people. The others to take you up to that 50 percent, they want to know that meaningful significant cuts will be made in wasteful, Washington spending so their kids don't get stuck with deficits and debts for years to come.

HANNITY: All right. Here is the question that I have. Because, look if there was a fear of a government shutdown, shouldn't their greater fear be that they promised the $61 billion in cuts this year. And another words, if the argument is we only control one half of one third of the House. That is not why they got hired. They got hired to stake a stand, they got hired to fight, they got hired to bring fiscal discipline to Washington. And when next week, if there is not the government shutdown, Paul Ryan is going release his budget. He is talking about 6, $7 trillion. Trillion. If they can't stand for tens of billions, how are they going to stand for trillions?

LUNTZ: What the American people want them to do is number one, they want them to stand for accountability. Number two, they want them to say what they mean and mean what they say. These are all key phrases. Number three, they don't want you to make promises that you're going to break, empty promises, accounting gimmicks or budget tricks. They want you to look them straight in the eye and tell them the truth. The key for the Republicans in their presentation -- because the onus is going to be on them, Obama is a great communicator, he's got the power of the White House -- the key for the Republicans is to make this about facts. If this is about facts, statistics, evidence all wrapped around a commitment to our children in the next generation, I think they will succeed although clearly the challenges are great.

HANNITY: Let me go back to the language a little bit here because I think this is very, very important. You're talking about make it about children, make it about the future, tell people how it is unsustainable. What you are really saying I think is they have a responsibility to make their case to the American people. When we look at the people now in politics that are popular, the Marco Rubios, the Christies, the Jindals, the Bob McDonalds, the Kasichs, the Walkers, aren't they popular because they are fulfilling promises and taking a tough stand?

LUNTZ: We tested an ad for Rand Paul, the new senator from Kentucky, and it was 30 seconds of policy, no platitudes, specifically what he was going do with the budget, what he was going to do with taxes. It was all wrapped around making significant changes. It was one of the best tested ads.

The guy who ran against him, the Democrat,ran all sorts of negativity. What the American people told us in 2010 is look me straight in the eye, tell me the truth, tell me exactly what you are going to do, I'm an adult, I'll pay attention but take all of the politics out of it. That is the challenge for the GOP when they do their presentation.

And one more thing, Sean, I think it's going to be important the power points, that old Ross Perot style of actually giving the evidence behind it. I think the Republicans are going to need a national education campaign over the next couple of months, that will make them effective.

HANNITY: All right. Frank Luntz, good advice, we'll going to follow this one week from today, the government may be shut down. We'll get to that.

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