It is no secret that GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, a successful three-term Texas governor, has struggled a bit overall in the GOP debates. Although he had what I consider his strongest debate performance Saturday night at the CBS News/National Journal debate, Perry has generally had some difficulty articulating his vision and admitted that he “stepped in it out there” when he couldn’t name the third federal department he sought to eliminate during Wednesday’s Michigan debate.
In a recent appearance on Fox News, Perry declared the following: “If we’re electing a debater in chief, don’t elect me. We’ve got a really good debater in the White House today — two and a half million jobs lost, foreign policy that’s in the tank. We have a president that from my perspective is an absolute disaster for our economy in this country. He is a great debater.”
Those are some great points. Perry has more executive experience in his pinky fingernail than Barack Obama has in his entire body. At a time when jobs and economic recovery are an absolute priority for voters, Perry has put forth a bold, impressive tax plan that gives Americans the choice of a flat tax rate of 20 percent, just one aspect of his larger Cut, Balance, and Grow initiative.
Shouldn’t Perry’s record on job creation and the actuality of what he intends to do if elected be more important than his performance in sound bite-driven debates? Absolutely. However, to argue that a candidate’s delivery isn’t important to the voting public is not realistic.
It is an unfortunate reality, but in an age when catchy slogans and succinctly-conveyed talking points saturate voters via television and radio, politicians must master the art of concise, fluent delivery.
Voters care about what you have done. They care about what you say. But they also care about how you say it. Like it or not, a politician’s adeptness at articulating his or her message is one of the things that inspires confidence in voters. It is one of the things that will assure them that you are ready and able to properly hold Barack Obama accountable for his abysmal record in a presidential debate.
A candidate’s polished debate performance doesn’t make his or her policy flaws any less pronounced in my eyes than the policy flaws of a not-so-skilled debater. But many voters see it differently. For them, a smooth, eloquent delivery screams proficiency.
The honest truth is that no matter what kind of record you’re sitting on, some voters won’t be driven to investigate that record unless your delivery inspires them to do so. The way you articulate your message will matter. And will be a deciding factor in whether or not you get elected.
Perry’s improvement in the CBS News/National Journal debate is important, and I guarantee you that it caused many voters who had been nervous about his prior performances to give him a strong second look.
You can count me among those conservatives who cherish Ronald Reagan. I find myself searching for political figures who embody his presidential strengths — a commitment to conservatism, a fierce love of country, policies that turned this country around and yielded enormous prosperity, and the ability to really connect with voters via the way he talked to them.
Reagan had a way of communicating with the American people that was remarkable. You don’t have to be a Ronald Reagan to win the presidency. But you do have to understand the value of good communication and to make it your job to perfect the expression of your message.
Voters are listening. And like it or not, unless you inspire confidence with your delivery, many will never pay attention to some of the great executive work you may have done.
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