Tuesday's second presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is sure to generate fireworks. Barring any extreme gaffes such as Gerald Ford's 1976 declaration that there "was no Soviet domination of eastern Europe," candidate body language will probably influence voter choices more than what either Obama or Romney says.
David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, says that nonverbal cues including gestures, mannerisms, facial expressions and body language are what tend to stick most with debate viewers.
How in-depth can this get? Experts have even weighed in on the number of times each candidate blinked per-minute during the first debate.
Another nonverbal factor is appearance. According to body language expert Givens, Obama has some feminine and childlike facial traits, such as a rounder head, fuller lips, and protruding ears. Height also influences nonverbal decisions on the part of voters. Romney is officially one inch taller than Obama, but the two appeared very close in height during the first debate.
Slate correctly predicted that Romney would best Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries because of Gingrich's soft, round face and Romney's more "competent-appearing" features. Researchers at Princeton have uncovered a significant correlation between candidate facial features, perceived "competence," and election winners. About 70% of the time, test subjects are able to correctly identify the winners in electoral contests based on milliseconds of exposure to their faces.
The higher the number in the video, the greater the standard deviation toward "competency" of the face.
Science and art both have something to say about who appears "more presidential." During the Republican primaries, Clint Eastwood did not support Mitt Romney, preferring a more conservative candidate. In January, he quipped, "You have to admit he looks like a president," saying that he ran into Romney when he was filming “Mystic River” in Massachusetts. "I mean, if you were casting a movie where you needed someone to play president, you'd definitely pick him."
Although he was mocked mercilessly for his "empty chair" routine during the Republican National Convention, Eastwood is one of the most-awarded and financially successful film directors of the past two decades, and it's fair to say he knows a thing or two about the way people think. The New Yorker featured an "Empty Chair" cover after the first presidential debate, a cartoon hard to "spin" into something favorable for President Obama.
Scientists and a master filmmaker may have some insight into the process of how people make instinctive decisions in major elections.
Small things do matter. While Obama and Romney appeared to be about the same height during the first debate, the president seemed to be wearing "lift" heels to achieve this effect. His shoes appeared to be bulkier than Romney's and there was something odd about his gait and posture. Will the president come wearing more comfortable shoes, and well-prepared to engage?
Be sure to tune in tomorrow night for continuing coverage of the next presidential debate live from Hofstra University. Bookmark this page and check back tomorrow night for continuing live coverage!
6:26 PM PDT - Romney clearly explains his tax proposals in answer to audience question, very specific.
6:27 PM PDT - Obama speaks about his tax philosophy: same statements he has made for past 2 years. "If we're serious about reducing the deficit, if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation, in addition to some tough spending cuts, we have a moral obligation to raise taxes on the wealthy." For above $250,000 "We can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was President." Obama is selling specific tax credits - college tax credit, veterans hiring preferences. Now he is attacking Romney.
Audience comment: Every time Romney says something, Obama says he's lying - every single time.
6:31 PM PDT - Romney mentions 3 1/2 million more women in poverty in past four years. Reiterates policies to get the economy going again.
6:33 PM PDT - Obamanomics again (now he is up to Romney is "spending" $8 billion with his alleged policies).
6:34 PM PDT - Romney says "Of course the numbers add up. I ran businesses for 20 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I was governor of Massachussetts for four years and the budget ran up." Goes through the deficit and debt situation with Obama.
6:37 PM PDT - A pre-set Obama voter audience question about women making 72 cents on the dollar to men. Obama talking about his mother and grandmother. He is eating time, using "ands" and the Lilly Ledbetter Act! LOL! SUR PRISE!!! A pre-planted questioner and he is off into the student loan weeds!!
6:40 PM PDT - Romney answers about Massachussetts cabinet which was all male, and recruited women who were qualified and recruited women for the cabinet. Cabinet and Senior staff was the most women in senior positions of any state in America. He referred to flexibility in working hours for women who had children. Employers in new economy that will be so anxious to get good workers, they will be eager to hire women. Mentions bad stats re: women. Strong economy - employers looking to find good employees, and flexible work schedule.
6:42 PM PDT - How many listeners know how unimportant and small the Lilly Ledbetter bill is? A minor change to lawsuit privileges under the FLSA? OOOHHH Obama - contraceptive coverage mandatory!!
6:45 PM PDT - ANOTHER Obama plant questioner - asking what is the biggest difference between Romney and George W. Bush. Says that President Bush and he are two different people. There is technology so that US can be truly energy independent without going to the Middle East. He says he will crack down on China and expand trade in Latin America - Bush didn't. Will get country to balanced budget - says Obama said deficits as high as 1/2 trillion in Bush years were wrong - and now they are twice or more.
6:49 PM PDT - Obama back to his old campaign standards. Who knew the economy sucked because of cheap Chinese tires?
6:50 PM PDT - Michael Jones voted for Obama in 2008 but says he is not so hopeful now, and things he needs for daily living are very expensive - what has Obama done to earn his vote? (Obama - excuse excuse stump speech excuse "You should pay attention to this campaign." More ad Hominem to Romney). Am I crazy, or does this not answer Mr. Jones' question?
6:54 PM PDT - Romney answering - President's plans didn't get there. Difference in unemployment between promise and actual is 9 million Americans out of work. Romney listing the broken promises and problems.
Obama doing pretty well with body language - good for him!!
7:02 PM - Obama filibustering for @ least 4 minutes on "immigration reform." Too bad he didn't make better use of the time.
7:04 PM - Romney ZING re Candy Crowley "self deportation" comment. He will not let the broken immigration promise go. "Self deportation" means people can make their own choices.
Romney makes point about his investments in a blind trust - he brings up Obama's pension "I don't look at my pension," Obama says. Romney!!!
7:10 PM - Question from Kerry re: security to Libyan embassy request before attack. Obama states as soon as they learned the embassy was being overrun, he ordered security to the embassy at that time. Obama says "the buck stops at my desk."
7:12 PM - Romney says on the day after 4 Americans were killed in Libya - the President flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser.
We call the expression on President's face a "Shit eating grin." WHY would he insist he ordered new security to the Libyan embassy as soon as they learned it was overrun? Makes no sense.
7:14 PM - Obama says he is responsible for Libya, not Hillary Clinton. "I told the world we would find out exactly what happened . . . " Refers to being with caskets and grieving for families. "The suggestion that anybody on my team that would play politics or would mislead is offensive . . ."
Which is why you flew to Las Vegas the next day . . .
7:16 PM - Romney calls Obama out for saying it was a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden the "next day" after Benghazi attack. STRONG ROMNEY.
7:17 PM - Did CNN actually think they would help Obama by closing the debate with yet another planted Obama voter questioner with a question about ASSAULT WEAPON BANS? REALLY???? Obama has a story about a young man who was shot somehow - so tell me this was not a pre-planted question? Like it matters after he lied like Nixon about Benghazi?
To my mind, the President permanently disqualified himself over the Benghazi matter. Shameful. I can barely look at him. These were such unnecessary prevarications.
7:22 PM PDT - Really worth the planted gun control question to give Romney the ability to bring up "Fast & Furious."
7:30 PM PDT - After Romney closing statement, Obama has a new tax plan for lowering loopholes for corporate taxpayers. (I cannot follow this . . .)
Romney: We can compete with anyone in the world as long as we have a level playing field. He mentions China's cheating, IP theft, currency manipulation.
Obama: Says some jobs are not going to come back. "I want high wage, high skills job." We have to invest in manufacturing, need science education.
Closing body language: Romney humble, great gestures - hand to heart, hand to audience. Voice soft. Describing who he is in response to final question from audience. NOT an Obama plant question. Maybe a Romney plant?
Closing body language: Obama says he doesn't believe that government creates jobs (same thing - everybody fair shot, everybody fair share, we play by the same rules). Fist and pointer body language, so if you like fist and pointing finger, go for that.
Focus group responses: Positive comments re: Romney - very specific. At least 6 voters switching from Obama in focus group. They don't like Obama in debate!
"I think rather than defend his own record, he just attacked attacked attacked. That is no way to win the Presidency."
Another lady was undecided between Romney and NOT voting at all - and was "extremely favorably impressed and heard what I wanted to hear."
"He's lied about everything, and he hasn't come through on anything." Used the "BS" word.
Lady is supporting Obama because of women's rights. Women are a huge part of this country. We can't have a slick guy coming into office. Majority of audience disagrees with her, including females.
37% in CBS Instant Poll say Obama won, 30% Romney, 30% tie. Focus group in Nevada of Obama voters, undecided, say they are voting for Romney, describe Romney in strong positive terms.