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Everyone in America is Selling Something – Republican Presidential Debate 10.28.15

October 29, 2015

Professional 3 3836Everyone in America – whether they know it or like it or not – is selling something.  People sell themselves on dates, job interviews and other interactions.  Some sell products and services – others ideology.  Some sell suits, some software and some snake oil.  And this brings us to last night’s Republican Presidential Debate. Who’s story will the American people “buy?”

In this blog I rate communication performance – apart from policy.  What follows are scores for overall congruence – or the candidate’s ability to send a matched vs. mixed message in a way that was credible, believable and understandable.

I’ve added a few notes on what stood out to me about each one’s performance.  While the scoring is more objective, based on criteria I use in my leadership communication training, the notes are opinion based on my world view.

  1. Cruz  9.93   Cruz is the best orator, and the only candidate I would accuse of being too smooth at times.  For a brief shining moment, he almost convinced me he could be president.   I don’t think most Americans will vote for someone who puts his or her religious ideology out there as a selling point.
  1. Christie  9.925   Christie spoke like he meant business.  He used the camera to his advantage which probably spoke strongly to TV viewers.  He performed in a more contrived manner than usual but without losing his natural ability to relate to everyday people.
  1. Huckabee  9.914   One of the consistently congruent speakers on stage, but another who highlights his religious ideology as a reason to vote for him.  Huckabee is at his best when he communicates in a “reasonable” tone versus a more “fiery” one. Huckabee’s rational tone plays better in the “caring” department than does his “fed up” one.
  1. Trump  9.83   Pundits pounded Trump for not saying anything new, but he hammered home his platform points in a persuasive manner.  Trump is the most persuasive and able to mix a positive message with negative warnings that get people’s attention while also raising expectations for a better future.  He’s the best salesperson in the bunch.
  1. Rubio  9.81   Rubio is in the most awkward phase of presidential development.  He seems to grasp the times in which we live and how to manage the incredible changes taking place globally through technology.   He’s young, energetic, enthusiastic and smart.  But he also seems a little “green” compared to the others.  If he doesn’t win now it’s hard to say where he might be, professionally speaking, in another four to eight years.
  1. Kasich  9.8   Kasich was most improved.  He made his case in a more congruent and compelling manner than in previous debates and public appearances.  Kasich did the best job of selling his political experience over the others.    If I were his coach I would tell him to be careful of the non-verbal cues that indicate he’s hard of hearing.  He still needs to improve his use of body language.  I scored him “up” because he’s moving in the right direction.
  1. Paul  9.8   Paul communicated in a consistent manner with a well matched message.  There’s so much more, however, to becoming a top candidate and eventually the president.  Unfortunately for Paul, and others running for office, some of these ingredients appear to be missing (perception vs. reality).
  1. Fiorina  9.725   Fiorina did not do her best.  She’s an excellent communicator and expressed herself in a very congruent manner in previous outings.   The thing that hurt her communication most was that she got small.   Usually she displays a more expressive use of body language and tone of voice with great command of her words.  For some reason, she “reeled in” her physical gestures to a degree that diminished her scope on stage and reduced the impact of her message.  The body language just didn’t match up with the vocal power and verbal excellence.
  1. Bush  9.33   Better performance than last time, but still lackluster compared to other contenders.  What stood out most is how Bush shakes his head in the negative when he’s trying to express positive ideas.  I think a few times he even did the reverse, nodding his head yes while sharing a negative.  This kind of mixed message can really work against a speaker.  With body language being a big piece of the picture, Bush needs to change this bad habit right away.   It’s almost too late.
  1. Carson  9.31  Despite being the least congruent speaker on stage, he remains one of the most effective communicators in the race.  He lost points in my rating system with too much hand wringing which signaled nervousness.  This is certainly normal, but for stakes you have to be exceptional.  Carson is the most likable of the group.   And, in my system, he presents the biggest mystery by ranking lower in communication skill but higher in the polls than the others.    Evidently people are buying what he is selling.
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