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By T. Hall

It has become clear from this election cycle’s first two debates that winning the “optics game” – how you are perceived – can be just as important as the presenting the facts. Take, for example, Mitt Romney’s first debate performance: though he was criticized for telling 27 lies in 38 minutes, he survived the next round because he showed an unexpected fervor and zest. These face-offs then become about displaying passion, grace under fire, and an understanding of how to play to the emotions of the American public. In a way, this political pageantry is more “RuPaul’s Drag Race” than “Meet the Press.”  President Obama, Governor Romney, Vice President Biden, and Congressman Ryan are just as catty and dramatic as RuPaul’s ‘squirrelfriends,’ except they are fighting to run the country.

Make up, suits, and flag pins
Like any good drag competition, costumes matter. The candidates must meticulously adorn their bodies to present themselves in the most convincing light. Just as queens strive for “fishiness” (or womanliness), the candidates must give off the air of capability and confidence. The use of makeup (to take off the shine) or tiny flag pins (to display their patriotism) or carefully sculpted hair (Paul Ryan’s shaped up widow’s peak) is no different than the queens of RPDR skillfully beating their faces or selecting their elegant gowns. The candidates must lip-sync for their political lives, and can’t allow dissonant visuals to disrupt their flow. Nobody wants to be the Nixon or DiDa Ritz of the debate – ashy and sad looking. In pageants as in politics, appearance is paramount.

Reading is Fundamental
In a game where no edges are safe, the candidate that snatches the wig fastest wins the fight. That was clear from the first debate, when Romney came out of the gate with lies and wild gesticulations, earning him a post-debate bounce that threw Democrats into a tizzy. Joe Biden’s incredulous laughs and quick take downs of Paul Ryan (“malarkey,” “my friend,” “stop talking about how you care about people”) was nothing but pure, unadulterated shade.  Debate zingers are key, not only because they cut to the white meat of one’s opponent, but because they frame the other guy in an unflattering light publicly and can be used as sound bites for the campaign. Reading is fundamental and these guys have been in the library.

You Be the Judge
If the candidates are the queens, then the moderators are the judges – each one plays an important role in shaping the competition. In the first debate Jim Lehrer showed himself to be an inadequate moderator, and allowed the candidates to run roughshod over him like a Drag Race guest judge that doesn’t hold any weight. Martha Raddatz, on the other hand, was the Michelle Visage of the vice-presidential debate, firm and authoritative enough to pull the queens back together when the conversation got off track.  “So will both of you level with the American people: Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?” Raddatz asked bluntly. Even though it was easy to assume her political leanings, Raddatz asked incisive, insightful questions of both candidates. A moderator (or Drag Race judge, for that matter) that can regulate and get to the meat of the issues that are extremely valuable.

Ultimately the American public will play the role of RuPaul, determining which candidates must sashay away and which will become the leaders of America. The road to the White House is a long and arduous one, and these candidates must prove that they have what it takes to rule the political runway.

T. Hall is a intellignorant writer based in northern Virginia. She tries not to take herself too seriously, and blogs about original fiction, books and life at


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