Listening to all three speakers perform Tuesday night it's not hard to imagine the future.
Grumpy, John McCain, looked and sounded like a loser even though he is his party's leader. Doc, Hillary Clinton, certainly is a loser but acted like a winner and Happy, Barack Obama, is the winner because he's one of the great communicators rivaling Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Jack Kennedy.
McCain is the oldest man to run for president and on stage acts like the dotty old Uncle Joe who's invited for dinner, sometimes grumpy, testy, and defensive. He can't read a teleprompter to save his life even though he can fly a jet -- well, that was forty years ago.
It was painful to hear him stumble through his prepared remarks before a small mostly white, middle-aged New Orleans crowd standing in front of a lime green backdrop "Leadership for Change" sign -- stealing Obama's 'change message' but not having the chops to land an oratory punch if it jumped up and hit him in the face.
Constantly making himself smile, though he looked uncomfortable and fake, he tripped through his speech, stumbling and bumbling over the text and sounded as if he didn't even know what he was reading. He is so low energy, his voice trailed off at the end of a sentence and the audience nearly fell asleep. Yawn and yawn.
Oye. Not another Bush!
I started feeling sorry for him because, after all, he really is a war hero, even if he is wrong on most of the issues.
Beyond seriously needing a good speechwriter, he needs a staff that knows how to organize and advance an event -- the right backdrops, including people, color, and camera, make-up, and practice practice practice. He could take a few lessons from his younger Democratic foes.
Hillary Clinton is the policy-wonk that has learned how to become a better retail politician and that includes knocking down a speech written by masters of the trade. She was in her element Tuesday night before a jazzed-up crowd of women and white men with a few exceptions.
Even though the event was held in the basement of Baruch College, the banners, Clinton signs -- homemade and campaign financed -- along with the right lighting, make-up, and hair, she looked and sounded like a presidential candidate who had just won. She lost, of course, but you'd never know it from her speech. She held those cards close to her vest.
Her speech was a modern-day wonder of campaign prose accompanied by the body language of easy smile and upright bearing. A chubby middle-aged woman dressed in professional pantsuits, Clinton cuts a figure of powerful intellect and fierce competitive zeal as she expertly delivers her prepared lines. While congratulating Obama's most excellent campaign, she stopped short of conceding and called on her supporters to "write to her and tell her what to do." Brilliant and ballsy.
That's why she was still standing after suffering a string of losses and then rising from the ashes to rightly claim a significant loyal party base. She's a pro but no match for the Obama-man.
The upstart who knocked Mrs. Clinton off her pedestal and brought home the biggest win of his life -- his party's nomination -- Barack Obama is the youngest of these candidates, but far and away the best behind a podium. He's not always a golden light bulb. I've seen his luster fade early in the morning or late at night after days on the road, but when he needs to ramp it up, he can and does.
Tuesday night was Obama's night and the light breezy walk onto the stage -- amid the wild applause of 17,000 in St. Paul, Minnesota (the Obama camp knows how to produce a 'real' event) -- with his gorgeous wife gives a particular impression that movie people call 'the right visual.' He's young and energetic, thin and fit. He's attractive in a non-aggressive, non-threatening way and so unlike Clinton or McCain, who can quickly go on the defense, get angry, and get ugly.
Obama is comfortable in his skin and this projects a deep security that the other candidates can't match. He is neither too anxious to take the microphone nor too reluctant. He gives the crowd time to hook-up to his charismatic presence and then, walks up to the podium and merges with their energy seamlessly. He often helps write his speeches and delivers them perfectly and powerfully. The fact that he was born with a giant lilting baritone doesn't hurt, either. McCain's halting rat-a-tat voice pattern hinders the effectiveness of his campaign.
For Mrs. Clinton, it's all over except for negotiating the terms of her surrender, but she is now one of the best female public speakers in America. Practice does help.
For McCain, he has five months to improve his oratory performance before the voters give him a thumbs up or down in November. Unfortunately, he must take the stage with Obama in a series of debates and major speeches and will inevitably be compared with his rival.
Lots of luck John because you're gonna need it.
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