Pundits have been analyzing the political factors in last week's come-from-behind victory by Republican Scott Brown in the special election for Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts senate seat, but the presentation factors--as they invariably do--played an equally important role. Ever since 1960, when John F. Kennedy's patrician poise stood in sharp contrast to Richard Nixon's stiff discomfort, candidates have had to pay close attention to their personal images.
Scott Brown had a distinct advantage with the image factor, having been named "America's Sexiest Man," by Cosmopolitan magazine in 1982 when he was a 22-year old law student. Mr. Brown accommodated the magazine by posing nude for the centerfold. Over time, he morphed his image into that of a family man, but his physical appeal remained. In sharp contrast, his opponent, Martha Coakley, was described as having "the public persona of a flounder" by Gail Collins, the New York Times political columnist.
However, Scott Brown's words were just as important as his persona. In fact, one of his statements became the defining moment in the campaign. During a televised debate with Ms. Coakley, Mr. Brown said "With all due respect. It's not the Kennedy seat, and it's not the Democrat's seat. It's the People's seat."
By focusing on the people, Brown was doing what every speaker must do in every presentation, focus on the audience. Scott Brown reaffirmed his focus by reiterating his words in his victory speech: "I will remember that while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person and no political party - and as I have said before, and you said loud and clear today, it is the people's seat."
(Thanks to Barry James Folsom, CEO of TwirlTV, for suggesting this post.)
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