A post of far less than 1000 words, but worth that many [Karl]
“Secret,”Ã‚Â though often used to describe a weapon, isÃ‚Â probably not the correct word in this context.Ã‚Â Obama is not the first politician to use an attractive family as a political prop.Ã‚Â The attractiveness of a candidate has been a factor at least as far back as the televised Nixon-Kennedy debate. “Subconscious,” “subliminal” or “nonverbal” are closer to the mark here.
After watching 10-second silent video clips of competing gubernatorial candidates, participants in the study were able to pick the winning candidate 58 percent of the timeÃ¢â‚¬â€significantly better than chance. When the sound was turned on and participants could hear what the candidates were saying, accuracy dipped to 53 percentÃ¢â‚¬â€no better than chance since the study had a two percent margin of error.
Researchers found that the accuracy of predictions based solely on silent video clips was greater than the accuracy of predictions based on knowledge of which candidate was the incumbent and information about the prevailing economic conditions at the time of the election, including the unemployment rate and any changes in personal income for the year prior to the election.
It is clear that nonverbal cues and symbols affect our perceptions of politicians on a level more basic than our responses to their policy positions.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Politicians know this, which is one reason why they bring out their families at rallies (including John McCain’s use of his 95-year-old mother regarding his age issue),Ã‚Â flank themselves with retired generals when discussing defense issues,Ã‚Â change their wardrobe, and so on.Ã‚Â Indeed,Ã‚Â the Obama campaign has been remarkably disciplined in its branding, to convey a candidacy that is well-managed andÃ‚Â not aÃ‚Â risky proposition.
But this sort of communication can haveÃ‚Â a downside for a candidate as well, as Nixon foundÃ‚Â out in 1960.Ã‚Â The public’s Rorschach reactions to McCain versus Obama are largely “old and experienced” vs. “fresh and inexperienced.”Ã‚Â Ã‚Â While viral video has often created good buzz for Obama, viral video of the Rev. Jeremiah WrightÃ‚Â damaged his pitch as a unifying political figure.Ã‚Â Obama (and his supporters) can have a hissy fit over flag lapel pin politics, but his logo is a blue ring with red and white stripes.Ã‚Â Some people will notice when Obama did not put his hand over his heart during theÃ‚Â playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” much as some noticedÃ‚Â Pres. George H. W. BushÃ‚Â checking his wristwatchÃ‚Â during a 1992 presidential debate.Ã‚Â You can trot your family out on stage, but occasionally your wife might say that America is downright mean and been getting worse over the past 44 years.
So when Michelle Obama tells us all about how her husband is struggling to contain his anger and frustration over the constant barrage of questions about his character and judgment, one wonders if this is the reaction of a rookie in presidential politics or whether he is thin-skinned over his inability to exercise total control over his image.