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Obama: Politics is More About Likability Than Ever.

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If I could earn a buck for every time the following was mentioned I’d be a rich man; we’re living in a digital age, elections are gotcha, soundbites and spin, people vote their gut, it’s a 24/7 news cycle.

What does it all add up to?

It adds up to this. Politics is a reality show. A great big amalgam of Survivor meets The Voice meets Big Brother meets The Bachelor, with added suits, bunting, tele-prompters, buses, planes, campaign teams and twenty-something, over-ambitious journalists in tow.

Ninety per cent of the people watching the show tune in to see the guy they don’t like screw up. Of that group, enough whites and women plus just about all the Hispanics and Blacks should be enough to give the Democrat a very slight edge, especially as polls show that Obama is not seen as being to blame for a profoundly economic meltdown so deep that it’s been hard to dig us out. So let’s give him 45.5% to Romney’s 44.5%, a number that is borne out by the polls to date, which balanced out pre-convention gave Obama a 1% lead overall.

The other ten per-cent are more interesting. They’re the ones who are actually swayed by the show.

In Hollywood, one of the biggest ways of divining whether a movie or TV show is going to make it or not is how “likable” the characters are. They have to be believable, and human, and good or bad, you have to empathize with them. A classic case is Tony Soprano. Sure he was a mobster, but he was human, flawed like the rest of us, and he had problems just like us. Another is Mr. Spock. Sure he was a half-human Vulcan with a nerdy logical streak, but to this day he’s one of the most popular characters in TV history.

The ten percent of voters who politicians care about are the ones that care most about likability. They’re not ideologically driven, they’re open to believing. And the way most of them decide who to believe is the same whether they’re looking at voting for a President or giving a thumbs up to a movie. In other words, six out of ten of them will vote for the likable guy. The other four will make a considered political decision.

Let’s assume the four split evenly. That’ll give Romney 2 and Obama 2. So what about the six?

Obama is more believable, more human, more sympathetic, more able to appeal to emotions, to a higher moral aspiration, he’s more familiar, more flawed, less arrogant, less rich, less entitled, less self-serving. Romney seems detached, awkward, mechanical, and rich. Obama showed that in Charlotte with a speech ( supported by Bill and Michelle’s too), which while a tad pedestrian, was a wonderful emotional appeal. Romney’s speech was rushed, impersonal, and perfect only for a powerpoint.

Of course, not everyone will agree, but let’s make what I would suggest is a conservative stab at suggesting that 4 of those 6 will find Obama more likable than Romney.

Add the 4 and 2 to Obama’s 45.5 and you get 51.5% per cent to Romney’s 48.5%, which is probably where the race is now, post-convention, nationally, and most importantly in the battleground states.

On October 3, the likability stakes really kick into high gear with the start of the debates. Romney, the awkward, dispassionate businessman, against the cautious, consider incumbent, a President with proven rhetoric, proven appeal, and the proven debating skills of the half-human Vulcan. (Give Obama pointy ears and he would be just like Spock).

Unless Romney hits home with a killer-zinger of Reagan-like proportions, which is highly unlikely, or gets a rise out of Barack which is even more unlikely, it’s probable that he’ll lose ground rather than make it up. Even if the debates are a draw, that’s good enough for Obama. His will be the more likable part of the split.



Written by coolrebel

September 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

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