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GOP pollster says Trump delivered a strong reelection case but the race is still Biden's to lose

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President Donald Trump delivered a “well-articulated” argument for a second term to close out the Republican National Convention, according longtime GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

“He made a very strong case, as did his daughter, Ivanka, for all the things that have happened over the last four years,” Luntz said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday. “I think it was well-delivered with the White House as a backdrop. And we can argue over whether or not that is legal, but in terms of show, in terms of content, in terms of language, it demonstrated what the Republican Party is about.” 

Trump’s more than 70-minute speech from the South Lawn of the White House Thursday night served as the denouement for a four-day GOP convention that had been altered by the coronavirus pandemic, one week after the Democratic Party wrapped up its own nominating convention.

Luntz, who last week complimented Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech, said he thought that with both major party conventions in the books, “there really shouldn’t be any undecided voters right now because there’s simply no similarity between the two candidates for president.” 

“Donald Trump made a strong case for why Joe Biden’s policies are dangerous for the country. Joe Biden made a strong case for why Donald Trump isn’t qualified anymore to lead the country. They both did an excellent job at disqualifying the other,” contended Luntz, who attended Trump’s speech in-person along with hundreds of others.  

At the same time, Luntz, who is known for his running focus groups of voters, said he believes both candidates had shortcomings in their keynote addresses.  “I’m not convinced that either did a sufficient job at defending themselves, and that’s American politics today — why the other side is wrong and why the other side does not deserve to be president.”

Luntz said last week he felt the former vice president’s address was light on substance and specific policy proposals. He also then warned Trump could be at risk of using “over-caffeinated rhetoric” in his speech, potentially turning off key voters in the middle who may be in favor of president’s economic agenda but may not “like Donald Trump personally.” 

“There were times during the speech when he went too far, as he often does. The idea that he’s been the best president for African Americans since Abraham Lincoln. I guess he’s forgetting Lyndon Johnson and all the work of the 1960s,” Luntz said Friday. 

But Luntz said he also thought Trump delivered numerous lines throughout the speech that represented new and effective lines of attack on Biden. “He spoke about anarchy and anarchism versus socialism, and that’s the really first time that I’ve heard him try to define Biden with a word and language that’s different than what he’s been saying in the past.” He added, “I thought his best line was, ‘How can the Democrat party lead our country when they spend so much time tearing down our country?'” 

Biden leads Trump by 7.1 percentage points in an average of national polls, which is down from 7.6 percentage points at this time last week, according to RealClearPolitics.

On Wednesday, a CNBC/Change Research poll of voters in six crucial swing states found Trump’s approval rating had ticked higher by two percentage points to 48%, compared to 52% of voters who disapproved. The survey also found Biden leading Trump by a 49% to 46% margin across the key states.

“At this point, it’s a Biden election,” Luntz said. “But I say this emphatically, this election is way too close to call. The debates are going to matter. We’re going to have record viewership.”

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