Bert Decker, the presentations skills guru, published his annual list of the top ten best (and worst) communicators recently, and it's worth a peek. It's a reasonably good list, with some blatant exceptions.
First, where is Barack Obama? While Bert listed Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, he left out Obama, who's hands-down the most eloquent public speaker running for office, as he showed in the recent NH debate. He has an uncanny ability to distill complex issues into simple but compelling messages--and deliver them with passion and even fury, engaging with audiences on an emotional level we haven't seen in years. His victory speech after Iowa rekindled memories of Martin Luther King.
Huckabee, by the way, also demonstrated strong skills on the stump in Iowa and NH. In the NH debate, he nailed several issues with clear, direct answers and an unwavering, direct style--such strong eye contact, at times he seems to be almost looking through the camera. I don't know if it's his baptist preacher background, but it's clear he has an iron-clad conviction when he speaks (compare that to Bush, below).
By comparison, Fred Thompson (on Bert's Worst List) stumbled and bumbled through his answers, making you wonder if he was even tuned in at times.
While we're talking politics, you can't forget Hillary Clinton. While she's not the orator that Obama is, she has improved dramatically the last year. She's managed to soften her image slightly, and seems more likable at times--witness the exchange during the NY debate when she joked about "being hurt" by the popularity comparisons with Obama. "I don't think I"m that bad," she joked. She's sharp and articulate on the issues and shows steely nerve, when needed. Yet she can still lose her cool, as she did during the debate when John Edwards said she reflected the status quo and was against change. She almost came out of the chair yelling back at him. Note to Hillary: chill.
Bert also put Bush on the "worst" list, and for good reason. Amazingly, Bush has actually gone backwards since being in office when it comes to personal speaking style, picking up odd mannerisms and behaviors that would fail him in a college speech class (example: the infamous head cock). See "Managing the Bush Twitch"
Moving on, and back to the list. I had two other qualms. Maria Bartiromo and Glenn Beck, two TV personalities, should be kicked off the list. Bartiromo is certainly attractive and may be an ok correspondent for CNBC, but as she showed in the documentary on Alan Greenspan a few months ago, she's no heavy hitter. Indeed she spent much of the hour gushing over the former fed chairman like a swooning cheerleader, and focusing on silly questions like how he thinks in the bathtub. Beck is just loud and obnoxious and just a notch over Suzy Orman, another scary woman who made it on Bert's worst list.
The only one who beats out both of them is Nancy Grace, the loud-mouthed TV commentator who proves that you don't have to have any class or speaking skills to make it on TV. She's on the "worst" list. Good job on that one Bert.