Dylan Jones: The pollster whose focus groups tipped Cameron as leader

Share

Only 24 hours after chatting amiably with John Reid outside his press lunch at the House of Commons last Thursday, US pollster Frank Luntz was in Drones, asking the waitresses if they had seen the Home Secretary's brain. The Sun had asked its readers that morning if anyone had seen Mr Reid's marbles, and Luntz - perhaps worried that the readers might be unsuccessful - was soliciting the help of three waitresses.

As you'll remember, Luntz is the young Connecticut pollster whose focus groups for the BBC's Newsnight in 2005 unambiguously selected the below-radar David Cameron as the Conservative choice for leader. Luntz has since been courted by Tony Blair, and then, at last year's Labour Party conference, more focus groups proved that Reid was the PM's chosen successor (much to Blair's delight). Three months later, however, and Luntz was soliciting the help of Eastern European waitresses in his search for the Home Secretary's grey matter.

Luntz is now in such demand that he's in London every few months ("I don't seem to be capable of keeping windows free in my diary"), and before an official engagement spent two hours giving me his thoughts on the forthcoming US election. Although there seems to be something of a minor backlash against Barack Obama in the American media right now - coming under fire for a largely policy-free campaign - Luntz thinks that, if the Democratic hot shot keeps posing for photo ops with his pretty wife ("They're like a black John and Jackie"), if he can withstand that cocaine problem (he admitted taking it in his youth), and if he can cope with whatever it is the Clinton gravediggers will dig up about his past, then he's still a strong joint favourite (forget about Osama, it's Obama all the way!). The increasingly aggressive Hillary is still in the frame, of course (until, perhaps, Bill is caught with his trousers down again), though with John Edwards and the 25-1 shot Bill Richardson still in strong contention. Richardson is the Governor of New Mexico, and we look like being in the extraordinary position of having a woman, a Latino and a black man all running for the Democratic nomination.

Luntz poured cold water on my suggestion that former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson might be in the frame for the Republican nomination. His welfare reforms did more to drag people out of poverty than any amount of charity, and he performed miracles in the 12 years he was in charge. "But," said Luntz, with a malicious grin, "have you ever been in a room with him?"

We had just finished gossiping about John McCain's Vietnam flashbacks and were about to start praising David Cameron when he glanced at his watch, looked up in panic and said, without a hint of irony, "Well, I better start looking for John Reid's brain. I think he needs all the help he can get."

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song  

Ukip Calypso by Mike Read? The horror! The horror!

Patrick Strudwick
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past