Yesterday Hillary Clinton announced her VP running mate, Tim Kaine. Let me tell you how that decision looks from a persuasion standpoint. I’ll ignore Kaine’s education, experience, political preferences, and anything else that voters say they care about but don’t. Today, let’s just talk about how people will feel about it.
For context, consider Trump’s VP running mate, Mike Pence. He’s the perfect choice for Trump because of the contrast it creates. If you started with Trump and removed everything interesting about him, you’d have Pence. Visually, Pence is the washed-out, smaller, duller Trump. That’s perfect contrast. When you see the two of them together, Pence looks like a black-and-white photograph compared to Trump’s full color. In other words, Pence helps to make the top of the ticket look better, and that’s exactly what you want.
But Clinton had the extra challenge of being a woman in a sexist country. If she picked another woman as her running mate, it would seem to the public as a gender-based hire and work against her. That would be a losing strategy.
If Clinton picked an alpha male running mate – a Donald Trump type – it would create an awkward contrast and do nothing to make her look stronger. So Clinton’s best path was to select a beta male with solid credentials. Tim Kaine fits the bill. Considering her available options, she probably made the right choice.
I polled my Twitter followers to see if they thought Kaine registered to them as an alpha male, beta male, or other. Only 4% said he looked alpha. My poll is far from scientific, but subjectively speaking, I think they got it right. Check out his Google images page here and see if you agree. Remember, I’m only talking about your sexist first impression, not a deeper truth.
This is all deeply subjective, obviously, but that’s the point. If the public sees Kaine as a beta male to Clinton’s alpha female, that’s their reality. And the Master Persuader filter says this perception will make a difference.
Clinton will probably win the vote of women. Her problem is men. If you ask a man why he doesn’t like Hillary Clinton, he might say something about her policies and her history. But the persuasion filter says the real reason men don’t like Clinton is that they can’t stand listening to her. Her speaking style reminds men of every bad relationship they have ever had with a woman. We’re all irrational sexists on some level, and Clinton sounds to many male ears like a disgruntled ex-wife, or perhaps your mom who had a really bad day. That’s a problem if you need the male vote.
Now add Tim Kaine to the mix. In our irrational minds – where we compare everything to our personal experience – Kaine will play the part of the beta male husband whose wife can’t stop complaining about her terrible co-worker, Donald Trump. No guy wants to hear eight years of that. They get enough of it at home.
My prediction is that Kaine will do nothing to improve Clinton’s standing with women. But the Clinton-Kaine ticket is a persuasion disaster in terms of the male vote. Male egos are probably already at a historical low point. Kaine puts a face to that movie. Will men vote to watch Hillary Clinton make Tim Kaine her Whitehouseboy for eight years?
The persuasion filter says they won’t. And after men vote against Clinton, they’ll tell pollsters it had something to do with her policies and her history.
If you think I wrote this post on a weekend, you might like my book because it has been translated into several languages.