In mid-summer we published our Top Political Buzzwords of the Presidential Campaign and found profound differences between the actual concerns of the public and the political narratives of both parties. Last night's debate was consistent with our findings; there was no talk of the politics of fear, the 'war against women' or even mention of 'the 47%'. However, the debate did point to profound difference in the belief systems of both parties, yet found enough common ground to produce distinct yet constructive and viable alternatives from which to choose.
One of the benefits of analyzing presidential debates, speeches and inaugural addresses for more than a decade, is the ability to make data-driven historical comparisons. These are especially effective when spotting trends and changes in direction. In 2007, spotted a man with a a truly captivating facility to turn an eloquent phrase. This man warranted comparisons with Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream' and Reagan's 'Tear Down This Wall' speeches with his own 'Yes, We Can!' victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. However, it also tracked Obama's sojourn to a more 'inaccessible,' sometimes even pedestrian speaking style. There were a number of turning points, a number of these occurring in 2010.
The numbers from last might's debate bear this changing dynamic out. For the president, the numbers tracked with his BP Gulf Oil Speech: long sentences, more passive voice, and a ninth-grade reading level (all of which can be signatures of considerable erudition). However, the numbers also signify a less direct, less immediate communications style that differs considerably from the Obama to whom we were first introduced.
For Romney, at least for the night, his numbers were the reverse of the president: shorter sentences, easier to understand, his seventh-grade reading level closer to the Obama of Grant Park.
Payack is president of The Global Language Monitor.