BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 01 OCT 2012


You have to be an anorak to post on your holiday in Rome, but The Snip is showering and I am inspired to ping a short piece before the first US presidential debate on Wednesday. And doing the whole thing on the iPad is a bit of a turn-on.

The New York Times is my essential breakfast reading, in fact it's my only breakfast reading. After The Ryder Cup tomorrow's sports pages will be good. A piece in there says that arrogance is Obama's best way of losing his lead over Romney and is Mitt's best shot at getting close to the incumbent. It was the same when Obama went up against McCain; the danger of appearing superior or too clever, having disdain for McCain, had to be factored by the Democrats. Al Gore suffered for his haughtiness when debating George Dubya and can still be a bit over-bearing and pompous, notwithstanding his obvious intelligence and conviction.

Both Romney and Obama will be practising what they need to do when the other is talking and arrogance costs votes. In the NYT piece Obama is credited with a great line when debating Hillary Clinton, "Hillary, you are likeable enough..." What a belter, five words that could hardly be bettered: and what a vote loser. Too clever by half.

Likeability is crucial and Obama beats Romney on this score up to now, but arrogance can chip away at your portion of that visceral, human and potentially brittle quality. We never took to Gordon Brown as PM from early on but his recorded rant about a "bigoted woman" toasted him. And, reminded of Andrew Mitchell, I found out yesterday at The Forum that Plebian art caused some consternation in third century Rome, so plebs have given the arrogant problems for quite some time. The ruling classes had the outlet of the spectacle of the Coliseum if they got too obstreperous back when men were men, plebs were plebs and women were often expected to be Vestal. (The Coliseum was where I went next, it's just across the road. And the Vestal Virgins shenanigans? Horrible... Look it up.)

The added dimension- different from Obama/McCain last time- is Obama/Romney's mutual loathing. These debates are terrific telly, no matter how staged they are, and personal enmity will come out somewhere. (And of course they practise, get over it. Do you think they are daft?). It will be worth watching to see if Obama can stay clear of smart, extemporaneous laugh lines; keep the broad smile from leaking to contempt; and not talk down to his opponent, or America. Look for Romney trying to appear more ordinary and human(e); articulate his policies with clarity and authenticity and claw back some of the 47 per cent; come across as less wooden, manufactured and privileged.

At the moment it's Barack people want in their living room, on likeability, by some distance. He can only blow it, which seems unlikely. Mitt they think might size up the place, calculate the square footage per family member and downsize them in exchange for a piece of the action. But then on Sunday evening it was unlikely I would be enjoying the sports pages of the NYT at breakfast tomorrow. We have, amongst others, the arrogant and ever more likeable Ian Poulter to thank for that.

It's always worth watching, staying the course, waiting until the end, because you never know. Ask Davis Love III...


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Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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