Democratic Presidential Candidate Speech Styles Part 1
What's their message, and how do they stack up against the rest in 5 minutes?
In Iowa this weekend we were graced with the opportunity to watch many of the Democratic candidates pitch their views, and more importantly their personalities, on stage in a brief five minute speech. Think of it as presidential candidate speed-dating for the voters.
What stood out to me the most was they way they decided to use their five minutes. Tone, body language, vocabulary, charisma, these are the things that make or break a quick, and sometimes first, impression.
Using my experience as a teacher of Oracy, and my passion for American politics, I will break down each speech into two categories: Style and Content, and follow it up with an overall rating out of ten. I have also provided a link to each of the candidates official websites, should you wish to know more about them.
Let's get started.
Content: First impressions of Michael Bennet unfortunately were not great. He spent a good portion of his speech quite negatively, blaming Republicans for blocking progress coming out of Washington DC, and specifically targeting Mitch McConnell by name (twice) for it. He became emboldened, and began to yell when the audience showed support. This could have been better used later in the speech once he stated what he wanted to work on. He explained his desire to reform education (good points), however he often yelled into the mic. His core policies were unfortunately left until the second half of his speech, and because of this he ran out of time, and was sound checked off part way through.
Style: Opening his speech with 'sit down please' was a little controlling, and set an awkward tone. His style is very unpolished, with too much movement behind the podium, and he often missed the microphone, so his message fails to deliver. Often he would yell into the mic, and this too did not do his message justice.
Rating for speech style 4/10—Overly passionate in a soap-box style. He demonstrated too much nervous energy and movement through the speech, which hindered his delivery. He would benefit from smoothing out his voice, and calming his body at the podium for the message to resonate more.
Overall—Distracting and unpolished
Content: Andrew Yang decided to work the stage in his five minute sales pitch to the audience. Looking relaxed with one hand in his pocket and holding the mic, he decided to go all in on talking about the economy, putting his business knowledge to use.
Using real life stories of businesses closing in the area, and connecting with voters about the economic reasons for the loss of jobs, he engaged the audience in a conversation which fed his narrative of big business and technology driving jobs and money out of the state.
He briefly touched on his proposal for the 'Freedom Dividend', a policy to provide $1000 a month to to every citizen over 18 in order to combat poverty in America.
Style: He has a very good pubic speaking style. Choosing to engage with the audience demonstrated a more relaxed and town hall like approach to connecting with voters. It was fresh and vibrant, however content was limited, and his approach left us wanting to know more about his other policies on his campaign platform.
Rating for speech style 8/10
Content: With a slow start, emphasised by long Obama like pauses, Beto O'Rourke picked up the pace as he began a steady case for wanting to support the many Americans he has met in his travels. Using their stories to punctuate his policy points, and drive home his agenda across a variety of topics, he was able to make a passionate and heartfelt speech with clear talking points.
He spoke on key issues of gun law reform, climate change solutions, ending wars, and returning soldiers home, universal and mental health care, as well as a woman's right to choose.
He concluded with a strong statement about the challenges in having a strong democracy, and went on to explain his plan to implement reforms on voter registrations, and to change the voting act to reflect equality.
Style: Passionate and clear with energy and resonance. He was able to hit multiple key agenda points once his pacing picked up, and these were emphasised by his characteristic fist pumps on beat to his speech. Body movements were quite bouncy at times when he would speak passionately. This can be distracting, but he used the podium well to settle himself when needed.
Rating—8/10 slow start, strong finish.
Overall—The political rapper
Content: Having never heard her speak before I was struck by the Commander in chief statement at the start. I found it was trying to convince the audience of her leadership qualities very early on. This made more sense as she went on to state her 16 year career in the military, and utilised that to briefly note her first hand experience with the 'cost of war'. Her main goals utilise some of the military nuclear programmes budget for domestic infrastructure, health, education, criminal reform, and environmental policy, while also wanting to reduce the power of large corporations and banks by reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.
Style: Slow and rhythmic cadence of speech with a good pace for understanding. She used calm fluid eye movement, and shifts around the room showing she was in control. She seemed relaxed and confident in herself and her statements.
Rating for speech style 8/10—Lacking passion but proficient.