Frank Luntz ran a focus group during the GOP debate last night, which yielded some useful results. Ted Cruz received top marks overall, but Marco Rubio got the biggest spike on his gun control remarks.
“Criminals don’t buy their guns from a gun show. They don’t buy their guns from a collector. And they don’t buy their guns from a gun store.
They steal them, they get them on the black market. And let me tell you, ISIS and terrorists do not get their guns from a gun show.”
The group used words describing Rubio as a “superstar,” “very articulate,” and “unwavering.” They praised his “youthful exuberance.”
“Cruz had the definition,” panelist Beverly said, “but at this point, Rubio had the passion.”
That description is dead-on. Rubio went after every issue last night with passion, and when he read Cruz a litany of “flip-flops,” he did it with passion. Cruz at times comes off as dispassionate because his responses tend to be the measured statements of a champion debater.
As for Cruz, he was consistent and able to effectively counter Trump. The “New York values” moment didn’t move at least one panelist, Daryl, who said Trump “didn’t need to take it so personally.” Another panelist thought Cruz took it a little too far.
In the end, nobody was really moved by the back-and-forth between Cruz and Trump. “Stick to the issues,” one panelist said.
Sadly for the establishment, Cruz and Trump did not self-annhiliate last night, although they did generate sparks for the first time on a debate stage. Rubio showed what he could be if he shows up more consistently on the issues. We need to see more of that and less of the sideshow.