So, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Mich Daniels aren’t running…
This was an opportunity to see the main players who are running cut their teeth and present their vision of how they would shape America over the coming years. CNN did their best to provide a slick and glitzy back drop complete with special effects and rock music.
Mitt Romney – former Governor of Massachusetts and candidate in 2008
Ron Paul – 12 term congressman from Texas and candidate in 2008 (Libertarian)
Michelle Bachman – 3 term congresswoman from Minnesota (and Tea Party Darling)
Tim Pawlenty – Former Governor of Minnesota
Newt Gingrich – Former speaker of the House of Representatives
Herman Cain – Businessman and CEO of Godfather Pizza
Rick Santorum – Former Senator from Pennsylvania
So the fun begins and the candidates try to look relaxed as they introduce themselves. CNN have asked each one to do so by using a short sentence.
Santorum starts strongly but gives a little too much info from his CV (7 children?). Bachman ups the stakes by announcing 5 children + 23 foster children. Gingrich looks relaxed and confident and uses his time to hit Obama but no mention of his 3 marriages… Romney mentions 5 sons, 5 daughters in law and 16 grandchildren and looks confident. Not to be outdone Paul characterises himself the champion of liberty and lets it be known that he has delivered over 4000 babies. Pawlenty looks nervous and seems almost inadequate in having only 2 children. Cain speaks well, confesses to 2 children and casts himself as a problem solver.
So what have we learned? Obviously “family values” are crucial to Republican voters and you could be forgiven for thinking that fertility was also important. The most effective opening statement technically was Gingrich because he focused on policy and he looked like he meant business. However Romney and Bachman told the best personal story.
So who did best from a communication perspective? – Out of 10
Mitt Romney (7) – he seemed like the adult in the room he has clearly worked hard since 2008. His body language was unfussy and his language had a superior tinge to it. He seemed to have lost the woodenness that he portrayed in the 2008 primary and was comfortable expressing himself. I was particularly impressed by his answer around healthcare.
Tim Pawlenty (6) – started off nervously but became more assertive as the debate went on. He seems like he is trying too hard (a bit like Romney 4 years ago) and needs to relax. I noticed a fair amount of non verbal leakage that gave away his anxiety.
Ron Paul (6) – loose cannon and acts more like a firebrand preacher than a President. He is passionate, clear, articulate and authentic but his message is radical and uncompromising and if he genuinely wanted to be President he should play the game a bit better.
Michelle Bachman (7) – surprisingly assured. She had clearly worked out her answers in advance and was very understanding of her brand. This lady is serious. Sarah Palin should think twice about getting involved.
Herman Cain (5) – the only non politician and it showed!! He came across with passion but wasn’t good at giving anything more than sound bites. His answers were rehearsed and not very inspiring.
Newt Gingrich (7) – Came across as the intellectual in the room. His answers possessed more depth and were more authentic than most but he probably needs to work on likability if he is to prosper.
Rick Santorum – (6) – trying a bit too hard. He expresses himself well but was pushing his worthiness.
In conclusion: Romney probably did the best because he was able to talk articulately about the economy which is his strong suit. He was also positioned in the middle of the candidates making him appear powerful. Gingrich was very persuasive but needs more humanity if he is to win an election. Bachman was impressive – Pawlenty disappointed. Surprisingly it was an extremely good natured affair and there was no hint of attacking each other which again worked for Romney who is the front runner.
P.S. There are some big beasts that have not declared their intentions and may still jump in: John Huntsman, Rudi Gulliani, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and of course Sarah Palin so it could get more interesting.
P.P.S. There was one weird omission from the debate… Former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson is running for president but was not allowed to attend the CNN debate. I saw him at the smaller Fox News debate last month and found him to be slick and articulate. Don’t know what’s going on there!
What did you think?