Appearances have been an important part of politics for a long time. The idea of image and appearance became prominent in the modern age when Richard Nixon debated John F. Kennedy on live television.
The debate was broadcast on radio and television at the same time. It was an astounding thing the next day when people who listened to the debate thought Nixon won while those who watched it on television thought Kennedy won. Many pundits believed it was because Nixon’s body language, uncomfortable appearance and profuse sweating sent viewers a message that was lost through the radio. Image continues to be an issue today.
The latest Republican presidential debate was seen by many on all sides of the aisle as something fairly pedantic and pointless. The candidates on stage were trying to project images of themselves as being powerful, presidential and ultimately electable.
Unfortunately, they attempted to do this in some of the most awkward and cringe inducing ways possible. Something that did not help the issue was that the moderators seemed to encourage the bad behavior. This most likely occurred to garner ratings and earned media the next day. The candidates also seemed to be completely out of touch with what audiences wanted to hear.
The three main contenders on stage were frontrunner Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz. The three are considered the only viable candidates although Rubio’s chances dwindle by the day. The night was filled with vicious attacks. Some were about the past. Some were about minor voting or policy issues. Few were about anything substantive such as foreign policy, job creation or healthcare. The debate boiled down to a point where candidates were attacking the heights, hand sizes and appearances of the others. The audience at the debate was even fed up with it. They started booing the constant schoolyard bully attacks. Republican focus groups afterwards used words like disgusting and lacking substance to describe the debate.
Senator Ted Cruz was in the spotlight during the debate. Part of this is because he won three states during Super Tuesday solidifying his current position as runner-up to Donald Trump. The other reason was his incessant attacking of Trump on stage regardless of the questions from the moderators. Cruz has been as controversial a figure as Trump since entering the race. Some believe he is actually more of a danger to the country than Trump and just manages to keep his rhetoric in check. Others see Cruz as a theocrat who wants to enforce Christianity through the laws of the United States.
Although many find Cruz’s rhetoric and ideas disagreeable, he actually did something that disgusted audiences during the debate and potentially hurt his image. Cruz was pleading with the audience in one of his sermon-like speeches to disavow support for Trump. This is when it appears some mucus dripped from Cruz’s nose and dropped down coming to rest on his upper lip. It was not a small amount of mucus. It was clearly visible on the high-definition camera capturing his speech. The mucus eventually migrated from his upper lip to his lower lip while he was speaking.
The crowd laughed a little realizing that it was there and Cruz was ignoring it. Cruz then surprised everyone when he suddenly tucked in his lower lip and actually ate the nasal mucus. The audience actively let out a response that was part laughter and part disgust. Social media and some websites lit up with the story the next day about Cruz doing this. The event was analyzed and videos created showing what happened. Even though there are serious issues to deal with when it comes to Cruz and the Republican presidential candidates, this moment of bizarre levity provided a brief break from the chaos. It remains to be seen how this will affect Cruz’s image in the future.