Biden unity challenging, post-Trump middle ‘doesn’t exist’

Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC on Wednesday there are sharp political differences between Americans that will make finding compromise in Washington a challenge under the incoming Biden administration.

“It’s going to be very tough for the president and Congress to find that middle ground because, quite frankly, it doesn’t exist,” Luntz said on “Squawk Box,” a few hours before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office.

Luntz’s comments followed a virtual focus group he hosted Tuesday night with more than a dozen Americans across the ideological spectrum, touching on a range of economic issues such as tax policy and Wall Street regulation.

“It was the most contentious group I’ve done in a long, long time,” Luntz said. “It was even more contentious than in the lead-up to the election,” when Democrat Biden defeated Republican incumbent President Donald Trump.

Biden has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a unifying figure at a fraught moment in U.S. history. It’s a theme he intends to stress during his inauguration speech, which comes as the nation is still in the throes of a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and caused significant economic pain. The country is also grappling with the fallout of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago by a Trumpist mob that wanted to overturn the results of a democratically held election.

Luntz said it was hard for him to identify unity among his focus-group participants. “They don’t see eye to eye. They don’t find common ground. They actually seek to divide themselves,” he said. “So, if somebody says something positive about corporations, the next person will say something negative. If somebody says we need to raise ‘X,’ they’ll argue we need to cut ‘Y.'”

Perhaps the only area of some agreement, Luntz said, is in the desire for Washington to pass additional coronavirus stimulus. Congress last month approved a $900 billion Covid relief package, which was its first significant aid measure since March.

Biden, who has said more stimulus is necessary, unveiled a $1.9 trillion proposal last week that included additional direct payments to most Americans along with aid for state and local governments and money to help with Covid vaccine distribution.

“They support more stimulus. They want to put more money directly into the pockets of Americans,” Luntz said of his focus group. “We’ve been finding this in our polling, as well. Eight-five percent of Democrats and 55% to 60% of Republicans want … yet another stimulus package because they know people who are suffering, or they themselves are suffering.”

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