The new memo updates a similar analysis Luntz wrote last May. Some of the advice is familiar. But one striking difference between the two documents is in the treatment of Barack Obama. Last May, Luntz advised politicians to stay away -- far away -- from criticizing the president. "Your political opponents are the Democrats in Congress and the bureaucrats in Washington, not President Obama," Luntz wrote.
"Every time we test language that criticized the president by name, the response was negative -- even among Republicans." He continued: "If you make this debate about Republicans vs. Obama, you lose. But if you make it about Americans vs. politicians, you win." Therefore, the advice was to go after Washington bureaucrats and government health care, but never Obama.
That was then. Now, things are different. "In the spring, we counseled strongly that you should avoid direct confirmation with President Obama," Luntz writes in the new memo. "That has changed." The "thrill is gone" from Obama's relationship with the American people, Luntz writes, and it's now OK to go after the president's proposals with the president's name attached. "There is no change in support for the plan if it is called 'Barack Obama's plan' instead of the plan of 'Democrats in Congress,'" Luntz says. "So long as the attack is grounded in policy and NOT personage, you can talk about opposing 'President Obama's plan.'"
The jist of the memo is this. Attach the president to the health care debate because his focus group research says the people now like that. That's different from this past spring. The same focus group research (though certainly not the same focus groups) were turned off by attacks that attached the president to health care attacks. Instead, back then, attaching health care attacks to Democrats, or, even better, to D.C. were effective. This has to do entirely with the president's waning popularity and the end of his honeymoon period. Luntz adds that while these attacks are more effective today over this spring, he still maintains that attacks that attach health care reform to D.C. are more effective than attacks that attach health care reform to President Obama. As such, Obamacare is much less effective than D.C. care.