A few folks think it’s pretty funny that Governor Romney’s campaign apparently spent some money on makeup. Yes, makeup. Go ahead and laugh–get it out of your system. But the truth is, this is even more of a non-story than the one David mentioned yesterday. Everyone wears makeup on TV–except male politicians who are too uptight to do it and end up looking like fools. Remember this?
The Great Debates marked television’s grand entrance into presidential politics. They afforded the first real opportunity for voters to see their candidates in competition, and the visual contrast was dramatic. In August, Nixon had seriously injured his knee and spent two weeks in the hospital. By the time of the first debate he was still twenty pounds underweight, his pallor still poor. He arrived at the debate in an ill-fitting shirt, and refused make-up to improve his color and lighten his perpetual “5:00 o’clock shadow.” Kennedy, by contrast, had spent early September campaigning in California. He was tan and confident and well-rested. “I had never seen him looking so fit,” Nixon later wrote.
In substance, the candidates were much more evenly matched. Indeed, those who heard the first debate on the radio pronounced Nixon the winner. But the 70 million who watched television saw a candidate still sickly and obviously discomforted by Kennedy’s smooth delivery and charisma. Those television viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Studies of the audience indicated that, among television viewers, Kennedy was perceived the winner of the first debate by a very large margin.
Some of the political junkies who are giggling about this may think that all you need to win an election is the right ideas. I’m a political junkie too–but if only that were so. The reality is that no one will listen to what you say if you don’t look good on TV–and, odd as it may seem, the solution to that is makeup, even for men. Everybody does it, and you wouldn’t like the result if they didn’t. And it’s also not all that odd that the Romney camp brought in a professional, as often the folks the TV stations supply aren’t that good (or even intentionally mess up conservatives’ faces). Next story.