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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

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Do Democrats view Kamala Harris as an asset or liability in 2024?

May 18, 2023

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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

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Does Vice President Kamala Harris have what it takes to occupy the Oval Office? That’s a question Democrats are asking now, as the Biden-Harris ticket seeks reelection in 2024. Is Harris ready to step in if President Biden, already the oldest sitting president at 80, is unable to fulfill the duties of the office?

In this latest 27-minute episode of Straight Arrow News’ new video series “America Speaks,” hosted by political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz, Democrats from across the nation share their views on VP Harris and her performance thus far. They also discuss whether notable Democrats such as Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and California Governor Gavin Newsom give the party hope for the future.

It’s official … Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are asking America for another four years.

If reelected, President Biden would be 86 at the end of his second term, by far the oldest President in history.

And that means a lot of attention will be focused not just on him, but also his running mate.

So what do Democrats think of Kamala Harris?

America Speaks sat down with 15 Democrats nationwide to ask THEM to evaluate the VP, her strengths, her weaknesses, her record … whether they think she should someday occupy the most powerful position in the country ..

And then we’ll hear what average, everyday Democrats think of some of the other leading Democrats today: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, California Governor Gavin Newsome, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and, of course, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

I’m Dr. Frank Luntz, and welcome to a very special installment of America Speaks … curtesy of Straight Arrow News.

So let’s get right to today’s topic … Vice President Kamala Harris.

Give me a word or phrase to

describe vice president Harris. Richard Europe first.

I think that she has. She’s very cultured. She’s She has a lot of different nationalities. I think she’s a good representative of what the US is crestal

It’s been awfully quiet lately. I would like to hear more from her. Dinah

nonchalant.

Tracy

um, I think she needs coaching to be more focused.

Alexis,

I think she she’s tired. She needs to be as excited for the her position as she was in the beginning.

you’re like, I don’t know who she is. And I really want to know her better. Margaret,
to quiet and in the background. archaeon

I think her role has been diminished and it might be deliberate.

Tony, invisible. Shana.

I would echo Tony invisible. Early,

but confident and competent, but underutilized.

I agree with Tracy, I think she needs to be more focused, and she needs to hunker down and deliver on her whatever her tasks are, whatever concentrations are,

I want to separate the Vice President’s job performance from her communication, and the politics of this all. Are you guys she her numbers aren’t that good? Are you satisfied with what she’s done? And the responsibilities that she’s been given? Anybody?

Yeah, I am.

I am, I think that even though she’s quiet, by all vice presidents are quiet, you know, Pence wasn’t any different. So I think that because she’s a woman, she’s black, and she’s younger, she will, she might be able to break that ceiling that Clinton couldn’t.

I think that she got kind of sandbagged by by getting saddled with some really, you know, heavy stuff, like, you know, being the borders are and all that stuff. I mean, who’s gonna, how is that how you ever gonna win, you know, having that job. So I think that she sort of was unfairly given some pretty weighty responsibilities. So that was a little unfair.

What can I say? She, I think she’s just being underutilized right now. The the, the current the Vice President’s office is generally does a lot of foreign relations things and that she’s more focused, she should be more focused where her Her skills are, which would be domestic policy.

She did step forward recently, though, on the abortion issue, which I think we really needed her for that that was, you know, she was better positioned to do that than the President Biden. And I think she’s trying.

I’m a little worried that they only put her on the ticket because she’s a woman of color, and not because they actually even wanted her input.

You know, I’ve been surprised about her performance when you see her on interviews, me speeches, they’re not written by her. They’re written by staff. And it’s clear to the White House, but she’s an incredibly intelligent woman accomplished litigator. She’s got a lot of gravitas. So again,

going to do this, I’m going to show you two videos, because I want to keep this balanced. Let’s take a look at a speech that she gave within the last few days because I think you’re going to have a very strong impact on you on let’s let’s see that speech.

To say that a democracy hears the cries. Here’s the please, who hears the demands of its people who say the children should be able to live and be safe and go to school and not be. It wasn’t about the three of these leaders. It was about who they were representing. It’s about whose voices they were channeling. Understand that and Is that not what a democracy allows?

Democracy says you don’t silence the people. You do not stifle the people you don’t turn off their microphones when they are speaking.

Okay, guys, go ahead. Good. Hello, Paul. Incredible.

And that’s what I meant by when I meant that should stay focused. I think it was crystal or someone else who said that she also when she spoke out about abortion, she was very focused. She needs to speak those things.

Yeah. I mean, it’s Kamala Harris at her best. I feel like she has these moments, you know, every now and then she has the ability and the capacity to, you know, rise to the occasion. But I think yeah, recently in her role, she’s been kind of in the background and quiet.

That is Kamala Harris, but I expected to see and the Biden administration didn’t use her the way they should have, and they need to use her more effectively going forward.

I’m going to show you a second clip. This is not going to have the same perspective. And then I to get your reaction to this. This is the vice president in a less positive light. Let’s take a look. If you haven’t been before,

and I haven’t been to Europe. And I don’t know I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m being clear with you right now. Yes. Okay. And so if you’re interested, I’ll continue to be clear. There are a whole lot of people, especially people who live in a rural communities who don’t there’s no Kinkos there’s no OfficeMax near them. It is time for us to do what we have been doing in that time as every day. We are doing it. But should we have done it soon? We are doing it.

What are you doing what your reaction

is? She’s all talk and there’s no there’s nothing coming out of it. She’s got failure to log

on are not demigods. I mean, they’re gonna get defensive because they’re always put down by the media and always want to get you out. gotcha moment. So, you know that for me, it doesn’t bother me. It’s okay. There’s ups and down to every person and doing their jobs.

That’s a classic example of a woman I believe being treated differently than a man had a man reacted that same way. I don’t believe that even would have been an issue whatsoever.

Exactly. Like when Trump would respond to some of these reporters. Everyone was like, okay, you know, but now a woman speaks up and everyone’s okay. How could you do that? You know what I mean? I’m still for I still for her.

Clearly Kamala Harris is clearly liked … respected …appreciated… but significant doubts and concerns about her role and performance as vice president remain.

Next up on America Speaks, a powerful rank-and-file Democratic endorsement for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former Newark Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate.

Let’s listen….

A show of hands who knows who Cory Booker is? Almost all of you. So I’m going to ask just for a few of you to tell me where to phrase to describe him to kick off this conversation with Jake.

kind of friend. I’d like to talk politics with

archaeon. Charismatic Tony, he’s even listen to Shana. Smart. Jeffrey intelligent and empathetic Stephanie,

superhero.

passionate and compassionate,

Jack, authentic and tough. He didn’t do so well in the last go around. How will he think he would do this time? What do you like about him? What do you not like about him? Let’s give the American people a sense of what Democratic primary voters think of Cory Booker. Any of you.

I know him pretty well, because I grew up in New Jersey, and I’ve been following his career. The guy is incredible. You know, he came out of an Ivy League college and could have gone to a law firm and made tons of money, moved into the projects in Newark to try to change the city, ran for mayor fought against a tough and corrupt candidate. Last and then one. He’s so tenacious, he’s so caring. When he was mayor, he always mentored young kids in Newark and helped turn the area around. He I’ve just so impressed by him showing up.

I feel like he could definitely be the next president and then mentor the next generation after his two

terms. Jake,

I think I’ve always loved his optimism and his solution orientated way of looking at politics, rather than just focusing on problems all the time.

Jeffrey.

I wasn’t a big supporter of him when he first ran, but his four years in the Senate, I think, is really rounding them out. I think I’m definitely taken by his intelligence and his tenacity and his, his passion for people. And I think he’s gained enough experience for me to get to really seriously consider,

okay, this is really positive to do we have some negative evaluations of him. Um,

I think, you know, I met him when he came out to campaign when he was running for president, he came out to New Mexico. And I he was a very great and motivational speaker. But I think he comes across a little bit glib,

just a little, to hear people at all stations of life African American, saying, I’m alive, but questioning for how long slipping into savage reality of despair for your life and your safety, to be black in America is to know that misunderstanding that an implicit racial bias that a interaction that should be everyday and routine can become a moment where your life is turned upside down, where your body becomes broken, or when you are killed.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the Poet Laureate in the future.

Is that a compliment or an insult?

It’s a compliment. I think he’s a very good speaker. And he, he puts his emotions right there front and center.

Tony, I always feel like I’m watching a preacher when he speaks. Is that good or bad? It’s both. Because that’s going to resonate with a lot of people. It’s also going to not resonate with a bunch of people.

And does it resonate with you? Yes,

Margaret.

This speech just really resonated with me. I was a fan of Booker in the very beginning when he ran in 2020. I think he just got lost in the shuffle with there being 24 different candidates running. My partner is a black man and we have two children together and they are mixed and I fear every single day for what he and what our children go through in this country. And up just resonated with me

Our voter panel overwhelmingly and passionately embrace and appreciate New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, suggesting a strong welcome should he want to increase his national profile.

Like Bocker, Former Indiana Mayor Pete Budigeg, the Secretary of Transportation in the Biden Administration, also ran for President in 2020. And while most ordinary Democrats like him, the intensity of positivity is not nearly as strong.

Let’s listen in…

So let’s do the same question I asked him every one word or phrase to describe. He Buttigieg Jake I’m gonna start with you.

A little unknown. How Qian smart. Tony is smart, smart. Shayna integrity. Carly.

And Jeffrey very smart. Chuck intelligent, totally

good at PR and a lot of beholden interests. Margaret,

extremely intelligent f&e Very smart and able to speak to both sides.

Alexis.

Honest,

very smart and very collected. Dinah

on now,

Martin savvy, Richard,

intelligent but inexperienced like to green for President?

What makes you think he’s so smart? And why does that matter so much to you? archaeon

he always comes off like he has such a great grasp of policy. So whatever issue he’s talking about, he’s able to effectively communicate and explain it in layman’s terms, in a way that I think a lot of people can understand.

Jake, your point of view on this? I think that

he, when I’ve have heard him speak, he does come off as very intelligent and well versed in all kinds of issues, but I just haven’t heard him speak that much. And I think that most people outside of you know, people who are political junkies have no idea who he is.

Stephanie.

I think he’s, he’s an intellectual. He has a firm grasp of history. And like someone else said, he’s really able to explain it to a lay audience, which I think makes him very effective when he goes on, like Fox News and tries to present our side in a very measured patient way.

Well, his the degrees don’t lie. I think that his experience that he had in local government has has helped him really shine. And that I agree he’s not he’s not very well known.

And Chuck,

I think that as other people said, he has a good grasp of issues. But I think more than anything, he has the ability to sell the policies, which I’ve already said, I think the Democrats lack.

So let’s take a look at whether he does have that capability. We’re talking

about shovel ready projects, and we’re talking about shovel worthy projects. It’s not just about a little sugar boost to the American economy. It’s about a decade’s worth of work, to expand the productive capacity of the United States, and position us well to compete in the global economy for the rest of our lives.

Okay, those of you who said you didn’t know much about him, you just saw him talking about infrastructure. Let’s get some reactions here, from anybody

Very good.

He seemed to know what he was talking about. And I felt comfortable listening to him and confident that he might do something.

He talked in a positive way, as opposed to that reporter asking him to put him on the defense. So basically, he’s calm, he’s well spoken. And he reminds me a lot of Obama, but Obama spoke slower.

When it comes to elections, it’s, you know, I really wished the population was just remember that we’re hiring someone to do a job. We’re not it’s not a popularity contest. We’re evaluating the people, especially during the primaries and listening to them. And what I like Buttigieg I do think I would like to see him in government a little bit longer to get a broader perspective. But I what I like about is the way he’s asked the question and the way he understands the question and it gives an answer shows his thoughtfulness. This is part of the interviewing process, I can trust his thought process.

Next up, Bernie Sanders. Older, more progressive, and more outspoken than President Bident, I wanted to know if he still occupies the hearts and minds of millions of Democrats.

The answer? Let’s listen.

It is wrong that the middle class for 40 years has been in decline it is wrong that people have to work two or three jobs to survive it is wrong that young people are leaving school $50,000 In Debt

One word or phrase to describe Bernie Sanders. And Geoffrey, let’s start with you. Awesome. Carly. Compassionate Jana, old Tony. Assistant at acteon.

crabby.

I’m not supposed to live as the moderator but again, Jake,

grandpa I wish I had.

Richard. He wants utopia. Crystal. He’s got the youth vote. Dinah in touch. Tracy correct about economic inequality? Oh, access to all. Stephanie.

He’s like all my parents feci friends rolled into one. It’s good biography engaging to listen to but old Collie, consistent and hopeful. Now he needs to find a younger version of himself. He needs to find a socialist in the Senate that can do what he does, but is like 20 to 30 years younger.

I mean, I feel like he’s been grooming AOC though, like, totally. He’s one of his mentees. So I see them together a lot. Yeah. I just don’t. I don’t want any more sexagenarians. I mean, the the, the policies of the future are not going to be addressed by somebody who remembers the decimal.

Going Bernie, Bernie talks a lot, you know, 1/10 of 1%. But he has, what is he accomplished? And I just don’t believe in his record. I think he talks a good game. It’s what he says sounds good. But is he effective as a leader?

The larger thing he’s accomplished, is to just keep the dialogue about economic equality in the forefront. And I think that the only reason why the candidates in the last two presidential elections, talked about economic equality is because he wouldn’t shut up about it.

I think a lot of people are more effective in the Senate. And hold on, hold on, Kelly, you’ve been totally feel all the time. Go ahead. Yeah, there’s always latency. I, I feel like he he resonates well with younger people. And he resonates well, with younger people who crossed over to Trump. I don’t think a lot of people take that into account, that a lot of the issues that he talks about, are basically the left version of drain the swamp, you know, people that are worried about big tech, Big Pharma, big banking, there are Trump supporters that all care about those things, and they maybe even like Bernie Sanders a little bit. Some of them they maybe have a little bit of respect for him, even though they don’t respect any other Democratic candidate. And I think that’s a massive thing that people are under under estimating and I think Bernie would have won against Trump easily.

Yeah, I think the most powerful thing about Bernie Sanders is that he his messaging turns the conversation between from a one about race and one into one about class. And I think that that is a winning message in my mind.

And our final candidate: California Governor Gavin Newsome. He may be popular in his home state, but he is clearly less well known to a large segment of the Democratic electorate.

Here’s what they had to say…

Okay, last one. First, we got to ask the question, who knows Gavin Newsom enough to give me a word or phrase to describe him?

Okay, what we’re going to do in this case, is I’m going to show you about 60 seconds of him, and then we’re going to have the conversation. And if you still don’t feel like you know enough, you just say so let’s take a look at Gavin Newsom, the governor of California and I hear some saying, Boy, the Democratic Party’s really deviated me, give me a break the spectrum of what’s happening Republican Party. This is extremists, mean extremists command and control, power, dominance aggression. It’s not the care compassion collaboration party, coercing a 13 year old raped by her father to come to terms of baby and then cutting childcare programs, prenatal programs, cutting family planning, cutting after school and preschool programs. What a farce Governor Abbott’s sitting there talking about mental health. Yeah, he’s cutting mental health budgets. They’re hypocrites frauds. on these issues.

Were a phrase to describe Governor Gavin Newsom. Chuck, we’ll start with you.

Slick and powerful. thali

status quo of California for better or worse. Margaret. launch to the point and powerful

No, no. I’m Tracy

incises Dinah

extreme crystal.

He’s strong and he’s he’s uh, he wants to throw the elbow when Democrats normally do.

Richard. He is powerful, compassionate, and for the people shake. Strong but underline limousine liberal Tachyon.

Fighter that’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

passionate and ambitious. Carly, open minded and direct. Jeffrey super polished. He looks like he came out of central casting.

I think the I think the politics of California actually greatly near the politics of the country. And you can see where his popularity is, was in rural California, and it’s not very good. And I think that wouldn’t bear very well for his chances nationally, another.

I think he like Nancy Pelosi would be an easy person for the Republican Party to go, oh, look, there’s your California liberal. And then we would we would all in the red states in Oklahoma. We would all be cast as as California liberals. Margaret,

that same view for Iowa. I was a very red state at the moment. So the minute he would be compared to Nancy Pelosi or any California Democrat, he would lose any chance in my state. Yeah, Dianne Feinstein, all of that. Yeah. Great. She, um, you know, I think he would have a little more staying power power than that. I think he’s, he’s pretty smart. He’s pretty well spoken.
He does have pretty incredible hair though. I’ve seen it close up. It’s pretty amazing.

Incredible hair. A great quality in a Hollywood actor. Not as important in an American President.

And that’s all the time we have today.

We will be back next week for another installment of America Speaks.

On behalf of Straight Arrow News, I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. Thank you, and good day.

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