Last Wednesday, the world got their first glimpse of President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney on the same stage – a debate between the two presidential nominees. For nearly two hours, the candidates dodged questions and referred back to talking points, squeezing out moderator Jim Leher as often as possible. Even Mitt Romney threw the biggest punch of all, telling Leher he would not only cut subsidies for his job, but for Big Bird as well. To me, the debate was more awkward than productive, yet I still thought there were some clear leadership styles that emerged through it all.
What’s interesting about every debate is the aftermath of fact checking (which is the reason I’m writing this now instead of immediately after). It seems like the new buzzword in politics these days is ‘gaff,’ and the Colorado debate proved to contain nothing new. FactCheck.org, a non-partisan fact checker, had these many things to say about the debate. In this list, it wasn’t who was doing it the least, it was who was doing it the most, as both candidates were spewing false and unrealistic information the entire night. To me, it was quite concerning how little of what they had to say was true.
Yet in the end, most agreed that Mitt Romney was the winner of the debate. He didn’t necessarily come off more presidential, but instead more passionate about the challenges we face. He was angry and concerned. He wasn’t specific, but his counterpart wasn’t explicit either. Many also agreed that Obama looked bored, causing the question of whether or not he even wants a second term to rise. So what does this all mean about leadership?
It means that leadership sometimes isn’t about substance. Sometimes – even when it comes down to running for president – leadership is about the way you portray yourself. On Wednesday night, amidst a spewing of falsities and ‘gaffs,’ Mitt Romney came off as the best fit to lead our country. Does that actually mean he is? That’s up for each individual to decide.
This isn’t to say that Obama isn’t a charismatic leader, however. Some may argue he’s the most likable the country has had in decades. His speaking ability is immaculate, to the point where I’ve heard some conservative peers say they “try so hard not to believe everything he’s saying.”
In the end, the quality that may be the most important in this case is likeability. Immediately after the debate, Romney looked like he could really lead this country, while Obama looked disinterested and too relaxed. Afterwards, we caught a glimpse of how dishonest each truly was. Yet, it doesn’t seem like a debate is about who’s right or wrong anymore. Rather, it’s about who gives the impression of leadership the most. For Romney, that push made Wednesday the biggest win of his campaign to date.