The Non-Great Debate
A few minutes ago the single California Gubernatorial debate terminated, and with it terminated Phil Angelides chances to be elected Governor. The California State Treasurer is well behind in the polls, and he needed to make a STATEMENT to have any kind of a chance – and I don’t mean an intellectual statement. He needed to show force, power, and an ability to stand up to the ‘presence’ of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He did not.
Why not? What can we learn…
First, let me say it is not the purpose of this space to talk about the “issues.” Because debates are not about issues. For example, if any viewers (of which there were few since the baseball playoffs and college football were on competing channels) were given a test – could they score even 60% (which is failing) on what either candidate said on the questions they were asked about: education, taxes, spending, immigration, fuel crisis, transportation, homeland security, flooding, and values…
One of Phil’s problems was he continously went to facts and details, of which we remember very little and they make minimal difference in trust and believability. Phil Angelides after all is a treasurer, and acted like it – even saying at least three or four times how he “reduced the Treasurer’s office by 9%.” (Who really cares – or if you are going to emphasize it at least it should be a number in double figures.)
So let’s get to the heart of the matter – who did we trust and like and if we were undecided who would we vote for. That will be primarily determined by unconscious behavioral cues, appealing to the First Brain or not. And Arnold wins hands down. Or perhaps more accurately Phil loses eyes down.
- Eye Communication – if you think this is a and minor element of the outcome of this debate, think again. The primary determinant of confidence and trust in this ‘confrontation’ was where each of them looked. Arnold did OK, looking at Phil or Moderator Stan Statham most of the time. But the overriding downfall of Phil Angelides were his eyes – or more specifically where he was looking. He looked at the studio audience 90% of the time. And most importantly never confronted Arnold. When it was time for the direct questions to each other Arnold looks at Phil but Phil looks down and around an almost anywhere but at Arnold. It give away his insecurity – and whether it’s at the conscious or unconscious level in the viewer doesn’t matter. Phil cannot stand up to Arnold. Who would you vote for (if you were undecided.)?
- Command – once again Arnold wins. He sat tall and gestured, acting like a governor, if not a terminator. Phil clasped his hands, pointed a bit, but was reserved. His saving grace was that he smiled a lot, acting as if he wasn’t behind the eight ball. And his voice was good – a draw as far as vocal energy goes, but that still says a lot for Arnold who still cannot pronounce Cal-ee-fornia right.
- Quips – Arnold had a few of them. “You can stop that hype right there.” And when he said, “I can tell by the joy I see in your eyes that you love to raise taxes,” you could almost see Phil shrink up like the time Walter Mondale shriveled after Ronald Reagan said in that famous debate line, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I will not exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” And when Phil made quips and asides they were as if he was trying to fit in, rather than win a debate, and an election.
- Moderator Stan Strathan actually had the best line of all as he was trying to get them both to be succinct: “Your sentences are endless.” Unfortunately, if you were watching you probably often wished you were on the baseball or football channel.
Apologies to those readers who are not in California to have seen this (and the biggest impact is not in the thousands who view the live event, but the millions who see the clips on the news, and read the articles about it), but I think it’s relevant to put a post up on this as both newsworthy and something we all can learn from and get insight.
What do you think?