Less than Flattering: ‘Presentation’ of the Candidates

On the PA2010 site a few weeks back, I explored a bit and encountered a cartoon regarding the Democratic candidate for senator, Joe Sestak. At the time I was amused.

Researching the presentation of the candidates to media, however, I stumbled upon this video the moment I was redirected to Sestak’s election site:

The ad proclaims Sestak spent “31 years protecting America”, with the words “3 Star Navy Admiral” displayed prominently on the bottom. Half the 30 seconds speaks of his military service; the last half offers a modest line on “a decorated veteran fighting for us”.

Which segways into the problem with Sestak’s presentation, noted by the woman speaking on a radio show following her viewing of campaign ads for Sestak and his opponent, Pat Toomey:

While the character of a candidate is certainly important, it would perhaps be in Sestak’s best interest to balance the exposition of character with further development of character actions and external events.

Comparably speaking though, at least Sestak features a positive ad about himself on his website’s splash page. Currently, Toomey has a negative ad regarding Sestak instead, featuring the Democratic congressman prominently with Obama.

Toomey’s navigation features a ‘Learn’ option that has 3 links to pages attacking his opponent and Congress. These pages have content that make little sense, but contain prominent headers such as, “Extremism Watch: Specter and Sestak Far Outside the Mainstream on Foreign Policy”—never mind that a freshman senator will have little influence on foreign policy. It is also amusing to note Toomey has listed “Israel” and “Second Amendment” under his “Issues”.

Perhaps the saddest fact about both senatorial candidates’ websites do not feature their stances on issues prominently; before explaining their personal stances, both rail against whatever circumstances suit the issue. Then they proceed to explain in befuddlingly long paragraphs their beliefs in what would be good policy.

We interrupt this blog post for a brief commercial of Republican talking points; you are more than welcome to skip the next video. If you sit through the entirety of it without being bored by Toomey and his dismal charisma, the author applauds you.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett has a slightly better splash page than either of the senate candidates: he has a video of himself talking about intended policies. He has a “six words” policy for his future administration of: “Fiscal Discipline, Limited Government, Free Enterprise”. Following that, he uses some cute words about jobs in Pennsylvania:


The Vision and The Plan

Tom Corbett: The Vision and The Plan


Corbett would be more convincing if his eyes were looking at the camera and not at the teleprompter to his right.

The more important issues of the election will naturally be listed at the top of whatever the issues page is on candidates’ sites. For Pennsylvania, the obvious concern is over economy; all of the senatorial and gubernatorial candidates’ sites have economy at the top. For the gubernatorial candidates, government reform is second. Corbett lists “Seniors” last.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato combines self-promotion with Corbett-attacking, although one has to wonder how useful a cast member from Glee can be to Onorato’s campaign.

Since my post regarding the toss-up House races in Pennsylvania, PA3 and PA10 have slipped out of RealClearPolitics’s toss-ups and into the leaning Republican category. The one race that remains toss-up for RCP is PA12, between Mark Critz (D) and Tim Burns (R). Critz has occupied the seat since the special election following John Murtha’s death. His victory in the special election spells well for his chances; nevertheless, one ought to sigh at the welcome on the home page of his site:

Thank you for visiting my website.  I am running for Congress because we need a Congressman who makes creating jobs a priority.  Though we’re facing difficult economic times, I’m committed to doing everything I can to get our economy moving again.  That’s why I’ve laid out a comprehensive jobs plan that’ll get folks back to work right here in Western Pennsylvania.

And then Critz fails to speak of this “comprehensive jobs plan”.

I suppose, depending on who you are, it might be encouraging to see this on the site:


Mark Critz is proudly endorsed by the National Rifle Associaton

Mark Critz and the NRA


The alternative is Tim Burns, who proclaims in the welcome on his site: “My name is Tim Burns and I am NOT a politician. I don’t claim to know ‘how Washington works’ because I don’t believe that it does.” It makes about as much logical sense to vote for a politician-in-denial who does not believe in government as it does to hire a plumber who does not believe in plumbing. In Burns’s video gallery, it is difficult to find even one video that is not plagued with negativity and only expresses the candidate’s policies and plans. One has to wonder if he has promised voters anything above “kicking those other guys out”.

The Point

The object of this exercise is to peruse media available regarding the candidates and their ‘presentation’. While largely what I located is on the internet, campaign ads are broadcast on television, and certain long and tedious clips of candidates in public can be found on Youtube that were broadcast on television before they landed on the internet.

What do the candidates understand about presenting themselves? Of the batch I sifted through, Dan Onorato had the best presentation: he mixed attack and promotion, he did not appear overly offensive, he did not sprout talking points with no examples of his possible actions. Most candidates are either insipid without charisma or talking points parrots, or both. Just from the campaign sites alone, one can conclude none of them devoted much resources to making themselves well-presented in webspace, which speaks of their general apathy towards expanding for a younger voter base. Even then it seems of little consequence compared to the slew of boring, unoriginal attack ads aimed at Congress, recent legislation, and the other candidate with little effective promotion of the candidate or the candidate’s policies.

What do the voters want to hear? Amidst the garbled messages about questionable character or impeccable character, some policies with no plans float the waves while some with no policies try their best to deface the opponent in some wild hope that that is the only condition for victory. It is a question of whether or not the candidates understand their electorate; despite Burns’s eighth-grade level writing on his site, what he writes about is exactly what appeals to Pennsylvania voters at the moment. Yet none of the candidates can articulate, precisely and concisely, what their policies and plans are regarding different issues.

All of them can wear suits, but none of them have charisma or substance. This neatly rolls back to the cartoon mentioned at the beginning of this post, and how I can understand its comedy now.


Let's talk about my military record instead

"Sestak's Strategy" by Rob Tornoe


– A.L.


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  • About Us

    Pennforge is a group of college kids excited to follow the 2010 elections of Pennsylvania. We hope to highlight the candidates, the issues, and any race drama that may come up. Thanks for following!
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