Likability is everything.
Especially if you are a political candidate. We all wish this wasn't true. We want to believe that every citizen carefully researches each candidate and then delivers a thoughtful, intelligent vote for the most qualified person on the ballot.
However, research shows that the truth is pretty much the opposite. And especially for the US presidency, people tend to elect the candidate that they like the best (likability) -- the one they'd want to have a beer with, as the adage goes.
Most importantly, I think people vote for the candidate that they feel would most like THEM.
Which leads us to the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Americans have voted "likability" into the White house for years and years, going back to (you guessed it) -- Richard Nixon.
Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter.
Love or hate their politics, ya gotta admit, they are all pretty likable.
Since "likability" is, for better or for worse, the single most important attribute in a candidate to win the presidency -- who, exactly, IS the most likable presidential candidate for 2016?
I devised my own unscientific method for making this calculation. I decided to rate each candidate on a scale of 1-5 in five crucial "likability" categories: authenticity, accessibility, emotional control, smile, and physical attractiveness.
I know. It's so shallow. Physical attractiveness? You bet. This stuff is buried deep down in our subconscious, folks. For the most part, it's the lizard brain that punches the chad.
So, after much research (it took me about 19 minutes), here are my predictions from least to best for the likeliest candidates to win the 2016 election.
13) Ted Cruz
Authenticity: 2 accessibility: 2 (Harvard and Yale grad, and his wife is an executive at Goldman Sachs), emotional control: 5, smile: 2, and physical attractiveness: 2. Total: 13
Sorry, tea partiers. You may love what he stands for and what he says, but Ted Cruz scores extremely low in all of the likability areas except one: emotional control, where he scored a 5. Ordinarily this would be a positive trait, but in a candidate so inauthentic and unlikable (he was very unpopular at Harvard), showing no real emotions (including anger) seals his fate as a rehearsed, conniving robot who clearly practices his voice and facial expressions for hours every day in front of the mirror. Who wants to have a beer with him? Not a soul, sadly.
12) Donald Trump
Authenticity: 4, accessibility: 2 (Park Avenue, private jets, etc), emotional control: 3, smile: 3, and physical attractiveness: 2. Total: 14
You know, the simple act of losing the much maligned comb-over would increase his score (and odds) by leaps and bounds. But the odds of him doing that are about as good as his odds to actually become President. Pretty much zilch.
11) Rick Santorum
Authenticity: 2 (way, way too preachy and sanctimonious to anyone but the most ardent anti-abortion activist), accessibility: 3, emotional control: 5, smile: 3 (again -- how many of you really want to have a beer with him? I know. Even if you like his politics: it just wouldn't be any fun, now, would it), and physical attractiveness: 3. Total: 16
10) Chris Christie
Authenticity: 5, accessibility: 4, emotional control: 2 (his Tony Soprano-esque Jersey temper has ruined his chances) smile: 4 (we've seen how much fun he has jumping up and down in Jerry Jones private box at Cowboys games), and physical attractiveness: 2. Total: 16.
9) Carly Fiorina
Authenticity: 3 (again, way too preachy and sanctimonious when discussing "morality topics like abortion and gay marriage), accessibility: 3, emotional control: 4, smile: 3 (The new, improved Carly comes across as very, very serious -- and not any fun at all), and physical attractiveness: 4. Total: 17.
8) Scott Walker
Authenticity: 3 (Once again we have a candidate who tends to sound sanctimonious as he looks us in the eye touting "right to work" which actually aims to do the exact opposite to working teachers, firefighters, etc.), accessibility: 4, emotional control: 5, smile: 2 (Comes across as very studious and serious -- and not relaxed at all -- we miss you, George W. Bush, you prankster! He was the life of the party in kick-ass fraternities at Harvard AND Yale!), and physical attractiveness: 3. Total: 17
7) Rand Paul
Authenticity: 5, accessibility: 3, emotional control: 2 (As with Chris Christie, yet again a potentially strong candidate's short fuse and defensiveness with reporters blows his chances), smile: 3 and physical attractiveness: 4. Total: 17.
6) Jeb Bush
Authenticity: 4, accessibility: 4 (While he's still a Bush and a billionaire, he went to the University of Texas rather than Yale, married a Mexican woman and is fluent in Spanish), emotional control: 5, smile: 3 (pretty much a stuffed shirt) and physical attractiveness: 4. Total: 20
OK, folks, those are the losers (if my calculations are correct). Here are the top 5 most electable Presidential candidates for 2016:
5) Mike Huckabee
Authenticity: 5 (since he's actually a Christian pastor, it feels less hypocritical to be so preachy and sanctimonious about issues like abortion and gay marriage), accessibility: 5 (seems like a nice guy), emotional control: 4 (mostly calm and easy going but on rare occasions, his buttons can be pushed), smile: 4 and physical attractiveness: 2. Total: 20.
4) Hillary Clinton
Authenticity: 5 (I think surviving all of the "Bill being Bill" stuff with grace and good humor scored big sympathy points for her, even amongst the most conservative voters), accessibility: 4, emotional control: 5 (tons and tons of practice), smile: 5 (ya gotta admit, she seems like alot of fun, is quick to smile, and she's got a hearty belly laugh) and physical attractiveness: 4. Total: 23
3) Rick Perry
Authenticity: 5, accessibility: 5, emotional control: 4, smile: 5 and physical attractiveness: 4. I've often said that he is a newer, handsomer version of that other Texas Republican governor, George W. Bush. He seems like a genuinely nice, easy going person. Plus, I dig the glasses. OK, OK, he's got those pesky felony charges pending, but still... Total: 23
2) Elizabeth Warren
Authenticity: 5, accessibility: 4, emotional control: 5, smile: 5 and physical attractiveness: 4. I know, I know, she says she's not running (at least in 2016), but there's lots of buzz about an all women Democratic ticket. She enjoys an almost Gandhi-like reputation as the champion of the poor and the working people. Even the most hardened, threatened hedge-fund manager would have to admit ( albeit only with a gun to his head, no doubt) that the lady screams authenticity and likability. Maybe you wouldn't like to have a beer with her, but most certainly a slice of fresh apple pie. Total: 23.
Before I tell you my #1 candidate, I must say that I was stunned by my own choice for the most likely candidate to be elected president. But, I honestly asked the same questions about this candidate and his likability, and the numbers don't lie. As a progressive, I can only say: Read it and weep.
1) Marco Rubio
Authenticity: 5, accessibility: 5, emotional control: 5, smile: 5 and physical attractiveness: 4. Yep. He's got it all in the likability department. He comes across as authentic and genuine. He's got an easy smile. He's young, fit and not bad on the eyes. I may not like most of his policies, but I've gotta admit that (especially as a Latino) he would be a most formidable candidate for the Republican party. Total: 24.
So, there you have it. Now of course, there will be other factors at play in the campaign (scandals, stands on the issues, etc.). Only time will tell...