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FOCUS GROUP HELL….I confess that I’ve always been sort of weirdly fascinated with Joe Klein’s periodic reports on Frank Luntz’s focus groups. I can’t really say why, since I don’t have any idea whether the data they produce is at all reliable, but the fascination persists. Today, Klein reports that Luntz’s latest batch of independents was deeply unimpressed with prospective vice president Sarah Palin:

Only one person said Palin made him more likely to vote for McCain; about half the 25-member group raised their hands when asked if Palin made them less likely to vote for McCain. They had a negative impression of Palin by a 2-1 margin…a fact that was reinforced when they were given hand-dials and asked to react to Palin’s speech at her first appearance with McCain on Friday — the dials remained totally neutral as Palin went through her heart-warming(?) biography, and only blipped upwards when she said she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere — which wasn’t quite the truth, as we now know.

Klein also reports that far from neutralizing McCain’s age issue, his choice of Palin actually intensifies it — something I anticipated months ago when people were talking up the even younger Bobby Jindal as a potential running mate. Luntz apparently thinks this debacle can be salvaged with a good convention speech, but I think Klein’s take is the more clear-eyed one: “They really saw this pick as a gimmick — and one that reflected badly on John McCain’s judgment.”

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