If looks can kill … Rudy’s dead


Rudy Giuliani’s tactics for becoming President failed in spectacular fashion in Florida. Did he rely too much on his reputation as the strong leader in New York after 9-11? Were Republican voters influenced more by his policies or by other more personal factors?

Several factors are being discussed as contributing to Rudy’s failed bid to win support for his campaign to become the Republican candidate for the Presidency.

It is still hard to write about Mr Giuliani without some reference to his leadership as Mayor of New York, in the immediate aftermath of the twin towers disaster in 2002. This was widely acknowledged as a bonus in his subsequent attempt to become President of the United States in 2008. His reputation as a strong leader had remained with him, an apparent personal asset in the intervening years. But that reputation is now being discussed as having been over-emphasised in the present campaign.

[H]e may have overplayed the 9/11 legacy. One Democrat parodied his speaking style as “Noun, Verb, 9/11”.

The second factor concerns the tactics of the campaign, which had always been seen as at best risky, and at worse foolhardy.

We always knew that Mr Giuliani’s strategy of focusing his time, energy and money in the first big state to vote was one of two things; either a stroke of political genius that would rewrite the rule book about how you run for the presidency, or an act of madness that would see the long-time Republican front-runner fall at the first hurdle. Now we know which it was.

The other factors cited included his personal life style.

While his rivals were making headlines for their early victories, the former New York City mayor faced a flood of negative stories about his personal life and judgment, many tied to third wife Judith Nathan and disgraced longtime ally Bernard Kerik.

Other factors were also mooted. His refusal to bad-mouth other candidates was suggested to have been a mistake. If that can be shown important it it even clearer that we elect the leaders we deserve. His emphasis on a hawkish line on Iraq was also believed to have been an unpopular message. Concerns about the economy strengthened the claims of the Reagan-like charms of Senator McCain.

Then there’s the unmentioned factor …

I have not come across a single published reference to a factor that has struck me from the start of the campaign. Rudy Giuliani comes across as one of the least photogenic of the candidates. Perhaps it is too crude an observation; his appearance has not been helped by his medical condition in recent years.

Maybe I am alone in thinking he appears somewhat off-putting. He reminds me in appearance rather like the cadaverous and seriously scary English politician Norman (the polecat) Tebbit. Margaret Thatcher was said to approve of men with charm. Norman was not high on the charm meter, but she approved of him, because she needed the impact of such a semi-domesticated frightener from time to time.

Nor did his appearance prevent Lord Tebbitt from gaining high political honours, any more than a more recent conservative figure Michael Howard who was also less than an easy figure to provide with a reassuring public image.

Ugly can be reassuring and even provide scope for a public image of a no-nonsense and dependable leader (‘warts and all’ as Oliver Cromwell put it). But ugly and scary?

Should it matter?

Should any of this matter.
Does it matter?

It would be comforting to think that it does not matter as much as policies, integrity, psychological stability and a dozen other factors when we chose a political leader. The absence of comment about Rudy’s appearance may mean it’s a trivial point. Or it may suggest a collective sense of discomfort in observers which sets any discussion out of bounds.


One day after the Florida results, Guiliani retires from the race, and offers his support to John McCain.

One Response to If looks can kill … Rudy’s dead

  1. Tudor,

    Yes, looks can kill and do kill. Your advance diagnosis and prognosis of Rudy Giuliani’s political well-being as a presidential contender after the February 5 primary was perfect.

    Many factors contribute to the political health and death of presidential aspirants, and good looks, as well as not so good looks, as judged along society’s physical attractiveness continuum is known to be a significant contributing factor. Post-mortem analysis of Giuliani’s ill-fated presidential bid adds more evidence that good looks translate into good political outcomes.

    As discomforting as it may be, and as denied as it is by many, those finalist candidates of higher physical attractiveness have historically gained more votes, be it at local political campaigns or national presidential primaries and general elections. Probably most glaring in history are the very different levels of physical attractiveness between the universally acknowledged good looks of John Kennedy compared to his counterpart, Richard Nixon.

    A robust body of solid scientific research documents that inside and outside political contests, many dimensions define the appearance of a person. And, the dimension of physical attractiveness proves strongly to be more influential than other visible factors. So much so, that its influence transcends gender, race, culture, times, and locations. Ultimately, as discomforting and publicly denied this influence might be, it is with rare exception when a candidate with an appearance of higher physical attractiveness does not translate into greater perceptions of trustworthiness, expertise, leadership ability, liking, and, ultimately, more votes cast.

    Dr. Gordon Patzer
    author of “Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: