If only there had been more tears, and fewer promises, including 10-point plans to fix this or that.
One expert says that might have made the difference and saved Hillary Clinton’s campaign. How so? That’s what we wanted to know.
So I went to Atlanta to meet personally with Dr. Drew Westen. He’s an Emory University psychologist and author of the book, “The Political Brain.” He told me, even though we may not realize it, we vote with our gut. We say we want policy but we respond to emotion.
Apparently, Republicans like Ronald Reagan figured that out decades ago. Democrats are just catching on.
Here’s how Westen explains it:
When voters listen to candidates, the region of the brain that handles emotion is more engaged than the area that controls logic. We have a little almond-shaped nugget in our brain called the amygdala, and when it's aroused, reason takes a back seat.
We took it one step further and asked Westen to analyze two campaign holiday ads. Hillary Clinton’s was more policy-driven and Barack Obama’s was more personal. She was laying out her plans and he was sitting by the fire with his family.
Westen called Clinton’s ad “the worst political ad he’s ever seen.” Why? He told me, “Hillary's was all about, 'let me give you my bag of policies, and all the programs I want to inundate you with.' Obama's in contrast says, 'I'm a warm loving guy who cares about my family, I'm just like you.' It's impossible to watch that ad and not have a broad smile on your face.”
We gathered a group of eight undecided voters and played the same ads for them. They all responded much more positively to Obama’s ad which never mentioned a single plan or policy.
We also showed them John McCain’s ad about his experience as a prisoner of war. It was very emotional and the voters told us they were “touched.” But when we showed them another clip of McCain talking Iraq policy, they all lost interest.
One voter told me, “I'm not going to listen to it if it's dry, impassioned, there's not emotion.”
Westen says the most successful candidates have mastered combining policy and emotion. One viewer we interviewed agreed. He said, “I think we need both at this point in time, someone who can articulate a vision, and we need someone to inspire us, to lead us, in these difficult times.”
So when you go into the voting booth come November, do you think you’re going to be voting with your heart or your head?
Keep in mind, when the heart and the head are in conflict, I’m told the heart wins out.
Good to know when you’re picking a President…
Editor's Note: See Randi’s full report on AC360 at 10PM tonight.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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