With the first presidential debate completed, the pundits and social sphere weighed in with immediate evaluations of both candidates’ performances. With more debates to come, the general consensus was that for round one, President Obama was disappointing. Even the Democrats said so.
That disappointment was clearly reflected in the President’s chief strategic advisor David Axelrod’s post-debate comments. Axelrod called Romney an “artful dodger” and a person whose statements during the debate were “devoid of honesty,” “rooted in deception,” “untethered to the truth,” and “well delivered but fraudulent.”
Can Axelrod be more candid and more ad hominem? He did not offer much by way of factual correction, nor attempt to make the mind-numbing statistics provided by both candidates more user/voter-friendly. Do most voters know what Dodd-Frank or Simpson-Bowles are? By the end of the debate, voters were still trying to absorb the kaleidoscope of “what was that number” or “how does that math work” confusion?
The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for David Axelrod’s demonstration of petulance and personal attack on his client’s adversary.
The PR Takeaway: Take the high road, regardless of your personal feelings. Address facts and express “disappointment” in your opponent’s argument without the need to call your opponent “fraudulent.” Anger shows weakness, and Axelrod, in those immediate moments of media confrontation about his client, would have served both himself and President better by “correcting the record” rather than taking personal pot shots which, up until now, has been the tenor of Axelrod’s communications leadership. Remember that rather than launching personal attacks on those opposing you, persuasion founded in facts engages those whose point of view you seek to capture.
What’s your opinion of David Axelrod’s post-debate commentary? Give us your PR Verdict!