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House GOP: Is Boehner Win a Luntz Loss?

Republican pollster Frank Luntz will not make a presentation to House Republicans at their annual retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore this week, although he was originally on the schedule.

Why was he bumped?  It depends on whom you ask.

Luntz himself insists he was not disinvited from the retreat, only that his presentation was rescheduled. "It was just a shift in time," Luntz said. "I get my time with those guys next week."

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio), confirmed that Luntz was no longer on the retreat schedule but would address House Republicans next Wednesday.  Spicer added that in the wake of the leadership elections last week a decision was made to give lawmakers more time to make presentations, which necessarily led to the rescheduling of Luntz as well as several other consultant types. "The schedule was always something that was a working document," added Spicer.

Well, that ends that ... or does it?

According to several Republican party strategists, newly elected Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) made it very clear in a meeting last week that if Luntz was going to the retreat, he wouldn't be in attendance. Boehner's office declined to comment on the story.

Luntz was instrumental in the creation of the "Contract With America" -- the document widely credited with delivering Republicans the House majority in 1994. Boehner's relationship (or lack thereof) with the pollster goes back to late 1998 when Boehner was seeking to hold onto his job as chairman of the House GOP Conference.

In the wake of the 1998 midterms, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) resigned -- in part because Republicans failed to gain seats in a year when President Clinton was battling impeachment.  Days before the GOP caucus met to hold leadership elections, Boehner appeared on several Sunday talk shows making clear that he and Gingrich had often parted ways on strategy.

"Over the last couple of years there's been a tendency to bring decisions from the top down," Boehner said on CNN at the time, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article published on Nov. 10, 1998. "And, frankly, it's not a secret that the speaker and I have had disagreements about how we structure ... our issues in a message."

Luntz is quoted in the story as saying Boehner made a "big mistake" with his criticism of Gingrich. The pollster also heaped praise on Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.), who was challenging Boehner for the conference chairmanship.  Watts defeated Boehner 121-93, throwing the Ohioan unceremoniously out of leadership.

With Boehner's re-ascendancy, Luntz may find himself on the outside looking in more often than not.  Revenge is -- after all -- a dish best served cold.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 7, 2006; 6:07 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: Parsing the Polls: Hizzoner's National Appeal


HA HA! Yes, Frank is a great message development guy, but can't poll worth a d*$@, but more than that - you play with fire, you get burned. Turn him away, Boehner. What comes around, goes around...

Posted by: Nelson Muntz | February 8, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the fact that he is now cosulting Dem governors might have played a role?

Posted by: Pancho Villa | February 8, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Luntz is a great message guy and he gets the internal ground game of Capitol Hill. I am sure he'll find a way to make amends with the Majority Leader sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Jimmy Dean | February 8, 2006 7:40 AM | Report abuse

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