Focus Group Divided Along Party Lines to Obama Address

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back. Now we are going "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren, who joins us from New York with some reaction to the president's address from a focus group. Hi, Greta.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Hey, Bret. This is terrific. I am going to turn it right over to Frank Luntz, because he has a focus group. They have been watching us, and they have a lot to tell you about what they heard and saw tonight. Frank?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: We have got 27 people, half voted for Obama, half voted for McCain. Before I get to your reactions, we did a sound bite that really blew off of the charts for Republicans initially, and then the Democrats loved it, and it was all about Vice President Joe Biden.

Let's watch the dials when they reacted. It was your number one segment. Let's see how they reacted.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical about whether this plan will work, and I understand that skepticism.

Here in Washington, we have all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with this plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

And that is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.


LUNTZ: You caved when he said "Nobody." What was the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was just juvenile.

LUNTZ: Did you react favorably or unfavorably?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Joe Biden, but it was just an odd statement. It was an odd thing for the president to say at that point.

LUNTZ: So overall, how many of you had a favorable impression of the speech? Raise your hands.

And who was unfavorable? So it looks just like we are red state, blues state all over again.

David, your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was nothing more than expected. I expected a campaign speech. I didn't get any specifics, and it is now a little bit more hope than doom and gloom. It's what I expected.

LUNTZ: Did you get the hope you were looking for, Jaclyn?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did. He amped up the volume. The last few days when he has been on the air, he has been talking down the economy, saying it's the worst economic condition since the depression. He was much more optimistic tonight, and that was positive.

Watch Greta's interview

LUNTZ: Do we have any unemployed people here?

Jake, I have to ask you, are you more confident you will find a job now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope so, but it is not going to happen anytime soon, and I know that, unfortunately.

LUNTZ: And so Obama did not make you feel any more optimistic?


LUNTZ: Who else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My biggest problem is with the stimulus package. There is no incentive for savings. The interest rates, if you have a little money in the bank, you should be able to get a decent interest rate.

LUNTZ: Do you guys support the stimulus package.


LUNTZ: Who supports it? (Hands raise.) Who is opposed to it? (Hands raise.)

It's fascinating to me that in this whole discussion, even though they had a positive reaction to his performance, he still didn't sell the stimulus package.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is hard to sell in one speech, you would agree with that? It's hard to sell in one speech. But, nonetheless, it is very interesting how the different opinions are so quickly formed.

We are going to go back to Bret Baier in Washington. Bret, back to you in Washington, because we are going to come back in a minute to this focus group. But these people went "On the Record," and they certainly have strong ideas after watching these two speeches tonight, Bret.

BAIER: I bet. And we will be showing what they thought about Governor Jindal's speech, as well.

Greta, what was your take, the surprising reaction from that audience there.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it is the level of interest. People really are concerned with what's going on in this country. It's not just cavalier.

Obviously, they assembled here, and they are interested in seeing the speeches. But even when you leave the studio and leave, the folks, you can see how people are interested.

But this group, you are very interested in what happens, aren't you?


VAN SUSTEREN: You can hear this. This really matters. People are concerned about the economy. And there is not a lot of certainty, and hope really does matters, and not all these people got hope tonight. Bret?

BAIER: That's interesting, Greta. We'll be back in just a minute.

Joining us now is chief political correspondent Carl Cameron on Capitol Hill. He has a guest with him, the House Majority Leader--Carl.


It is customary after such speeches that members of Congress come out to the cameras to tell us what they think of the speech that we all just saw.

We are honored here to have with us tonight Steny Hoyer, the majority leader from Maryland. Sir, what did you think of President Obama, the first black president speaking to the joint session of congress?

STENY HOYER, (D-MD) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Carl, what I thought is that whatever color, this is an extraordinary leader. This is a leader who became president of the United States because he engendered in the American public a confidence that he can do the job. I think he showed that tonight.

He said we this country is in trouble. We have an economic crisis. We have inherited this crisis, but we are going to meet this crisis, and we are going to overcome it. He said we are going to rebuild, we are going to recover.

And I think his main intent was to engender confidence and also vision, because he then said in order to be successful not just in the short run, which the recovery and reinvestment act is looking at, but also that act is looking for a long-term recovery.

We are going to invest in energy independence so that the Middle Eastern nations or other nations that wish us harm can't hold us hostage.

We are going to invest in the health care for our people. We will make affordable and accessible for all. We will have a healthier nation as a result, and we will be more competitive internationally in our businesses.

And then he concluded that we need to educate every one of our children beyond that which our competitors are doing so that we will be competitive.

And he ended with that great story about that little girl in South Carolina, who said that this may not be the best school I'm in, but I want to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer. And we are not quitters.

And he said, "Americas are not quitters." And I think when they saw that and they heard this speech, they said to themselves, "He said 'Yes, we can.' And by God, I believe, yes, we can. Yes, we will. We will overcome this and be a better nation."

CAMERON: Steny Hoyer, sir, I had lots of questions, but you answered them with all of those. Thank you very much, sir.

HOYER: Bret, we'll send it back you in the studio.

BAIER: OK, Carl, thanks. We will head back when you get somebody else. We will go "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren for some reaction to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's rebuttal to the president when we come back.


BAIER: Welcome back. Let's go "On the Record" again with Greta Van Susteren.

Greta, how did your focus group react to Governor Jindal's comments?

VAN SUSTEREN: That's fascinating too, and Frank Luntz is here. In fact, he will show you the dial, Bret, that he's been using with this focus to get their ideas on the two speeches tonight. Show us, Frank.

LUNTZ: What is interesting about is that it goes from zero all the way up to 100. If you like what they're saying, and if you don't you turn it down back to zero. The higher that you see the lines climb, the more favorable the reaction.

Before we get to Jindal, I need to one more thing on Barack Obama. There was one moment when Republicans and Democrats both dialed through the roof: Beat up on banks, beat up on CEOs, protect children, and honor the military. But it was the beating up on CEOs that was the most positive. Let's take a look.


OBAMA: This time, this time, CEOs will not be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.


LUNTZ: What is wrong with private jets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans believe in a system that is fair and just. And I think he said it, and that is what we believe in. And I think that is why the charts went up.

LUNTZ: Compare Obama with this great scenario with Bobby Jindal with no audience behind him. How well did the governor of Louisiana perform?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought Jindal performed exemplarily. I thought his calmness perhaps lulled people into a Mr. Rogers like effect, but in point of fact he was trying to be comprehensible to a large American audience that may not know him.

LUNTZ: What are your reactions to the governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Governor Jindal sounded fabulous. He did not provide quite enough logistics, but I certainly think of all his comments and his patriotism was the overriding theme of what he had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was upbeat, and he believed in individual American as opposed to the government doing everything for us.

LUNTZ: I would assume that you still thought that Obama was more presidential.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was presidential.


LUNTZ: The one thing that I think has happened once again is that McCain voters still do not want to give Obama a shot.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think one thing that is true is that partisanship is still alive and well right here in this room, as well.

Bret, back to you in Washington. And this is much like the partisanship we see in our Congress. They are divided here.

BAIER: It looks like it. Greta, thanks.

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