I am not as well-informed about issues as I should be and I have heard only a fraction of the available campaign rhetoric. That puts me in the non-aligned voter segment that has to choose candidates by other means.
I choose a candidate as I would choose a friend, by his behavior and not by his party label. I watch what he says and how he says it.
I watch how he conducts himself when frustrated and angry. Watching Teddy Kennedy and Hilary during the State of the Union message was an education in nonverbal communication. Update: Watching Dean almost any time was an eye opener.
I watch even more carefully how he conducts himself when he is victorious. Bush’s speech on the capture of Saddam Hussein said a lot to me about his character. The speeches by Kerry, Edwards, and Dean after the Iowa caucases were similarlly informative.
When I see a candidate speaking, these are the things I looks for:
1. Does the candidate make sense?
2. Do I like the way he presents his ideas?
3. Does he set realistic expectations?
4. Do I feel I can trust what he says?
5. How does he behave under pressure?
6. How does he behave when he makes a mistake?
7. Does he address sensitive issues with emotion or with logic.
8. What proportion of his time is spent proposing solutions vs attacking other solutions.
9. Is he emotionally tough enough to stand up for his ideas in the face of extreme criticism.
10.Is he a man of integrity or does he give the impression he is hiding things?
As of this moment, there are four candidates that I rate highly, based on my own personal observations. During the upcoming months, I will remove some of these candidates from my list based on what I observe of their behavior and their intentions.
Another factor that I consider is the people surrounding the candidate. For example, I admire George Bush, but I don’t trust some of his cabinet members.
The final decision I make is whether the candidate is strong enough to manage his associates and get the job done. A candidate who caters to extremists of any stripe is not likely to produce programs which benefit the majority of citizens who keep this country going. On the other hand, the candidate who attempts to please every audience is no better.
The recent State of the Union Address gave me a chance to see George Bush in action. It also provided candid views of many other important political figures. Not all showed well. It’s a good thing they aren’t running for office this year.
After writing the above, I ran across an interesting test called PresidentMatch. It asks for your views regarding important national issues, then matches you to various presidential candidates based upon your answers.
To my surprise, I found that only two of my favorite candidates, Bush and Edwards, share my views on these important issues. I need to dig further.