September 25, 2004


Live From Miami, a Style Showdown (ALEX WILLIAMS, 9/26/04, NY Times)

IN boxing terms, you could say a matchup between John Kerry and George W. Bush is a classic case of a dancer vs. a puncher: Mr. Kerry flicks around the periphery of issues; Mr. Bush pounds right through them.

The matchup on Thursday at the University of Miami, site of the highly anticipated first presidential debate, can be expected to pit the two men against each other, trading punches over Iraq and job creation. But if previous debates are any guide, the candidate who voters perceive as the winner will probably be chosen not on the substance of what he says, but on the cut of his jib.

The subtle style cues of gesture, posture, syntax and tone of voice account for as much as 75 percent of a viewer's judgment about the electability of a candidate, said Bill Carrick, a political consultant who ran Richard A. Gephardt's presidential campaign this year. In a word, he said, the mano a mano is about style — those nonverbal messages that speak to hearts, not heads.

"I think they're both aware that this is more about your `Q factor' than about scoring a debate," Mr. Carrick said. "It's much more like being a host of a television show."

Experts in body language, linguistics and personal grooming who have watched the candidates in recent weeks offered a cheat sheet to home viewers about how each is likely to come across: his strengths, weaknesses and the color of his neckties.

How did the Senator trick the President into three opportunities to decide which of them is more likable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 9:15 AM

All Kerry - who already has dreadful likability ratings - has to do is make one flub similar to the way Gore - who was a much stronger candidate - screwed up in 2000, and he's through. GWB may, by contrast, be able to seal the deal by making a verbal flub and cracking a joke about it immediately like he did at the convention.

Posted by: Joe at September 25, 2004 10:11 AM

Where's the hurricane when you need one?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 25, 2004 1:49 PM

These will be interesting. Kerry is supposedly being told that the debates are his last chance, which means he can't play it safe and must take some risks. However, it's hard to imagine any risky strategy for him that won't backfire. I hope he brings up Bush's Guard service, so Bush can ask him if he's got any forged documents to support his charge, or ask Kerry to release all of his military records.

My latest Republican ad idea: whenever a TV ad mentions November 2nd, they should animate the "nd" by having it turn into a superscript. Just a little inside joke that'll drive the Democrats nuts.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 25, 2004 2:46 PM

Things look so good, I'm scared. I told my brother that Kerry was absolutley the worst candidate the Democrats could have nominated, and he has fallen below my own minimal expectations. It really can't be this easy.

Posted by: Dan at September 25, 2004 4:57 PM

Joe: We've got at least one more good scare coming to us before it's over.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 26, 2004 5:54 PM