Romney and Obama: what their choice of words reveal

Debates favour style over substance.

Last night was the last Presidential debate, which showed a win for Obama – but these debates are much more style over substance. Here's a quick analysis of some of the words they used.

The biggest word for both Obama and Romney last night (other than the common words like “the” or “a”) was “going” (though in Obama's case “make” and “sure” run it close to the wire, implying that surety and stability are more important for the President). “Going” is a pregnant word; it implies that both candidates were looking to prove that their foreign policies have forward momentum, at least, and the similarities between the two debating styles don't end there.

Both candidates really did spend more time talking about home and economic issues than about foreign policy. Romney said “economy” more times – 16 – and “budget” - 15 – than Middle East and Israel (15 and 14), while Obama mentions “budget” (8) and “deficit” (7) as much as “security” (9) and Osama Bin Laden – who he brought up directly just six times. Both candidates are equal on Israel, incidentally, on 14 mentions.

Romney is more concerned about The Bomb than Obama, mentioning the word “nuclear” 21 times to the President's 14. He also mentioned Iran 19 times to Obama's 15 – making Romney's Iran the most name-checked country in the debate other than the United States itself – though Obama holds the numbers two and three spots with Iraq and China at 18 each.

Romney, despite basing large parts of his campaign around Chinese currency-manipulation, mentions China only 12 times; 6 less than Obama. Britain's only mention in the debate comes only when Romney says that Pakistan could soon have more nuclear warheads than us.

Mitt did speak faster than the President, though, cramming 8,368 words into the 41 minutes and 7 seconds he had the floor. Obama spoke for 35 seconds longer over the debate – but only managed 7,161 words. Over the course of the three debates Obama has spoken for quite a bit longer – eight minutes and eight seconds – than Mitt Romney, for a total of 128 minutes and 36 seconds.

Once again, making this the third debate in a row where this point has gone the President's way, the meme-point went to Obama. Following on from “binders full of women” and “Big Bird”, this one was for the line: “you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” which has already spawned spoof accounts and facebook pages. He also won the best line of the night, with “the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back.”

Post-debate polling has called a win for Obama. CNN had the President winning 48-40 per cent, while CBS had him at 63-33 per cent and Reuters at 53 to 23 per cent. It was a fairly solid rout by the incumbent president, all told. But what this tells us is about the style – Obama talked directly at and about his opponent much more, saying “Romney” 22 times and “Governor” 36 times. Meanwhile, Romney said “President” only 30 times and didn't mention his opponent by name once.

If patriotism counted for anything, though, the challenger would have won: Romney used the word “America” a whopping 28 times, exactly double Obama's count.

Here are two wordles of the debates:

http://www.wordle.net/delete?index=5902557&d=LKEV <Obama

http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5902558/Untitled2 <Romney

Obama. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is reporting for the New Statesman from the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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Five things Hillary Clinton’s released emails reveal about UK politics

The latest batch of the presidential hopeful’s emails provide insight into the 2010 Labour leadership contest, and the dying days of the Labour government.

The US State Department has released thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. This is part of an ongoing controversy regarding the presidential hopeful’s use of a private, non-governmental server and personal email account when conducting official business as Secretary of State.

More than a quarter of Clinton’s work emails have now been released, in monthly instalments under a Freedom of Information ruling, after she handed over 30,000 pages of documents last year. So what does this most recent batch – which consists of 4,368 emails (totalling 7,121 pages) – reveal?
 

David Miliband’s pain

There’s a lot of insight into the last Labour leadership election in Clinton’s correspondence. One email from September 2010 reveals David Miliband’s pain at being defeated by his brother. He writes: “Losing is tough. When you win the party members and MPs doubly so. (When it's your brother...).”


Reaction to Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader

Clinton’s reply to the above email isn’t available in the cache, but a message from an aide about Ed Miliband’s victory in the leadership election suggests they were taken aback – or at least intrigued – by the result. Forwarding the news of Ed’s win to Clinton, it simply reads: “Wow”.


Clinton’s take on it, written in an email to her long-time adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, is: “Clearly more about Tony that [sic] David or Ed”.

Blumenthal expresses regret about the “regression” Ed’s win suggests about the Labour party. He writes to Clinton: “David Miliband lost by less than 2 percent to his brother Ed. Ed is the new leader. David was marginally hurt by Tony's book but more by Mandelson's endorsement coupled with his harsh statements about the left. This is something of a regression.”
 

Peter Mandelson is “mad”

In fact, team Clinton is less than enthusiastic about the influence Mandelson has over British politics. One item in a long email from Blumenthal to Clinton, labelled “Mandelson Watch”, gives her the low-down on the former Business Secretary’s machinations, in scathing language. It refers to him as being “in a snit” for missing out on the EU Commissioner position, and claims those in Europe think of him as “mad”. In another email from Blumenthal – about Labour’s “halted” coup against Gordon Brown – he says of Mandelson: “No one trusts him, yet he's indispensable.”

That whole passage about the coup is worth reading – for the clear disappointment in David Miliband, and description of his brother as a “sterling fellow”:


Obsession with “Tudor” Labour plotting

Clinton appears to have been kept in the loop on every detail of Labour party infighting. While Mandelson is a constant source of suspicion among her aides, Clinton herself clearly has a lot of time for David Miliband, replying “very sorry to read this confirmation” to an email about his rumoured demotion.

A May 2009 email from Blumenthal to Clinton, which describes Labour politicians’ plots as “like the Tudors”, details Ed Balls’ role in continuing Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s “bitter rivalry”:


“Disingenuous” Tories “offending” Europe

The Tories don’t get off lightly either. There is intense suspicion of David Cameron’s activities in Europe, even before he is Prime Minister. Blumenthal – whose email about a prospective Cameron government being “aristocratic” and “narrowly Etonian” was released in a previous batch of Clinton’s correspondence – writes:

Without passing "Go," David Cameron has seriously damaged his relations. with the European leaders. Sending a letter to Czech leader Vaclay Klaus encouraging him not to sign the Lisbon Treaty, as though Cameron were already Prime Minister, he has offended Sarkozy., Merkel and Zapatero.

He also accuses him of a “tilt to the Tory right on Europe”.

In the same email, Blumenthal tells Clinton that William Hague (then shadow foreign secretary), “has arduously pressured for an anti-EU stance, despite his assurances to you that Tory policy toward Europe would be marked by continuity”.

In the aftermath of the 2010 UK election, Blumenthal is apprehensive about Hague’s future as Foreign Secretary, emailing Clinton: “I would doubt you’ll see David again as foreign secretary. Prepare for hauge [sic, William Hague], who is deeply anti-European and will be disingenuous with you.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.