In a very odd moment I happened to catch at FOX News post-debate Tuesday night, conservative pollster Frank Luntz, who had gathered together a focus group of supposed undecideds to watch the debate, asked for a show of hands as to who won the thing. ("How many thought McCain won? Okay, how many thought Obama?")
Unfortunately for Luntz, the majority said Obama had won. This didn't work for Luntz. Nor did it work for FOX anchor, Brit Hume, who began looking a bit sickly.
After a half-beat pause, Luntz decided he knew how to save what was turning into an icky situation. (After all, he's Frank Luntz, always the smartest guy in the room, just ask him.) So he eyed one guy whom he'd determined was a McCain supporter and said, "But people said that McCain was better on the economy, why did you think so?" (Or words to that effect, clearly suggesting that the guy was merely one among many speaking for the general feeling in the room.)
The McCain guy immediately caught the tossed ball. "Oh yes," he said and proceeded to expound as to why. Some nonsense about McCain being more specific or whatever.
So, said a slightly cheered Hume, the majority thought that Senator McCain did better on the economy?
Yes, beamed Luntz. But then he made a fatal mistake. He turned to his focus group members and asked them how many thought McCain did the best on the economy.
Around six out of the 25 or so panel members raised their hands. At that juncture, Luntz was not foolish enough to ask how many thought that Obama did better on the economy. Instead, he swiveled speedily away from the group. "Okay, that's about half who thought McCain did better," said Luntz, lying mightily with an entirely straight face, as the camera quickly cut away.
Bad, Frank. Very bad.