Will Voters Look Past Warm and Fuzzy in 2008?

05/25/2011 12:00 pm ET

Since 1960, when Richard Nixon was declared the winner of a presidential debate by those who only heard the exchange on radio and didn't see his 5 o'clock shadow and scowling face on TV, superficial characteristics have dominated presidential politics.

After that, grown men running for office in the U.S. have hired consultants to teach them to be all warm and fuzzy, and slathered on makeup like drag queens in a Mardi Gras parade.

It's all part of the "likeability" factor, which argues that, all things being mostly equal, the more likeable candidate wins. This is especially so for the top job. A mayor must know everything from how many fire trucks are operational to how big- box stores are zoned. Presidents have their pick of advisers for that type of thing. A president needs a good bedside manner and qualities the electorate can identify with.

A poll by Quinnipiac University tried to measure pure likeability. The latest, taken after the Nov. 7 elections, asked voters to express their feelings about 20 leaders without regard to substance.

Whom did voters feel the warmest about? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. At No. 2 was Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, although four in 10 respondents said they still don't know enough about him to have an opinion. One of Giuliani's fellow New Yorkers and a likely presidential candidate in 2008 came in at ninth out of 20.

Should that person, Senator Hillary Clinton, be worried? Looking back to 2000, maybe.

Read the whole column here.