Wisconsin Senate Debate: Imagery Played Larger Role Than Words


The first Wisconsin Senate debate Friday night was pretty much what most voters expected.  Neither Tommy Thompson nor Tammy Baldwin made any serious errors, while they each underscored the main themes of their campaign.

Everything seemed to follow the script that any politico could have predicted.  Thompson touted his record as governor and made it sound as if he were still a job creator, while Baldwin repeated the need for tax fairness and health care security for all.

So with the talking points well established it was left for the voters to reflect on imagery and style between the two candidates.

My first thought was that Baldwin was too tight, too coached, and too tense.  She made point after point, provided fact after fact, and as such made the debate informative.  But she seemed too controlled and not as conversational as I know her to be in most situations.

There were only a few times when her smile flashed, and I was hoping she would engage the voters with that more frequently.

I know Thompson has been a master politician, and has a track record to show that is indeed a fact.  But there appeared to be an underlying anger and tension in his face and body language during the debate that allowed for his talking points to be lost.  Repeating the same lines over and over may be the strategy for some debaters, but when they appear as trite lines to run out the clock of a debate they are then counter-productive.

There was one lingering image that remains from the debate when Thompson had his head down while looking straight ahead.  His chin was tucked down towards his neck, and the layers of flesh rolled out and around.  Surely there was some media advisor to instruct him how to hold his body during the debate.

The reason I bring that image up is that it speaks to voters, I suspect, that Thompson has been around for a long time, and might be more interested in padding his legacy than making any changes in national policy.  Thompson looked aged, and worn out.  His ideas were not new, but repeated lines from the conservative playbook from over the years.  Voters might have looked at Thompson and noticed a politician who does not know when to leave the stage rather than a candidate for higher office.

I suspect that imagery played as much a role in the senate debate as the words.  If that was the case then Tammy  Baldwin was the victor.

5 thoughts on “Wisconsin Senate Debate: Imagery Played Larger Role Than Words

  1. Greg

    I am a supporter of Tammy. I agree with your assessment of Tommy’s performance, yet I think that Tammy did a mediocre job, at best. She wasn’t as impressive as she can be. She was too scripted, looked scared and appeared programmed to simply repeat the talking points we can read on her website. I’d call this debate a draw. I don’t think any minds were changed from this poorly moderated debate, complete with questioners who didn’t ask questions, but made personal statements under the guise of questions.

  2. I agree that Tammy seemed uncomfortable well into the “debate” — with no opportunity for any kind of back-and-forth, calling it a debate is a huge stretch. While Thompson was repetitive, he wasn’t the least self-conscious about doing so.
    When one questioner announced he had a follow-up question, I thought the candidates would at last challenge what the other had just said. But no. The first question was about abortion, and the “follow-up” changed the subject to marriage equality. That’s not a follow-up question, that’s asking a question out of turn.

  3. Solly

    After Tommy bloviates about his wonderful record as Governor in the future debates, I hope Tammy replies, “okay Guvner, how about the multi-billion dollar structural deficit you left for your successor, you know Tommy, where you would change the date of the school aids payment from June 30 to July 1 to put it in the next fiscal year, repeatedly.” “So, Little Mr. Pretty, where were you when the structural deficit hit the fan?”

  4. IRV

    Why in the heck does a 70 year old man think our country needs his guidance? Go retire on your government pension (and all the goodies you’ve received as a lobbyists) and get out of the way.

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