It’s all about likability; Obama and Romney taken for face value

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at the final presidential debate of 2012 faced the greatest rhetorical situation of the year: How can I persuade America that I am fit for running the country the next four years? With many citizens watching the debate, it is impossible to know the general reaction during the debate, both candidates with fairly vocal supporters. The past couple debates have been fact checked and reviewed by various sources and news reports. All of these opinions have widely differed. Personally, I have viewed the debates objectively, giving each politician a fair say during the debate. I don’t feel persuaded one way by this debate, but the issues presented involving foreign policy are stimulating. To watch a couple men grovel to reach broad conclusions to major issues is ironically entertaining for many. In my opinion, the depths of societal issues have hardly been presented during this debate. Regardless, both candidates provide fluent ideological standpoints to appeal to voting constituents.

At the beginning of the debate, the candidates appear on stage waving at their audiences in contrastingly colored ties. Obama sports blue, a cool color representing likability. Romney is seen wearing a warm color, a red tie with silver stripes, colors psychologically triggering excitement and wisdom respectively. Already, at the opening of the debate, the non-verbal standpoint of the candidates is represented. Obama wishes to be viewed as the likable incumbent and Romney as an invigorating opponent.

Despite being distinguished politicians, Romney and Obama are victims of stuttering, “ums” and “uhs”. These candidates could strengthen their credibility by being more conscious of these speech clutterers  while creating more effective pauses to add emphasis to their points. But, to make up for these verbal slips, both candidates use imagery and personal accounts to create relatable images for the audience. Both express their sympathies through their experiences, establishing their likability and credibility despite their stuttering.

The speech content during debates are always at least slightly skewed to one side over the other because separate party platforms. Romney uses many statistics as well as examples, stories and personal testimony involving his position as Governor of Massachusetts. Obama refutes many of Romney’s statistics, but offers little of his own. Most of his points include personal testimony, based off of his experience in his first term. No visual aids were used on either side, but both used descriptive gestures to give the audience a visual representation of oversea jobs and exports. Both speakers create sound reasoning by establishing credibility and citing their sources. Fallacies of reasoning can easily be fact checked the next day on unbiased sites such as factcheck.org.

The speaking tactics of both candidates is often circular. The speaker takes a stance on an issue, explains the position, provides a story and an actualization statement to connect with listeners, then restates their stance on the issue. Often times, as seen in the nuclear war question, the debate digresses, in this case to the condition of education. Debates, unlike most forms of public speaking, involve the element of surprise because it involves opponents refuting points. The nature of a debate in this sense is unpredictable.

Despite the unpredictable nature of debates, the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates’ presentation have been evident in past public speeches. Obama’s biggest strength was his use of effective pauses and referencing his track record as president. But, because of his pauses, he ran up his speaking time with air instead of support. Romney’s strength lied in his constant references of statistics and hard numbers to support his points, especially involving the state of the economy, while constantly appealing to a dissatisfied public. His weakness was his switching of views involving involvement in Iraq, but this could also be seen as a strength in the eyes of supporters because he was able to appeal to the public.

Both speakers maintained more of a professional stance than the last few debates, remaining seated and keeping bickering to a medium. Being on such a publicized event, the focus of the opponents was to increase their likability in one last debate, in the final cry for the undecided voters. In the above aforementioned points, both candidates appealed to their respective parties effectively. Before watching news coverage of the debate, I assert that independents will be split between the two candidates. Although the outcome of the debate is mixed tonight, its winner will be determined through election results by the end of the year.

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