Who Is The Better Communicator: Romney Or Obama?

Mitt Romney, left, and Barack Obama. | AP Photos

AP Photo

I have a piece at comparing the speechmaking of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

I use the three criteria for a good speech based on my review of the greatest speeches in history in my book, Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga. The most memorable and effective speeches make use of:

  1. Short words
  2. Repetition
  3. Key figures of speech, especially metaphor

As I note in the article and my book, a 2005 study examined the use of metaphors in inaugural addresses of three dozen presidents who had been independently rated for charisma. The conclusion: “Charismatic presidents used nearly twice as many metaphors (adjusted for speech length) than non-charismatic presidents.” When students were asked to read a random group of addresses and highlight passages they viewed as most inspiring, “even those presidents who did not appear to be charismatic were still perceived to be more inspiring when they used metaphors.”

You’d need Superman’s ears to hear either Obama or Romney use an inspirational metaphor, let alone repeat it. This may be the single biggest failing in Obama’s campaign. His recent slogans, “winning the future” and “forward” are blandly literal and literally bland. Romney is no better.

The bottom line:

Obama may be credited as being a great speechmaker, but for most of his first term, he apparently left much of his speech-writing to people who aren’t very good at it. Fortunately for Obama, presidential elections are graded on a curve, and he just needs to have superior language intelligence to Romney, who could use a serious lesson in language arts.

You can read the whole thing here.


15 Responses to Who Is The Better Communicator: Romney Or Obama?

  1. Scrooge says:

    I will have to wait and see if Romney ever comes up with anything to communicate.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Romney probably trumps all his rhetoric with his track record of unreliability (flip/flopping). His main strategy seems to be to tell his current audience whatever they might want to hear.

  3. Susan van Inwegen says:

    That awkward, fake laugh that peppers Romneys dialogue makes you wonder what he is hiding.

  4. kasinca says:

    Mendacious Mitt is hard to grade because of his compulsive lies. The man makes sh*t up and runs with it because the pathetic MSM never calls him on it. They just act a stenographers and repeat them as if he is trustworthy.

  5. Dan Ives says:

    Your comment, word for word, also applies to President Obama.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Well, there is a difference between both and let’s focus on energy climate. This is not about certain political announcements and delay therein.

    When did Obama flip-flop? His stance on climate as a serious issue is straight forward and well documented. He is lacking in regards to certain solutions (fracking, clean-coal and such).

  7. Ken Barrows says:

    How would you grade Romney for communicating with black voters in 2008 by signing a couple of bars from “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baja Men? Watch the YouTube video if you feel like cringing.

  8. Carol says:


    Please read this powerful, poignant piece by Terry Tempest Williams and tell me how you can reconcile what you state above with the facts about Obama and drilling in the Arctic ocean so that Shell can become wealthier (same goes to you JR):

    Drilling in the Arctic ocean SHOULD NOT even be an option right now if Obama cared one whit about climate change.
    These things are not said lightly from years simply pontificating on blogs and not doing anything about protecting our planet from the ravages of corporate America, and unfettered growth whose life blood is rooted in the extraction of fossil fuels.

    I dedicated a good chunk of my life to “thinking globally and acting locally” re: protecting our soil, water, wetlands, prairies only to see all of what I and others worked so hard to protect at the local level being decimated by the affects of climate change due to ineffective leadership at the national level.
    I have asked Joe (to no avail) and will now pose this question to you:
    What actions has Obama done to convince you that his leadership has been effective in combating climate change? And please don’t repeat the tired excuse—-anything he does is thwarted by the Republicans. What happened to (as Van Jones so enthusiastically advocated) the “Green New Deal”?
    Could Obama have killed Keystone —–correct me if I’m wrong . . but isn’t Keystone still a possibility? If Keystone becomes reality isn’t it “game over” for the climate and us? (per Hansen)

    With all the talk and many, many articles this site has dedicated recently to Joe’s book about persuasion (we need much more than that now) . . I beg any of you to persuade (with facts) those of us who are sickened by this administration to convince us that a vote for Obama this presidential election would be helping protect our earth and all it’s inhabitants.

    With sincerity and urgency,


  9. prokaryotes says:

    Ok, my argument is about flip-flopping on important issues. Now about your points, in particular about the Arctic oil exploration where the GOP side is already putting the Administration under pressure for only granting leases for half the area. Ofc, this is a tactical move and then i guess there are other decision making in the process, like geo-political stances.

    However in my few the entire polar region should be granted a similar agreement like the ATS treaty for Antarctica.

    The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System or ATS, regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth’s only continent without a native human population. For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. The treaty, entering into force in 1961 and currently having 49 signatory nations, sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on that continent.

    Also i might be not clear yet but the arctic is undergoing rapid development, with huge implication for aviation and shipping or any kind of human structuring. Because of severe weather extremes and geomorphological responses which will only become more pronounced. And you can not blame Obama in his 4 year term for anything which was business as usual the last decades…

  10. Mark Shapiro says:


    for instance.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:


    As a fellow climatehawk, I humbly suggest a few points about Obama and clean energy:

    1 — His allies include you, me, Joe, most CP readers, and PV and wind installers;

    2 — His foes include ExxonMobil, Kochs, Murdoch, Arch Coal, Massey Energy, ALEC, Heartland, Romney/Ryan and all their billionaires and millions of people concerned about their energy prices.

    3 — Imagine being the President. But first, imagine becoming President. None of the people in my point one above will ever become President. But we can help counter the clean energy foes, just a little.

    Thanks for your dedication and work. Our task of protecting our environment will never end. Never.

  12. Jay Dee Are says:

    When it comes to the written word, one should avoid metaphors like the plague.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Promising Action Network to save the Arctic

  14. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    JDA, consider that one stolen;)

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    As the Mahatma Groucho observed, ‘In Hollywood, sincerity is vital. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made’.