I find this pretty interesting: People can predict, fairly well, who will win an election after watching only 10 second clips of the candidates' speeches, and this predictive capability is more accurate if the sound is turned off. This shows that people are good at making snap judgments about politicians, and that they don't even need to hear what politicians are saying to make them. More practically, this study reveals that my (and your) snap reaction to Tim Pawlenty's candidacy announcement is worth looking at.
I watched Pawlenty's announcement video and was struck by a few things. First, it was a video and not a speech (the actual speech will be today). Second, what is said can be much less important than how it is said.
Pawlenty realizes that humans are primarily visual creatures, though it's not likely he learned it from a political science study like I did. Instead, he probably saw how Obama used video announcements during his presidency and in his tech-savvy 2008 victory. Stylistically, this video is challenging Obama at the heart of his media advantage. Pawlenty is direct and explicit when he states that he knows what to do for the country, and Obama does not.
In their campaign ads, many candidates take oblique shots at the opposition or attribute ridiculous policy positions and statements to them. Pawlenty did neither; from the the very start of this campaign, he announced his intention to argue with Obama's plan for the nation. Such directness is refreshing in my mind, but we'll see whether it means something or not.
But returning to the importance of snap judgments: I liked it. I'm not saying I'm necessarily going to vote for the guy, but given the way he sets things up, I'm willing to listen. The first issue Pawlenty mentions is the national debt, after a cliched “I'm not going to mention all these things, but by telling you that I'm not going to mention them, I AM mentioning them” approach. However, the debt issue might serve as a Republican attempt to attract young people's attention because believe they'll have to pay it off. Perhaps a candidate who succeeded in balancing the budget in his home state of Minnesota can succeed in Washington? Or at least, that thought might be going through the minds of my peers.
All in all, I think Pawlenty did a nice job starting his campaign. He aimed at Obama, not at his fellow GOP primary contenders, and formulated his disagreement cleanly and fairly. Most notably, he did it all in a video. My snap judgment is that I'm willing to listen.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons