Conventional wisdom holds that Democrats smile while Republicans attack—and that the speeches at the just-ended conventions reflect that. Yet the four major speeches of the last two weeks—those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and John McCain—paint nearly the opposite picture.
The Democratic ticket mentioned McCain far more often than Republicans mentioned Obama. Obama aimed far more barbs at McCain than McCain did at him. And both Biden and Obama paused for applause less often and spoke for less time (though much faster). Meanwhile, both Palin and McCain were careful not to mention the incumbent president’s name—or that of his vice president—a single time.
Both tickets, however, agreed on one thing: in naming the greatest threats or villains to America, all four cited al-Qaida.
Below is a chart of how the four candidates measure up, based on the transcripts of the speeches as delivered. The leader in each category is highlighted.
|Joe Biden||Barack Obama||John McCain||Sarah Palin|
|Mentions by name …|
|Mentions of “opponent”||0||1||3||8|
|Barbs aimed at opponent*||3||6||1||9|
|Run-time||22 minutes||42 minutes||49 minutes||36 minutes|
|Words per minute||130||115||89||87|
|Mentions of top issues**|
|Other presidents mentioned||Clinton, Lincoln, Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt||Clinton, Lincoln, Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt||Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan||Truman|
|Praise of Opponent||“John McCain is my friend. … [T]he personal courage and heroism demonstrated by John still amazes me.”||“John McCain has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect.”||“And, finally, a word to Senator Obama and his supporters. … You have my respect and my admiration.”||“There is much to like and admire about our opponent.”***|
|Villains||“[O]il companies [who] post the biggest profits in history”; “big corporations”; “al-Qaida and the Taliban, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11”; “Russia challenging the very freedom of a new democratic country of Georgia”; “Bush foreign policy.”||“George W. Bush”; “the man who wrote [McCain’s] economic plan”; “the lobbyists who wrote [the tax code]”; “insurance companies”; “al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan”; “Russian aggression”; “employer [who] undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.”||“[T]he old, big- spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second crowd”; “lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes”; “tobacco companies and trial lawyers, drug companies and union bosses”; “pundits [who] said my campaign was finished”; “oil companies.”||“[P]ollsters and the pundits”; “experts in Washington [who] counted out our nominee”; “Washington elite”; “special interests, and the lobbyists, and the Big Oil companies, and the good-old boys”; “al-Qaida terrorists”; “Harry Reid, the majority of the current do-nothing Senate.”|
*Barbs measure pithy or personal jabs at opponents, not criticisms of policy positions. They do not double count for jokes delivered at the opponent’s expense.
**List of issues based on results of Aug. 25 Gallup poll of voter priorities.
***(Editor’s note: immediately followed by, “But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the State Senate.”)