Sarah Palin lost the room immediately after Joe Biden choked up, say Karen Kohn Bradley and Karen Studd, certified movement analysts who study the nonverbal and movement behaviors of political leaders.
They don't say (though it's easy to guess) their political party so you have to calibrate their analysis carefully, but they do say that on a movement level, both Vice-Presidential candidates showed a sense of urgency and the increasing speed of their deliveries meant that, halfway through, everyone in the huge nationwide audience was in some sort of trance, like watching a merry-go-round spin faster and faster, punctuated only by strange smiles.
The candidates, they say, took turns smiling during the other’s answers, each time deciding to smile rather than “go negative.” And it wasn't very authentic, they felt.
Palin, they say, was narrow in posture and gesture and directed herself to the camera. They felt Biden was a little more open, gathering information and presenting a broader range of options. You may already know where this is going but they do try to remain objective by saying both were very good at letting people see these stylistic differences, making the distinction between them much clearer - so if you're one of those people who likes narrow candidates who talk to the camera rather than 'open' candidates with 'a broad range of options', they made it easy for you.
Movement, they say, reveals a great deal about how people make decisions, how they tackle problems, and how they relate to others. Too many "body language" experts focus on a particular gesture or body part but the movement analysis done by Bradley and Studd they say looks at the movement "event" as a part of the individual's style. They say Biden had authentic honest emotion - they use terms like 'authentic honest emotion' for Biden and verbs like 'spewed' for Palin, to give you an idea how they were voting before they ever did their 'analysis.'
Joe Biden choked up and then heroically pressed on and because Palin did not react, they say she lost. Biden took his emotion to a 'universal level', they write, and it was a 'stunning moment' for Biden they say, while Palin completely 'missed it.'
So, in case you are still unsure, it's okay to take a bold guess and assume these University of Maryland and George Mason University academics are voting Democrat.
When Sarah Palin entered the stage at the debate and immediately asked if she could address Sen. Biden as “Joe,” she was establishing herself as casual and almost “ordinary” while Joe Biden never addressed his rival as “Sarah” or “Mrs. Palin,” but insisted on addressing her as “Governor.”
Elaine Shenk, Ph.D., linguist and assistant professor of Spanish at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, says these two styles were not natural in two accomplished politicians on a national stage, they were instead intentional.
Shenk asserts that Palin was very mindful of the effect her speech would have on the public, and that she was trying to appeal to Americans “who are tired of the bureaucracy and the insider world of Washington.” Gov. Palin used her Alaskan dialect and informal pronunciation, through such phrases as “you betcha’” or “darn right”, to connect to a common person demographic while Sen. Biden consciously spoke more formally than Palin, and Shenk believes his style was intended to appeal to academics and intellectuals.
“Palin was not unaware of what she was doing. When you’re in a debate of that importance, you’re very conscious of the way you speak, and Palin was playing on her reputation as a ‘regular hockey mom.’ She used language to communicate that she’s not a part of the Washington ‘elite.’”
In a one-on-one conversation or debate, Shenk explained, two people often “accommodate” the patterns, dialect or lexicon of the other person to arrive at a more common ground, so they may be perceived as participating on a level playing field. However, during the vice presidential debate, each candidate remained solid in their own speech patterns, unwilling to bend to the style of his or her opponent.
“Biden used language as a way to separate himself, a way of saying ‘I am different from you [Palin]’, and thus that Barack Obama is different than John McCain,” Shenk said. In other words, Biden’s style of speaking reinforced his literal message that Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are “fundamentally different” on certain issues.
Palin’s vernacular was intended to resonate with Americans. The delivery is as important as the content, Shenk says, and Palin was trying to appeal to Americans “who are tired of the bureaucracy and the insider world of Washington” through her informal language.
So who won? It probably depends on which candidate you intended to vote for before the debate started.