The Schaffer-Udall Meet the Press debate: bully vs. sloucher

Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall on Meet the Press.

If Colorado Republican senatorial hopeful Bob Schaffer won yesterday's debate against Democratic rival Mark Udall on Meet the Press, it was a pyrrhic victory. As the combatant trailing in the polls, and the person with by far the most difficult case to make, he had to come out swinging, and he did. But even as he landed blow after blow, he emerged as so unlikable a jerk that he probably caused undecided voters to run away from his campaign in terror.

Not that Udall came across much better -- and he didn't just fall short in terms of the ineffectual way he attempted to parry Schaffer's thrusts. (He seemed so helpless that moderator Tom Brokaw felt obligated to knock Schaffer's spin off course a time or two.) He exuded weakness visually as well as verbally.

Udall is smaller physically than Schaffer, but his terrible posture accentuated the disparity. He spent most of the debate slouching, which made it appear as if he was cowering before the mean man looming over him, rather than standing up to the assault. Moreover, he looked notably unkempt. His tie was loosely knotted and extended beyond the lapels of his jacket and his hair was disheveled, as if he'd raced to the set at the last minute and was still catching his breath.

Superficial stuff? Sure. But as any performer knows (and politicians are performers, too), body language is absolutely vital to making a positive impression -- and in Udall's case, he sent a visual message every bit as lacking in confidence as was his aural presentation. Of course, Schaffer was so extraordinarily overbearing that many voters may not have fully registered Udall's lack of gravitas -- and if so, he's mighty fortunate. After all, he didn't display proper posture in more ways than one. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts