January 22, 2008

Emotion in Electoral Politics

As a proponent of the appropriate use of emotion in speeches and presentations, it’s been fun to see how, “emotion is the fast lane to the brain” is showing up on the campaign trail.

As the stakes get higher and the candidates get more and more desperate to create some space between themselves and their competition, the rhetoric has heated up. Romney is getting all red in the face. McCain is already red in the face. And Huckabee is cool as an ice cube in a glass of sweet tea.

Barack and Hillary are going at it with Edwards trying to get a rise out of either one of them. We all knew it would come to this didn’t we? What’s interesting is how anyone could have thought it would be otherwise. Whether the emotion is raw and angry emotion or teary and tender emotion, it gets people to pay attention.

The candidates can drone on and on about health care and immigration for hours on end, but what people are looking for is emotion. We get a handle on the candidates true personality by how they handle their emotions. Do they lose control, remain poised or give as good as they get? 

We can get a sense of what a president would be like in a crisis by how they handle being attacked in a debate. Right now, the hottest emotional fireworks seem to be between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Do we want a fighter or a smooth talker?

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee never seems to get rattled while Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani enjoy the emotional give and take. John McCain has a tendency to smile when he’s mad, which makes him seem untrustworthy.

People want to see genuine emotion. Let’s see as the primaries continue, what role emotion plays in the results. My bet is on the candidates who aren’t so slick, but rather exhibit genuine emotion.

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