Twenty-two months have passed, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent, and as I am writing this, we are down to the final 48 hours.
There are polls showing Senator Obama leading by huge margins, small margins, and every possible margin in between. There are polls of polls. Every channel, except Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, has a talking head, a surrogate, and anyone else with an opinion on air declaring who will win and why.
We all know what the pundits are saying. We know what the campaigns are saying. We obviously know what the candidates are saying, at least verbally.
Tired, stressed and exhausted, with everything on the line, what are the candidates saying non-verbally, with their body language, demeanor, facial communications and even attire, during the final push?
Sens. Obama, McCain and Biden appear in open collar shirts at nearly every stop, sometimes with a blazer, and sometimes without.
One word sums up the demeanor of both Obama and McCain—intense. The intensity is evident on both of their faces, in their body language, and in the intonation and strength in both of their voices.
With 48 hours left before a major election, with Dukakis and Dole being examples, it is sometimes evident when a candidate is trying very hard to put a positive face on what is an impending defeat. In other words, the candidate knows the end is near, even though he or she says quite the opposite, and while his or her words say one thing, the body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions say otherwise.
That is not the case with either one of these candidates. The intensity is more reminiscent of the feeling leading up to a major prizefight than an election.
There is much more of a contrast with the vice presidential candidates. Governor Palin appears very serious and very intense, while Senator Biden appears less serious than any of the three—he actually seems very relaxed.
Gov. Palin doesn’t just use power words; she also has used quite a few power gestures in her past few appearances. Whether it be the “Clinton closed-grip” (thumb and forefinger touching rather than a pointed finger), a fist, or even a downward point, Gov. Palin has been animated and intense – she attempted to talk through approval lines on a number of occasions. In contrast, Senator Biden seems much more relaxed and a bit more sarcastic than earlier in the campaign.
So what does this all mean? To me, regardless of what anyone says or writes, I don’t believe either presidential candidate believes this is over. Both men have a lot of fight left and the intensity both exhibit will continue until the last polling location closes on Tuesday.
Matt Eventoff is president of PPS Associates, a consulting firm that focuses on communications and messaging for corporate and political clients.