Non-Verbal Impressions of the 2nd Presidential Debate

Presidential debates are public demonstrations of leadership ability, not policy, and are THE place where the arguable majority of voters who rely on “non-verbal intelligence” decide who to vote for. The more PRESIDENTIAL a candidate looks, the better he does. If you want to understand what “non-verbal intelligence” voters responds to in a debate, watch it with the sound off and take notes.

The following are my impressions from doing just that.

1. Obama did better, Romney scored points, Crowley cut off both Romney’s Fast and Furious and Benghazi responses. Crowley gave the impression she was a debate participant supporting Obama, rather than a moderator. This diminished Obama, in terms of the non-verbals, by making him seem less PRESIDENTIAL.

2. There were several Bush-Gore 2000 like moments of confrontation between Romney and Obama.

3. Romney’s non-verbals were more polished, non-threatening, and he had a consistent standing physical stance the pick up artist community calls “measured vulnerability” used by those affecting relaxed Alpha male dominance with women. (The stance is when your body is at a slight angle to those you are speaking too, your legs are apart and feet at an angle.)

4. Obama had a stance that was more squared up with those he was speaking with. Obama also used a lot of pointing gestures early, like a professor trying to affect physical dominance with a student. He then changed his non microphone hand to a loose fist, and using a full chopping motion rather than pointing later.

5. Romney kept his non-microphone hand flat, moved it side to side or above his head and down when the ABC text crawl line mentioned “deficit” or “taxes”. Romney seldom used pointing. When he did it was at the ground or himself.

6. The “split-cam” was not good for Obama (on ABC) due to a head up, nostrils visible, sitting stance. It was sometimes bad for Romney, who occasionally had a constipated look watching Obama. There were other camera angle shots that were more flattering to Obama, but a couple of times that ABC flashed them, Romney was in the foreground fouling the shot of Obama. The number of times ABC went to the bad camera angle on Obama had me thinking Romney was playing to camera angles by positioning himself where that was the only “good” shot of Obama. Later in the debate ABC went to downward camera angles on both Obama and Romney.

I see no real change in the pre-second debate momentum of the race. Democrats will claim Obama won and people who don’t like Obama will still dislike him.

The fact that Romney spoke forcefully about jobs, energy prices and the economy are much less important that the fact he looked PRESIDENTIAL.

Looking PRESIDENTIAL means Romney gives people who don’t like the economy permission to vote Obama out. The preference cascade that Romney kicked off with the first debate — by establishing that he is a man who can take command — will accelerate.

We have a Romney electoral college rout of Obama in the making.

11 thoughts on “Non-Verbal Impressions of the 2nd Presidential Debate”

  1. Romney came across as authoritative but nonthreatening, as in the first debate. He looked liked the CEO of a big public company, talking up the company’s latest products at a shareholders’ meeting. Obama came across more authoritatively than he did the last time, but at the cost of reminding viewers of a divisive community organizer. However, I think that Obama won by not folding; if he had maintained his relatively passive demeanor of the first debate he would have lost the second debate as well, and might have lost the election on that basis alone. This time he was presidential enough.

    My guess is that Obama was coached before the first debate to avoid behaviors that might come across as disrespectful or petulant, and he overdid it. The contrast between his weak affect and Romney’s vigor lost him that debate. He may also have not taken the pre-debate practice sessions seriously enough. He has obviously improved his game since then, though I think he went too far in the direction of assertiveness. But from a political standpoint it’s better to be seen as a jerk than a wimp.

    Romney’s behavior was constant through both debates. That is reassuring about Romney. When you think about it, the fact that Obama has been in office for nearly four years and still performs unevenly in public debates reflects poorly on him. Which of these men would you rather have represent you in a negotiation with Putin?

  2. Now that Obama has reversed the racist Romney riptide, the question people are asking is “Aren’t term limits racist?”

  3. My back of the mind calculation several months ago was there were two possible outcomes to the race.
    Either there was a landslide blowout for Romney, or there was a nail-biter with the count possibly going the way of Election 2000, except in a different state.
    I have not changed my mind. I do not think it will be a 52-48 race, it will be a blowout or nail biter.

    p.s., defective obsolete weapon: there is no racist riptide except in your mind

  4. It’s easy being a Lefty these days. No thought is required – all you have to memorize is: “You’re a racist.”

  5. “The fact that Romney spoke forcefully about jobs, energy prices and the economy are much less important that the fact he looked PRESIDENTIAL”

    You are doomed if this is true.

  6. It’s “rout” not “route”.

    (Yeah, I’m keeping back the ocean with a broom, but I gotta do what I gotta do….)

  7. PenGun,

    People are what they are, not what we wish them to be.

    It is better to face the unpleasant reality and deal with it than delude yourself.

  8. An observation from my friend Tom Holsinger —

    There is an on-going spike in female support for Romney, and decrease for Obama, which started a week after their first debate. I couldn’t figure that out until reading today that Biden’s debate performance reminded lots of women of the nutso male boss from hell – one who was weird, offensive and bullying, as opposed to sexist. I can see that, and the timing of the shift in female opinion supports this hypothesis.

    FWIW. We’ll have to wait for professionals to post-mortem the campaign in December to learn more about this.

  9. This is Jay Cost’s final thought on the Presidential second debate —

    Final thought: These debates provide mostly an upside for Romney, and mostly a downside for Obama — insofar as Romney has an opportunity to look like a credible alternative to the president of the United States by standing on stage with him as an equal. This is why I am uninterested in who wins on points. Once again, Romney looked like a credible alternative to Obama, even if the latter may have landed more technical blows. Romney was especially effective at seeming empathetic, personally qualified, and focused on getting the economy going.

    Looking PRESIDENTIAL on the same stage as an economally failed President is an electoral jewel beyond price.

    Preference Cascade…arrived, and it is in valet parking!

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