GOP pollster says Trump won the final debate but Biden 'won the war'

Key Points
  • GOP pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC that President Trump does not have enough time to catch the former vice president.
  • Luntz said that even if the polls are wrong, as they were in 2016 when Trump pulled off an upset victory, it's "virtually impossible" for the president to win.
  • Luntz said American voters largely prefer Biden's positive approach over Trump's forceful but negative tone.
Pollster: Final presidential debate won't change the trajectory of the election

President Donald Trump won the final debate against Democrat Joe Biden, but that's not going to be enough to get him reelected, Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz told CNBC on Friday.

"You got to give Trump a minor victory because he'll bring some [undecided] voters home, and it'll close the race a little bit. But in the end, I think Joe Biden won the war," Luntz said in a "Squawk Box" interview, predicting that Trump, with 11 days until the Nov. 3 election and more than 47 million votes already cast, does not have enough time to overcome Biden's national and swing state polling leads.

Luntz said that even if the polls are wrong, as they were in 2016 when Trump pulled off an upset victory over Hillary Clinton, it's "virtually impossible" for the president to win. Luntz, who predicted Clinton would win then, noted that polls four years ago were only off a few points but Biden's lead in the 2020 race is wide enough to overcome any margin of error. Luntz also said that pollsters like himself have been much more cautious during this campaign cycle.

Luntz said the candidates' answers to the final question — what they would say in their inaugural address to the Americans who didn't vote for them — were indicative of why Biden looks to be unstoppable.

Trump went negative, arguing why Biden would be bad for the country rather than really answering the question. "If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you've never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it'll be a very very sad day for this country," the president said.

Biden went in the opposite direction, saying, "I'm an American president. I represent all of you. Whether you voted for me or against me, I'm going to make sure you're represented. I'm going to give you hope."

Luntz said Biden's positive approach compared with Trump's forceful but negative tone is the reason the former vice president's message appears to be winning heart and minds of American voters. He also said he believes that America should know who won the presidency four days after Election Day.

The pollster said his focus group after the debate again voiced their dislike of Trump, as they did after the president's and Biden's dueling town halls last week. But Thursday night, they also continued to express concern over Biden's policies. Luntz said Biden "made no effort to clarify" his proposals on things such as tax hikes and his positions on issues including the future for the Supreme Court.

Trump started off Thursday night's debate calmer but appeared to grow more agitated as the exchange went on, Luntz said. Overall, the debate was nothing like their chaotic first affair. While the candidates did go after each, the debate was much more focused on the issues, including the coronavirus, climate change, their personal finances and health care.

President Trump and Joe Biden just concluded their final debate — Here are the highlights