For years, political scientists have marveled at the new “strength” of candidates in being viewed as not too smart or educated. It is sometimes called the “beer test” associated with polls of George Bush who would make embarrassing mistakes only to go up in the polls as being more personally likable for voters. Sarah Palin expanded on this notion by attacking those who are well educated and shrugging off problems with geography, history, or grammar. However, the Arizona debate between Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Terry Goddard is a particularly fascinating example of the syndrome.
By any measure, Brewer’s performance was viewed as horrific by experts from this excruciating beginning to the merciful end. The result? She has received a sizable bump in the polls: with a lead of 22 points. She is now at 60 percent over Goddard’s 38 percent. It makes one think that, if she simply became distracted by a shiny object and stayed transfixed and speechless, she would get near unanimity with the public. Indeed, given the long gap at the start, these polls would suggest that Palin is too conservative in her “smart words don’t matter” theory. In fact, words don’t matter. You are better off without words by giving a series of grunts and foot stomping. I can only imagine what the reaction of today’s voters would have to Adlai Stevenson or Daniel Webster. Indeed, preps for debate are likely to have handlers screaming “too smooth,” “too insightful,” and “dumb it down” to hit the right level of common appeal.
I would love to hear from my political science colleagues on this trend.
This has nothing to do with the politics or policies in the race. I know little about Goddard, who seems to running hard to beat the write in vote. However, what is interesting is the disconnect between the performance in the debate and the post-debate bump. This proves Woody Allen’s advice that “90% of success is just showing up.”
Source: State Column