A couple of us were discussing Rick Perry’s candidacy…
Which in light of his rough run on the debate circuit lately seems to be on the ropes, with last nights showing just adding fuel to the fire. He’s still beating “undecided” in the polls, but the consensus was that it *does* seem to be gaining on him.
In response to our comments one friend inserted the following:
Oh for pete’s sake. Everyone is acting like he cursed on national TV or got caught in some heinous act. Who among us hasn’t had a brain fart in their life? I could care less how good (or not so good) of a speaker our next president is. I only care if he can turn our country back around.
Do debates really matter?
I have no quarrel with her statement… just think this isn’t turning out to be Rick’s year. That could change, but he’s going to HAVE to have an amazing transformation in his debate performance for him to recover, and it has to start immediately.
Because debates have a way of making or breaking candidates. Let’s look at a few elections during my lifetime and compare:
Kennedy vs Nixon
Kennedy’s stage presence on TV was a factor in his win.Those who heard it on the radio tended to score it as a win for the more experienced Nixon, who had command of the facts and a lot more experience. Those that saw it televised tended to score it as a win for the cool as a cucumber Kennedy rather than the profusely sweating and visibly uncomfortable Nixon. It looked like a polished MBA grad talking politics with a used-car salesman.
Reagan vs Ford
In the run for the GOP nomination, Reagan deflecting Ford’s reference to his age with scripted but well delivered humor made it look like a choice between a rookie and a pro. Paraphrased:[I] “Sure age is a factor, but I refuse to make an issue of my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”[/I] Ford never really had a chance. The camera was Reagan’s home court.
Reagan vs Carter
The sequence most recall was the deftly executed loose change analogy. Reagan stopped in the middle of a discussion of economic policy to pull a few coins from his pocket and make a down-to-earth point about economics. Not that it was that deep, but it was on a level everyone could identify with, and as stated by one pundit, only Reagan couldve pulled that one off… Ford wouldve dropped the change, Carter wouldve screwed up the metaphor, and Nixon probably would’ve just stolen the money.
The economy was in a shambles. Inflation was skyrocketing, interest rates were above 20%, the national identity was in a post-Vietnam funk. We had been in a sustained hostage crisis with the fledgling new government of Iran, and bearded guys that looked like they dressed at Macy’s White Sale were dictating terms to us. Our embassy was taken over pretty much without a fight… Marines were denied the chance to defend it.
Reagan exuded confidence and strength. Carter looked like Mr Rogers. Carter went down as a 1-termer.
Quayle vs Benson
Dan Quayle’s VP debate against the seasoned veteran Lloyd Benson foreshadowed his future skill for discovering political landmines with his own feet. Attempting to forestall criticism of his dismal level of experience, he mentioned that he was the same age JFK was when elected president. Benson countered with the now famous line about having known Jack Kennedy personally, having been his friend… followed by the clincher… “and you sir are NO Jack Kennedy”. Had Benson been atop the ticket instead of in the VP spot they’d probably have won the race.
Bush (SR) vs Clinton
In the wake of the Gulf War, Bush senior was considered such a shoe-in that all major potential opposition refused to run against him. The nomination virtually went by default to a political longshot… the little known governor from an electorally insignificant state with a lot of political baggage. Clinton was reportedly a womanizer, had managed a deferment to avoid military service of any kind during Vietnam, and dealt with his history of marijuana use with the famous “but I didn’t inhale” line. His campaign was poorly funded and his staffers were comparative rookies.
In stark contrast, Clinton was matched against a seasoned political veteran, wealthy, well staffed, and with the benefit of being the incumbent. A WW2 hero, former VP, former CIA head, former Senator, former ambassador, a favorite son of a state with electoral clout, and who’d just decisively kicked ass on an unpopular dictator in a popular conflict in record time with little loss of life on our side.
The ONLY thing Clinton really had on his side was a personal magnetism that made even those who opposed his politics admit he was a likeable guy.
Bush thought he had it won and virtually refused to campaign, creating the ill-fated “Rose Garden strategy”. The plan was to act like he was above campaigning, just far to busy being President to prepare for this unseemly campaign thing against a clearly inferior wannabe from BFE.
Clinton, on the other hand, showed up for debates with a Kennedyesque presence that propelled him to a win against seemingly overwhelming odds. Possibly the best example of presence trumping experience and qualifications.
Bush (GW) vs Gore
George W was a poor debater. There was something vaguely unsettling about handing the nuclear football to a guy that couldn’t pronounce the word “nuclear”. That given, he was up against Albert “I created the internet” Gore.
Gore had a penchant for overstating his accomplishments and the general demeanor of a wooden indian. He droned on incessantly about a social security lockbox while Bush did to English what butchers do to hogs.
The uncontested winner… Saturday Night Live. No wonder the election was almost a statistical tie.
Debates are not the whole shootin’ match (BUT)
Obviously if stage presence, delivery, and the ability to think on your feet was the only criteria, Dennis Miller would now be ending his 2nd term. These are nice attributes, but it helps to also have some substantive things to say. That said, more people vote on likability than study political issues, and at least debates usually weed out guys that’d develop a deer in the headlights stance in a confrontation with foreign brass.
So basically it isn’t that I wouldn’t vote for Perry, I just think his candidacy is faltering on his lack of debate skill. I don’t know if he’s a better or worse candidate than his rivals, but I’d like to see the choice made on the basis of his ability as a candidate rather than his seeming inability as a debater, but he has to improve at that or historically he’s toast.
In truth it’d be hard to find ANYONE I wouldn’t vote for if the choice were between them vs Obama. Having seen what he apparently meant by “Hope and Change”… I’m hoping for a change, so good luck to all of the GOP hopefuls. Let’s stick to policy and skip the silliness fellas, cause there’s just too much at stake.