This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 22, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARK STEYN, GUEST HOST: We're approaching the end of President Obama's first year in office, and it looks as though the American people think the commander in chief leaves a lot to be desired.
The latest Rasmussen poll shows nearly twice as many people strongly disapprove of the president's performance, been strongly approve of the way he's handling his job, 46 to 25 percent. And that by the way is the highest level of strong disapproval recorded for President Obama so far.
Joining me for analysis is the author of "What Americans Really Want, Really," Frank Luntz.
Frank, this has been an astonishing first year for the so-called post-partisan healer. What happened?
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FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Well, since we're approaching Christmas, let's give him a present in three parts. There are still three components of the American electorate that do have a favorable impression of the president, 18 to 29-year-olds, where he was strongest in the election. Young voters, first, second, third time voters still think very highly of him and he also scores as well among African-Americans and Latinos.
But that's the only good news that he has. If you take a look at where he's fallen the most, voters over age 60 and independents, and those are two segments of the electorate that are absolutely crucial for 2010.
STEYN: Now what now — in terms of getting back to where he was, do you think there's anything he can do or do you think, in fact, that the issues he's now yoked to, the big spending and the health care, mean that he's got to take the heat on these numbers for a while?
LUNTZ: Well, the problem is that what he keeps pushing and where Congress keeps pushing is exactly what's turning off voters to Democrats in general, and to President Obama in particular. The American people don't want more wasteful Washington spending. They don't want more of the stimulus and more of these programs.
Now I have seen some polling that shows that there is an even number of people who want a jobs program versus those who want to tackle the deficit and the debt. But I will tell you that as you dig deeper into the numbers and as you listen to the voters, the single greatest problem for the Democrats right now is what harmed Republicans three years ago.
The American people don't believe that the money spent in Washington is being spent wisely, effectively or carefully.
LUNTZ: Those are essential principles that the public expects.
STEYN: No, I think that's true. That if you look at the way the stimulus spending has gone, nobody believes that these billions and trillions of dollars are going out to anything real. So there may be support for a jobs program, but by the time it's washed through Congress and there've been all the special deals put in, nobody is going to like that jobs program either.
LUNTZ: But let's.
STEYN: Yes, go ahead, Frank.
LUNTZ: I mean let's look at Congress' job approval numbers. The fact is, the Unibomber has a higher favorability rating than members of Congress. That the American people look at that institution and they say that it's just not delivering what they promised.
They voted for fundamental change. An awful lot of people lost their jobs in November of 2008 and now in December 2009, and not only members of Congress lost their jobs, but we've got an unemployment rate of 10 percent, double digits, and the American people are saying why do you keep spending?
STEYN: Yes. But if you look at it in the other point of view, Frank, I mean, the criticism always made of politicians is that they're poll driven, they're poll driven. They're watching the polls, they're thinking of the short term. That's all they do.
Whatever you feel about Obama and Pelosi and Reid, they're clearly not doing that. They want to ram health care through in the teeth of opposition from 2/3 of the American electorate, according to some polls. Haven't they decided, in effect, that they're going to use their big majorities that are unlikely to last to accomplish fundamental change regardless of what passing public opinion thinks of it?
LUNTZ: And there's a big — to some degree, yes, there's a big difference. I've heard it compared to 1981 when Ronald Reagan cut spending, cut taxes, and strengthened the military, and he did that all within the first months of 1981.
The difference was that Reagan had significant support among Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate. What's happening in 2009 is that it is all happening among Democrats. The Republicans, in almost every single vote, whether it's spending or taxes or health care, the Republicans are all saying that it's too much, too fast, and it's one of the reasons why the American people are so agitated.
Let me give you a statistic. Right now we asked the American people how — what percent of you are, and I quote, "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?" Seventy-two percent said yes. I've been asking that question since 1992, it's never been more than 50 percent.
And one of the reasons why we're going to be hosting — I want to tell people get their pen and paper, if you want to participate in one of these great Fox News focus group town hall meetings, we're going to be doing them through 2010, all you have to do, just sign up, write this down, just contact, just go to theworddoctors.com. Theworddoctors.com and you can sign up and if you're mad as hell you'll get a chance to be heard.
STEYN: Well, what does that 72 percent that are mad as hell translate to in terms of political impact, though, Frank? I mean, if you're mad as well, what are you going to do next November?
LUNTZ: Well, you did — what happened in Virginia and New Jersey. Understand, Barack Obama won New Jersey by 11 points in 2008. The Republican won by 4 points in 2009 for governor. In Virginia, Obama won by six points in 2008. The Republican won by 18 in 2009.
What we see is the turnout differential of as much as 10, 12 percent. If I could translate that, a Democrat could be going into Election Day with a two and a half point lead and be defeated by the Republican simply because more conservatives vote than liberals. And this is a big deal in 2010.
STEYN: So you're betting is that right now it's going to be the conservative base that's energized in November. What about, though, the argument when you look at this approval numbers, that this is simply the shallowness of the electorate. They always say they want something new, whatever you feel about this health care monstrosity and the multi-trillion dollar spending it's certainly new, at any rate, more expensive than it's ever been before. And now the fickle electorate says oh, well, OK, it's new but this isn't what we want.
LUNTZ: Exempt that what I've studied over the last 15 years is that big programs like this, more often than not they build support. This is one of those rare situations where every single week, support is dropping. There's a reason why Harry Reid wants to pass this before Christmas.
Frankly he's afraid that Mary Landrieu, that Blanche Lincoln, that Ben Nelson, that Joe Lieberman will go home over Christmas and New Year's and realized that their states oppose this legislation. So if he doesn't ram it through right now, he won't get a chance to do it again.
STEYN: Yes, those numbers could be heading a lot more southwards. So thanks a lot, Frank.
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