Every time there is an election cycle, particularly for president, the polls, the media and the candidates pontificate how they feel about issues, foreign and domestic. After all, that’s what’s most important, right? Next in importance comes background along with personal integrity and professional achievements that give us a reflective picture about the candidate. Media pundits go about judging how good or bad candidates might be, based on their past record.
Fact is, while all that may be important, these things are not what elects presidents, not in the last 60 years anyway. The number one asset any candidate must have, above money, above past record, above issues is: Charisma.
Hillary Clinton is still licking her wounds pandering for sympathy for losing a fait accompli campaign in which she was all but coronated long before election day. After all, she was a “Clinton,” she had the endorsement of a sitting president, she had vast experience and she had far more campaign money at her disposal than her opponent, Donald Trump. She can whine from now to dooms day about why she lost the election, but she’ll never admit to what she did not have: Charisma.
Sure, millions of people still wanted to see her elected. But when the chips were down, over-confidence befell her and she failed to run a campaign which convinced the electorate in the right states to vote for her. When Hillary made speeches, people cringed. Her shrill voice was sharp and biting. She never came across as basic and sincere. She was a poor campaigner and worse, she has zero charisma. Had the democrats selected a candidate with charisma, I seriously doubt that Trump would be president today.
Barack Obama had a poor track record for being presidential. His experience was mainly as a “community organizer” which, translated, meant he knew how to gather people into the voting booths. His record as a state senator was totally unremarkable, as was his brief tenure in the U.S. Senate, in which he hit the floor running for president the day after he won the senate seat. Obama’s history was steeped in friends and contacts within the Islamic world, not to mention his close association with a number of devout communists, including his closest mentor. Obama should never have been selected in the primaries against the likes of Sen. John McCain.
Now – there was a presidential candidate with impressive credentials. He came from an heroic military family. He served his country as an officer and fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. He suffered nearly six years as a POW. Later, he served combined multiple terms in the U.S. Congress and Senate, establishing himself as a tough, intelligent and loyal, deserving American. He couldn’t be beat, he should not have been beat by some neophyte like Obama whose record was dismal in comparison.
But, Obama could deliver speeches. He had charm, he had charisma. McCain had depth and experience, but in the new age of mass media scrutiny and photo ops, he could not stand up to a fire and brimstone personality such as Barack Obama. Yes, America needed a cool dude, not a rock solid American hero.
In 1992, a young governor from Arkansas defeated another solid American over-achiever with a remarkable track record in government, including Vice-President for eight years, and a sitting president for four years. He also had established a stellar stint of wartime military service in the U.S. Navy. As president, he helped to defend and ally in Kuwait against the tyrannical invasion by Saddam Hussein’s army. George W. Bush was probably the most qualified candidate to be president in the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet, along came Bill Clinton who, in terms of charisma, could be rated a 10, compared to Bush’s 4. No matter what Bush did right, he could never match the smoothness of slick-Willie, Bill Clinton.
Ronald Reagan was probably the only politicians who could have defeated Clinton, had they been rivals. Reagan had it all, including a knack for off-the-cuff humor that no other president could equal. His opponents, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, were dead in the water from the very beginning of their campaigns against the actor/politician.
1968 and 1972? Nixon versus Humphrey and Nixon versus McGovern were two campaigns in which the candidates nullified each other, in terms of charisma. They had none. And, Gerald Ford, who ascended to the presidency to replace the shamed Nixon, had everything working against him (including being aligned with Nixon) when Jimmy Carter ran as a fresh face in politics in 1976.
The “Charisma standard” all began in 1960, when then Vice-President Richard Nixon was challenged by a handsome, well-spoken, New-England Senator named John F. Kennedy. That was the year of the first televised debates, which doomed Nixon. According to polls of radio listeners only, Nixon won the debates. But when the TV viewers were polled, Kennedy won the derby. When the eloquent Kennedy spoke, people listened. On a scale of 1 to 10, his charm was a solid 10, while Nixon’s was somewhere under a 3. Never mind, that Nixon had already served eight years as a Vice-President under Eisenhower.
So there it is.
In today’s world, we probably would never have elected the likes of William Howard Taft, or Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, James Garfield, Cleveland, McKinley, or even Abe Lincoln.
So, watch 2020. Credentials won’t matter. Look for the most charismatic speaker among all parties, and you’ll find your next president.