As polls fluctuate from week to week, there is one seemingly undeniable trend in the 2016 presidential election: the voters are drawn towards candidates that express themselves in an open, genuine and unscripted manner. This is proven by the dominance of Donald Trump, whose off-the-cuff style comes off as offensive to some but is seen as refreshing to others among a field of stiff career politicians. Bernie Sanders also exemplifies this new kind of candidate, delivering passionate speeches and taking a consistent stance on key issues rather than remaining undecided until the polling data comes in. The American people crave leaders who not only possess sound ideas on governance, but also a personality and voice they can relate to. Other career politicians are beginning to realize that in order to capture the attention and trust of 2016 voters, they must present themselves as genuine and relatable.
Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have already attempted to make significant departures from their current images, the former seen as uncharismatic, the latter secretive and distant. Bush appeared on “The Late Show” and Clinton on “Ellen” within days of one another and both seemed ready to demonstrate to the audience new sides of their personalities. Bush took a stab at comedy, mimicking the rhetorical style of Trump, and Clinton peppered several personal stories into her interview. Bush also brought a new vigor to Wednesday’s GOP debate, directly challenging Trump on questions regarding his brother and wife. The result was generally positive: Trump was no longer the dominant figure and Jeb demonstrated he could be a passionate and charismatic speaker.
One of the key reasons why anti-establishment candidates such as Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Trump are doing so well in the field is that they represent a change in the status quo of Washington politics, reflected in the way they address the cameras. While all the candidates have debate coaches and polling teams, the ability to convey genuine emotion and belief to the public is a skill that seems lost upon a majority of modern politicians. Exciting the people about the issues you care about can only be done by delivering a passionate message, not by dodging questions about an email scandal.
The 2016 field is still shifting and the candidates capable of adapting to this trend will succeed while those that ignore it are quickly becoming casualties of the race. Gov. Scott Walker’s polls are plummeting, in part due to his poor debate performance, but Vice President Biden’s numbers are on the rise following a powerful interview on “The Late Show.” While it may be impossible to predict who will win the presidential election in 2016, it is clear that success in this race is almost directly linked to how personable the candidates appear.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 21 print edition. Email Anand Balaji at [email protected]