Body Language Observations of the 2nd Presidential Candidates Debate - McCain vs. Obama October 08

The “fighting rules” were strict, allowing little interaction.

The candidates had to stay six feet apart, in their designated area.
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Thank goodness there were no lecterns, just chairs upon which to perch while the other was speaking. This way, we could see more of the candidate’s bodies despite the fact that the other debating rules meant there was little engagement with each other. They would have very little interpersonal debate, but rather give “short speeches” in response to questions asked.

Obama came onto the stage in a long relaxed stroll. In this debate Obama was respectful and McCain did not have to tap him to get him to shake hands. They shook hands each grasping the other’s elbow in the classic politician’s handshake showing power and control.McCain had more energy than I had ever seen him have. His voice tone and energy was often positive and hopeful. He was coached well to be upbeat in the beginning of the debate but, overused that “we can do it”, “we are Americans” hopefulness later in the debate when he should have been mad at Obama for aligning him with Bush and calling him on it.

At the beginning of the debates Obama was calm, blank eyed and seemed more coached and less passionate and at times although he kept gesturing, his eyes seemed dead eyed. . While Obama spoke McCain paced the stage a bit nervously.McCain needed to be strong in this debate, show more energy confidence and power than Obama. Obama needed to be more cool, collected and in control. McCain showed more energy but overall did not seem presidential. He has more knowledge but his energy was wasted in attacks, verbal and nonverbal. He walked toward towards Obama as he attacked, but then would step back. Neither move showing strength. He often showed snarly smirking facial expressions as he walked toward Obama and pointed at him in little jabs. While discussing the Bush/Cheney-backed energy bill "stuffed full" of goodies for the oil companies. "Know who voted for it? That one," he says, not looking at Obama. "Know who voted against it? I did..." This was the biggest nonverbal memorable moment in the debate and was all negative for McCain. A big mistake.

Powerful debaters let attackers come to them and smile or act bored. Obama smiled as if McCain's attack didn’t mean a thing. McCain needed to show his confidence and superior experience knowledge but with the exception of a few questions, like what we should do about Russia, his true deep knowledge was not shown.

Obama attacked McCain during the debates by standing near his chair or walking forward using his hand to make fists. He didn’t look at him, and that worked. I didn’t like any of the attacks but Obama’s method of attack worked.
While McCain talked and Obama waited and listen for his next question, Obama sat on his stool with one leg down up with his foot resting on the bar with his legs spread open to take a posture of “cool power.”
I could almost see a black and white photo of him in that same pose on the cover of a jazz CD. This was not the same pausing, awkward Obama. His coaching between the debates was clear. Answer the questions quickly and strongly. Often Obama leapt out of the chair and strode toward Moderator Brokaw as he answered Brokaw's question. Obama loves a podium. He was more awkward in the town hall setting. He had a hard time at first approaching the audience and individual questioners. But, gained confidence later and scribbled notes more frequently. His notebook spilling over the small table.With the physical; contrast one tall and slender, the other short and older; their physical differences seemed more pronounced as they walked on the stage in this setting.

Remember, we tend to choose the winning candidate in a debate seconds after it begins. Typically, we make these choices based on the charismatic factors of Likeability, attractiveness and level of dominance. Though McCain was more comfortable in the town hall format and sincerely engaged the people and talked to the questioners in an authentically warm way, his gestures showed up too late. Obama had it made before he opened his mouth.More notes to come later today. In the meantime, check out this story with me and several other experts:,0,4755608.story********The format: Under the terms of a 31-page Memorandum of Understanding, Candidates must stay in their designated areas. The NBC host Tom Brokaw will moderate, picking questions from a pool 150 undecided voters from the Nashville area, pre-selected by Gallup so that they're demographically representative. The live questioners will ask their questions directly, and Brokaw will intersperse them with selections from a reported six million others received by email. Cameras aren't allowed to show the reactions of the live questioners -- just their initial questions. Tom Brokaw will identify a person and call on them; the questioner will ask the question, and then be seated. The candidate to whom the question was posed will have two minutes to respond, and then the other candidate will have two minutes. Then there'll be one minute of open discussion.