Mark Grimm


Presentation Expert Grades Six Iowa Caucus Speeches

The speeches from the six candidates involved in the Iowa Caucuses were remarkably different — some good, another a little weird, and one downright awful.

The best came from Ron Paul. He spoke to his audience rather than at them. He acknowledged his volunteers were his real asset and those volunteers have generated the most electricity. Nearly 40 percent of those voting were first-time caucus goers and nearly 40 percent of those voted for Paul. Paul’s strong conviction and his consistency on the core issues of protecting individual liberty and cutting runaway spending have struck a chord that all Republican candidates must address. While his “deal breaker” policies (i.e. foreign policy, drugs) will very likely prevent his nomination, his ability to viscerally connect with followers is unmatched in the campaign. Grade: B+

Rick Santorum had a great opener, “Game On,” showing he was now in the first tier after nearly 400 appearances in the state. He emphasized his family values with some poignant examples — his grandfather and his disabled child. They were no doubt heart felt references and they play well to his base. Santorum must be cautious, however, about being over indulgent in this area. The campaign isn’t about him, it’s about them (the voters). His speech tended to meander and went far too long. Quantity is not quality. Grade: B

Mitt Romney was quite gracious congratulating Santorum for both his hard work and for his “victory,” even though the actual result wasn’t known yet. He also saluted Paul. He stayed on message but seemed to be a little bit on auto pilot. Romney is a polished speaker but his potential pitfall is not appearing genuine enough. His policy flip flops make this concern even more critical. Grade: B

Rick Perry was genuine but obviously vague on what he’ll do next. He should have just congratulated the winners, stated his case and left the next step for another day. His “reassess” line created the headline, stepping on everything else. Grade: C-

Michele Bachmann was honestly a little weird. This was a time to speak from the heart, now read from a text. The prepared remarks were not that compelling and she is capable of doing better on her own. Grade: C-

And then there was Newt. Complete Disaster. Anger never sells well in a concession speech. He whined once again about negative ads and then called one of the night’s winners “stunningly dangerous” and another winner, the “Massachusetts moderate” (moderate is a dirty word in a GOP primary). Newt’s fall resulted from his own personal baggage. This speech added some more of it. Grade: F

The writer is a public speaking coach and trainer, former elected GOP official, and media professor.

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