Friday, October 26, 2012

Can a connection be made?

One last blog about the Presidential debates.

I find it troubling that facts were the biggest casualties of this series. If I were an undecided voter I doubt I the debates would have led to a decision. Yes, the President gave lots of detail for how he would reach his policy goals, whereas Governor Romney continued to deal in vague, positive-sounding generalities. But some people do not like all that detail and do not want to know how the economy will be fixed: they just want it to be fixed. So this time, "how I feel about the candidate" just might tip the scales.

The televised debates were meant to give us a clearer view of each candidate; to show us what each of them stood for. But, as I said, facts were distorted so much that it was hard to score them on that point. That brings us back to perception and connection. So what's the final score?

I give the ultimate win to President Obama. Here's why: he proved he can learn from his mistakes. His delivery continued to improve as the cycle went on, while Governor Romney succumbed to overconfidence that led to a smug delivery in the third debate. The Governor is already battling the perception that he thinks he is better than at least 47% of us. He should be more careful not to seem snobby and elitist. A dose of humility would have helped.

As the President noted in his interview with Jay Leno on Wednesday, "If you don't have the energy and presentation that make people snap up and say 'I get it'" you lose. He learned to overcome his personal tendency to be cool, cerebral and aloof and come out in the third debate as someone who will fight for the voter. His eye contact with the moderator, the way he cocked his head as he listened, his use of gestures that were congruent with his words (to name just a couple of specifics) all said: this is a real person who just might listen to a voter like me.

Now I know voting is so incredibly partisan this time around that no one can predict what will happen. But I know that many of us in the professional speaking world hope the President is reelected. He is the better speaker, and - best of all - he has shown he can learn from his mistakes! The fact that he is aware that there is always room for improvement endears him to teachers and coaches everywhere. These debates, after all, did provide us with a glimpse of what makes him tick.

Never underestimate the power of making that connection.

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