On the last day of class this spring, American Civilization Lecturer Frank Luntz's students were debating which political party's policies can best solve America's problems. At the end of class, with Luntz steering the debate toward the Republican side -- where he is usually alligned -- one student interupted Luntz and remarked that President Bush is not offering the same policies. And, the student noted, Democrat Bill Clinton was not offering any sound alternatives. That was a point, like many others offered by students, which Luntz took to heart. And on that very day, Luntz decided to accept an offer from likely independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, to be his research director. In that capacity, Luntz -- who will still teach his class this fall on current conflicts in American society -- will provide Perot with the demographic analysis on which the Texas billionaire will build campaign strategy. "We are doing the most precise, detailed study of voters on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis ever done," Luntz said Tuesday night. Luntz is compiling data from surveys, the 1990 census, elections, voter registration and voter lists to produce a targeting plan for Perot. Luntz is no stranger to politics. In his own words, he has been a political junkie his whole life. Most recently, before signing on with Perot, he worked with Republican Patrick Buchanan's campaign, and in 1988 he served as an international consultant for Yitzhak Shamir, the current Israeli prime minister. While an undergraduate at the University, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science and honors in History in 1984, he also served as vice chair of the Undergraduate Assembly and as a speaker for the Penn Political Union. In 1982 he had set up his own company, which was involved with three Congressional campaigns and one Senatorial campaign. Five years later -- after earning a doctorate at Oxford -- Luntz opened his own consulting firm, Frank I. Luntz and Associates, in Arlington, Va. Then, in the fall of 1989, Luntz returned to the University and began to teach. "Politics was my drug of choice," Luntz said. "But I have seen too much from the inside. All I really want to do now is teach." In fact, Luntz has vowed to teach full time after the November election. "When this campaign is over, it is my hope and goal to teach full time at Penn," Luntz said. "I want to get out of politics. Hopefully, this campaign is sufficiently high-profile enough that the University would want it." Many of Luntz's students recognize and applaud his commitment to teaching. "He will stay up until 4 o'clock in the morning at the [House of Pancakes] with you and friends, and shoot the bull with you about poitics, about life in general or about the University," College senior Jefrey Pollock said. "It's great because he is a professor. He loves getting to meet students." In the classroom, Luntz takes a practical approach to teaching. He devotes classtime to debating issues, not lecturing. Last semester he took a group of his students up to New Hampshire for the first primary and connected them with political candidates. In addition, he helps his students get involved with campaigns. Mike Maslansky and Andy Snyder, who both graduated in May, as well as Pollack, will be working on the Perot campaign with Luntz starting about three weeks from now. Luntz has also placed several former students in internships in Washington, D.C. this summer. "He has given us a great chance -- the three of us," said Maslansky, who delayed entering Georgetown Law School so that he could work on the campaign. "This is an opportunity of a life time." Luntz's course this fall will be a similar opportunity, too, if he can help it. He promises to bring Perot. "I don't believe in theoretical courses on politics," Luntz said. "Penn students have a right to see how political campaigns are really waged." If the University is interested, Luntz would like to teach three courses in the spring after the campaign. He is planning to teach a course called "candidates, consultants and campaigns," which he taught until this spring, and a new seminar dealing with ethics in politics. But what if Perot wins the election? "If he wins, I still want to teach full time at Penn," Luntz said. "I believe in him, and even if he doesn't win, what he is doing is good for democracy. If he wins it will be too good to be true."Comments powered by Disqus
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