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How many more voting rounds will it take the House to elect a speaker?


All right. Let's dig into what's behind the gridlock on electing a speaker of the House. We've invited Frank Luntz in to describe. He's a GOP pollster, communications strategist and a longtime friend of Kevin McCarthy's. All right, Frank, each vote almost the same outcome. And Kevin McCarthy remains determined. It's starting to feel like the Kevin Costner film "Tin Cup," where Kevin Costner keeps trying to hit the ball onto the green but keeps hitting into the water instead. So what are the chances that Kevin McCarthy hits the green and becomes speaker of the House?

FRANK LUNTZ: I think it's pretty good. And I think it's pretty good because of the attributes that Kevin has shown in the time - I've known him for almost three decades. And everyone who knows him, everyone, remarks that he's one of the nicest people they've ever met, that he's kind, that he listens and learns, that he knows how to lead. But really what matters most right now in Washington is patience and persistence. And I realize that everyone's asking the question, when is this going to end? For most people, this seems like a drama. But the truth is that this is important for democracy. It's important for how our government functions. And it's one of the reasons why so many people have lost faith and confidence in government.

MARTÍNEZ: Important. Though - but is it damaging, Frank, to the Republican Party to have this play out the way it has?

LUNTZ: I respect those who are trying to change the system. They've been frustrated. They feel like their voice isn't heard even though they're elected to Congress. I think that there is a better way to do this. But I understand it as a pollster and a communication analyst. I get that frustration. The key now is to find a consensus within the Republican Party. And the Republican Party is broad. It's not narrow-minded. It's not a single point of view. There are many different points of view. And that makes it a little harder to govern. But in the end, that's what democracy is all about.

MARTÍNEZ: But will - OK, so in the end, you said that democracy, that's what it's all about. But is there a path forward, then, for Kevin McCarthy right now considering that I don't think anyone expected it to last as long as it has?

LUNTZ: Well, and that's - whoever didn't expect it really didn't understand the points of view and the personalities involved, either Kevin's or those who have held him up up to this point. I'm familiar with the discussions. I'm familiar with the - what probably seems like arcane debate about rules to most people. But in the end, you've got individuals that are desperate to end wasteful Washington spending. You've got people who are desperate to have some sort of control at the border, who are desperate to ensure that voices are heard and we end woke and all these different policies. And they're frustrated that over the last two years, these things haven't happened. And they're upset with Kevin McCarthy when they should be upset with the Democratic leadership and Joe Biden. I get that. And I believe, over the last 24 hours, they realize it, too, that they've been using Kevin as their - as the attention when, really, they should be blaming somebody else.

MARTÍNEZ: But how much more does Kevin McCarthy have to compromise? I mean, he seemingly has compromised maybe more than he wanted to or expected to. I mean, how much more room is there to compromise?

LUNTZ: Well, you have to work together. In the end, it's a very narrow majority, more narrow than they would have wished, more narrow than they were expecting. But they don't have a choice. Either they work together side by side to get the job done - I think it was Ben Franklin who says, either we all hang together, or we will most certainly all hang separately. And what happens over the next 48 hours does determine - you are correct, it does determine the future of the Republican Party in the House. But I'd like to focus on something even bigger, which is it determines the function and capability of Congress moving forward. And that is the real issue we should be focused on.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, moving forward, then, if it's not Kevin McCarthy, who would it be?

LUNTZ: There's no one else who has the support of so many members of Congress, not even close. Kevin has the ability to reach...

MARTÍNEZ: But he doesn't have enough. That's the problem. He has a lot of support, but not quite enough.

LUNTZ: Well, but that's what you have when you have four-seat majority. I mean, these are the facts. And people speak breathlessly about that. But you have to find a way to work together. And there is no one in the House Republican Conference who has more relationships...


LUNTZ: ...With more organizations, with more issue groups than Kevin McCarthy. And that's because...

MARTÍNEZ: That's GOP pollster Frank Luntz. Frank, thank you. Sorry, we have to leave it right there. Frank Luntz, thanks a lot.

LUNTZ: Thank you, appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.