Non-Verbal Impressions of the 3rd 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. As I did with the 2nd Debate, I watched this one with the sound off and a text crawl line to try and understand what the debate was communicating to those “non-verbal intelligence” voters.

General impression — This was Obama’s best debate. The CBS moderator Bob Schieffer played it straight. Romney looked Presidential, which was both his goal and his outstanding success.

These are my notes in rough time order.

1. The visuals with Obama and Romney have been more of the same from the previous debates. Romney is more polished and Obama lectures and glares. Romney smiles and engages. Obama seems angry, but has less head up, nostrils showing, arrogance in his visuals. Rinse and repeat.

2. The visuals on Romney as he speaks of serious issues is a engaged, serious face. He is talking to the moderator and through him to the American people. Obama’s posture is more hunched over than Romney. Obama points _at_ the moderator where as Romney points in another direction. It is a subtle thing, but is makes the point for Romney without the…threat?…Obama seems to have with his pointing gestures.

3. Ohhh… There is Romney’s constipated smile. That has to be the worse TV angle he has had. This seated format limits his playing the camera angles like the first two debates. If this seated format had been the first one, Romney would not have scored as big a win.

4. Romney seems to have a conscious effort going to keep his chin tucked when speaking to avoid even a hint of the head up head pose Obama had in the previous two debates. The seated format gives Obama and the camera men more lee way to video Obama in a less visually arrogant pose while seated or speaking.

5. There are the Obama death glares and the Romney constipated smiles going back and forth.

6. Now Romney talking to the moderator. Chin tucked. Romney’s gestures seem smaller and less expressive than the last two debates while his facial expressions have grown more intimate. This will play VERY STRONGLY with women voters. Obama just lost the election by 7% or more. I can see a practiced before the television screen expression for “Q” rating effect and Romney is doing it well, over and over again!!!

7. Both candidates are wearing American flag pins. The red-blue visuals of the ties from the first two debates between the two men have changed. Romney went for a Red tie with Blue stripes…again subtle, but powerful imagery. Romney is also using expressive hand gestures, those in the intimate close up are not seen, but the pull back they provide exclamation points.

8. There is this two level effect with Romney’s hand gestures. Close ups seem controlled and intimate, while the pull back is powerful. This is the result of hours of practice and video debriefing feedback.

9. And the split cam gives us the Obama death glare. The comparative video images of Romney and Obama are jarring. Obama is better than the last debate, but it seems like he is a challenger and not THE PRESIDENT.

10. There is a less pleasant _something_ to Obama’s face…I think he botoxed his forehead!!! Look at the age lines on Romney, and how they move. Now look at Obama. You don’t spend four years as president and not get age lines. THAT is why Obama has such death glares, part of his face is deadened.

There. Romney raises both his eyebrows and his whole forehead shows moving age lines.
Watch Obama and see what happened when he tries to raise his eye brows.
There. Obama gets a “Tee” just above his eye brows and nothing more.
There again, The biggest Obama eye brow raises don’t touch the hair line like they do for Romney.

11. The split screen showed Obama making a point and Romney is taking a note with a **** eating grin.

12. Romney has a more consistently upright posture than Obama, who is usually tilted right showing the left side of his face. This has been a consistent performance point for Obama. IMO, it isn’t a posture that helps him. IMO.

13. Closing statements — Obama has a furrowed, closed face. Romney has an open face with consistent and expressive hand gestures. Romney looks the happy warrior to Obama’s dark warrior. Romney is using Reagan-like head bobs in his closing statement. That was polished and practiced.

Summary —

Obama did not score a game changer performance.

Romney looked Presidential, but his non-verbals did so in a way that was non-threatening, even attractive to women. Romney’s facial expressions were much more intimate, for lack of better words, than Obama’s. They were the sort of thing that attracts females in a room. They reminded me of some of Ronald Regan’s subtle non-verbals in terms of head bobs for emphasis in close ups, remembering to talk through a smile, and a “sit tall” posture while speaking that Obama only rarely affected.

The on-going spike in female support for Romney, which started a week after their first debate, will accelerate. Romney will be even or win with women on election day and bury Democrats with male and particularly white male votes.

11 thoughts on “Non-Verbal Impressions of the 3rd Presidential Debate”

  1. I was not watching with the sound off but your points all seem valid. Romney was not going into the weeds about Benghazi. I was sure of that before the debate. Obama lies and it takes hours to unravel the story. There is no point for Romney in going there.

    The ships exchange made no sense. I am a Naval Institute member and read the Proceedings. The Navy has been worried about the sequester for six months. The Pacific Ocean will swallow a 200 ship Navy without leaving a sign. Obama knows nothing about the Navy; nor about horses or bayonets either.

    Romney got the economy into the discussion and that is his strongest point.

    I never knew that Obama was such a Zionist ! He is obviously very worried about the Jewish vote. Nothing else matters. It was a sickening image of a last minute pander. His whole presidency has been an attempt to ditch Israel. Hillary is no better or worse, if possible. I still see her embracing Arafat’s “wife.”

    Romney got the “I’ll have more flexibility after the election” comment into the discussion. That should scare the c**p out of anyone about the second term agenda. Romney also got Poland into the debate. I’m sure the Poles are pleased. They just about endorsed Rpmney last summer when it was risky to do so. I guess they figured nothing could be worse than Obama re-elected.

  2. I enjoyed your analysis; Romney seemed like a man, schooling a boy. Those that identify with boys may have resented it, but few would choose such a representive to difficult negotiations. Nothing about Mexico came up – or Latin America. Fast & Furious may be a weeds discussion, too – but it demonstrates a shocking insensitivity to deaths on both sides of the border.

  3. Romney was well rehearsed and disciplined. He conveyed the image he wished to for reasons that are immediately apparent and well documented in the post.

    One presumes Obama was equally well rehearsed. So what was he trying to convey and to whom? It may have been Obama’s best debate, but that is setting the bar pretty low. Was he really trying to motivate his base only? A perplexing performance.

  4. Romney pulled punches and was deferential to the moderator, I assume for the reasons already mentioned. I found it frustrating to watch but I don’t think I’m part of the target audience. Obama did OK if one grades him on the usual curve. A lot of what he said either didn’t make sense, was petty or obviously false. Romney could have hammered him on the Putin thing. As with Fast and Furious, Romney’s one clipped reference to what should be for Obama a career-ending scandal will go over the heads of everyone who doesn’t follow politics and foreign affairs closely. On the size of the navy, Romney could have easily undercut Obama by pointing out that the navy secretary works within budget constraints set by the Administration and Congress and that Obama is failing to lead. Romney was generally excellent on economic issues, as usual, except for his anti-China pandering; he obviously knows better.

    Obama did much better on body language than in the previous debates. Romney has remained constant. He comes across like a guy trying to sell construction machinery to housewives. Obama comes across like a complete bullshit artist. Unhappily, bullshit artists often do well with women.

  5. Johnathan,

    Right now Obama is in the position of a pick up artist after a one night stand, trying to get his seduction target into the sack again the 2nd day, minus Alcohol and the Club. It will take more than Obama has to pull that off.

    Closing the deal with “non-verbal intelligence” voters reqires looking the part. Romney was playing up the PRESIDENTIAL image, and letting 43 months of 8%(+) unemployment under Press. Obama seal the deal.

    People fire presidents with bad economies and all the challenger really has to do is look the part of President and be non-threatening to the opposite party’s base.

    Obama’s people spent hundreds of millions over the summer before the 1st debate, building up a vampire capitalist “Koch-sucker” image to make Romney threatening.

    Then Romney’s 1st Debate performance shattered both that image and the Obama campaign’s credibility. The Democratc media campaign to scare single white women without kids that “Romney was going to lock up their girly parts” was part of their effort to salvage that image.

    Epic Fail, IMO.

  6. One thing about women, they’ve probably heard plenty of excuses that miss the point, attempt to deflect, and, well, whine. Not that fathers won’t take note as well. (Did anyone else find Anne Romney’s defense of Mormon missions – having set her sons out boys, coming back as men – attractive? It’s about time we encouraged and then honored manliness.)

  7. SWMBO wanted to watch the debate because she doesn’t follow politics very much, having a real life and career and all, so we did. Her general opinion was that the leader of the current regime was rude and condescending. As an ex-marine, she resented his cavalier attitude toward the navy especially.

    I was somewhat disappointed in Romney’s lack of feistiness, and thought he could have pointed out a few more of dear leader’s more egregious lies, but I didn’t blame him for staying out of the kind of squabbling that could have resulted.

    I’ve known since 2008 that I would vote for anybody else in 2012 to rid the country of the current regime and its pervasive corruption, so the debate held only academic interest for me.

    It will take much more than this election to correct the path toward the rocks that our ship of state has been on for several decades now.

    2010 was the first step, and this will be the second. There is still a marathon left to run.

  8. A few points:

    First, I heartily second Mike Doughty’s comment.

    Second, Jonathan, it’s true some BS artists do well with some women (some, of course, also do well with some men), but one has to be the right kind of BS artist. Some (many) women bought Bill Clinton’s BS; they won’t buy BO’s

    Third, about INTRADE, BO’s numbers continue to go down, down, down, and the flames burning up his reelection chances continue to go higher (though, as I write this, BO’s numbers seem to have stabilized, even rebounded a bit, for now, though they are still down more than 10% for the day). The comments from the INTRADERS supporting BO, however, read like they are coming from ideological hacks, not serious traders. The favorite theory among these True Believers is that some super rich Romney supporter (Donald Trump is suspect No. 1) is manipulating the market (as if the Donald didn’t have better things to do with both his time and his money). The truth is BO’s INTRADE numbers have been dropping consistently since the first debate. Yesterday, BO missed his last best chance to reverse the trend. IMHO, a number of INTRADERS, probably Romney supporters, are shorting BO because they are now fairly confident he will lose.

    Finally, Nate Silver (the left’s darling whiz kid statistician) still has Romney with only a 29.7% chance of winning, but, buried in his Tuesday morning post, is this little tidbit

    “We are now running about 40,000 Electoral College simulations each day. In the simulations that we ran on Monday, the candidate who won Ohio won the election roughly 38,000 times, or in about 95 percent of the cases. (Mr. Romney won in about 1,400 simulations despite losing Ohio, while Mr. Obama did so roughly 550 times.)”

    Let’s see, in 95 percent of your simulations, whoever carries Ohio wins the Presidency, the polls indicate the race in Ohio is tighter than a drum (with BO, the incumbent, under 50% in all but the CBS outlier), Romney more than double ups BO in winning the remaining simulations, and Romney still has only a 29.7% of winning? Right . . . .

    BTW, IMHO, while I think the winner will carry Ohio, I have doubts that the result will be a nailbiter, with everyone waiting until the wee hours of Wednesday morning for the Buckeye State to come in.

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