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GOP messaging guru Luntz advised Biden’s Covid Task Force

“I don’t care if people turn me on,” he said.

“The Biden team didn’t ask me anything. They just said, ‘Whatever you find, we want to know,’ ”Luntz said. “That’s more than Trump did. Trump didn’t care about the research we started. The [Trump] The White House wasn’t interested, it didn’t sponsor it. ”

Slavitt, who said he was the first to reach out to Luntz in the early days of government, praised Luntz for providing numerous details of the focus group research that showed the most effective ways to talk to people about the safety of Covid vaccines speak.

“The cable networks in particular used a language that did not help,” Slavitt said in an interview. “The whole point is that CNN says, ‘Republicans, Conservatives don’t get vaccinated, they hesitate to vaccinate.’ It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and it creates a wedge, it speaks down on people. And that wasn’t helpful. ”

Luntz has been an integral part of Republican politics since the days when he advised lawmakers to label the “inheritance tax” as a “death tax”, and has grown into a minor nomad in recent years. He maintains allies in the GOP, as well claimed in 2019 Having had a revelation on climate change after years of advising Republicans on how to beat back legislative efforts to combat climate change.

He is perhaps the only agent in Washington who both rents a room to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and advised the Biden White House. For the former, Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked him earlier that year, arguing that McCarthy was compromised by Luntz’s corporate client after renting a room in his home.

When asked if the news of his relationship with the White House would only annoy conservatives like Carlson, Luntz replied, “I don’t care.” He stressed every word.

While Slavitt said Luntz’s research was useful, he also said the framework he provided was one that the White House had already adopted. In the end, it cemented her belief that a hyperlocal strategy to promote vaccinations – which included doctors contacting their patients about the vaccine – was the right one.

“The question we were asked the most was, ‘Why don’t you go out with political leaders and talk to movie stars, sports stars about it?’ and all the research we’ve heard – including from Frank – has shown that the local conversations with doctors and Trump staff were more important, ”Slavitt said. “I want to make it clear, we called and talked and listened to a lot of people, I don’t want to overstate it. But of the people we spoke to, he was one of the best. ”

The advice was on a voluntary basis, said Slavitt, who now runs a podcast called “In the bladder “ in which he recently hosted Luntz. He said that the health-oriented de Beaumont Foundation paid for the work of the Luntz focus group that the White House was able to use.

Despite providing informal advice to the White House, Luntz said on Wednesday he was critical of Biden’s door-to-door strategy – one in which parishioners like pastors or grassroots activists try to explain the benefits of the Covid vaccine and tell people about it how to access it. While the White House has been applying some aspects of this strategy for weeks, President and Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently highlighted the effort as one way the government is addressing the rapidly expanding Delta variant.

“I don’t know why you developed this strategy, I don’t know why you recommended it. The probability of success is extremely low, ”said Luntz. “You either have to know the person or trust a person. Someone who shows up at your door is not someone you know or trust. “

However, Luntz credits the White House for trying different approaches. Another he suggested was that Biden directly urge his predecessor Donald Trump to get more involved.

“I think Joe Biden really needs to say, ‘President Trump, tell your people to get vaccinated… If you don’t, explain why. And if you don’t, you stop crediting yourself for developing the vaccine because what good is the vaccine if people don’t get it, ”Luntz said.

Luntz also offered some suggestions based on his latest findings from the focus group, showing that an effective way to reach reluctant populations is to send grandparents to speak to their grandchildren and local pharmacists to speak to their patients .

“You have to keep trying,” he said. “Because success saves lives.”

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