February 19th, 2008
05:40 PM ET

Style vs. substance?


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Ask a feminist why Hillary Clinton is struggling to get the Democratic presidential nomination and you might be told she is bumping up against the ultimate glass ceiling.

Her career and resume are beyond impressive. And yet in the last several weeks, she's begun to lose the nomination to a man whose charisma and style belie his comparative lack of experience.

When it comes to voting for president, Americans tend to pick people they like. It's just the way we are. Give us a choice between a Jaguar convertible and a Toyota Prius, and most of us will go for the glamour and glitz every time.

Add in the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman and it gets even tougher. The conventional wisdom is for a woman to be taken seriously, she has to come across as tough and competent. Clinton is certainly both of those. But on some level, those very qualities that might make her a great president are probably working against her.

It's nothing new: Jack Kennedy was "Jack Who" until the debates against the far more seasoned political professional Richard Nixon. But once the public caught a glimpse of Kennedy's charisma, Nixon didn't have a chance.

Here’s my question to you: Which is more important in a presidential campaign: style or substance?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Jorge from Monterey, California writes:
Jack, Style! It’s that simple. Do you want another 4 or 8 years of a divided country? I personally will go away to Canada or to Europe. I will not stay in this country for a McCain or Clinton administration. No more politics as usual!

Melissa writes:
That's a no-brainer, Jack. For the last 7 years, we've suffered under the regime of Bush, the man who was the style against McCain's and Kerry's substance. They told us that we should ignore his lack of experience because they would surround him with the best and brightest this country has to offer… see where that has gotten us. I will take substance every day of the week and twice on Sunday!

Billy writes:
The question presents a false choice insomuch as it assumes that Obama lacks substance. Both are important. Obama has both and he deserves to be our next president.

Jane from Wisconsin writes:
Substance is most important. We are living in dangerous times, and giving a good speech is not going to solve any problems. Calling for "change" is fine, but change is not always for the better, and we need specifics about what kinds of change we are talking about and exactly how they will be accomplished.

Miguel writes:
We need both! I have long said that Hillary's strength is Obama's weakness, and his strength is her weakness. We are at a critical point in our nation and world history, and we need a combination of both to clean house and restore the "American dream" at home and our standing in the world.

Bill from Toronto writes:
Jack, Most of us have the attention span of an amoeba and so in this era of sound bite slogans, style is more important than substance for a political candidate (within reason), all things considered.

Filed under: 2008 Election
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Nic

    Hi Jack,

    I think both are key ingredients. You need to have style to capture the attention of the nation. When good substance is provided alongside style, you have a leader people want to follow.

    San Francisco, CA

    February 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  2. Roy P

    Substance, this has been the most pathetic popularity contest in my 59 years. No candidate yes has come forth with one single long range solution. All of their major contributors are banks and law firms, you would think they have something to protect.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  3. melvin harper

    Any right minded person it has to be substance, however, the real question is the candidate telling the truth are just talking to get elected.
    Remember 1992 Bush said "Read my Lips"
    nuf said.
    La Junta,Co

    February 19, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  4. Jamie

    Without a doubt, I think a successful President would need both. The President is, first and foremost, a leader. Leaders are expected to make critical decisions when it counts, but they are also expected to rally and motivate their followers. In a time when our international reputation is in such peril, I think it is critical to have a President who can appeal to our foreign allies and help rebuild our image and credibility.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  5. mike studders

    a candidate needs both. we've had eight years of neither. cnn is hosting a couple of more debates and i sure wish that you would ask some questions that were not softballs. can we ask more about nafta and americas infrastructure. ford focus and hershey candy bars are now being put together in mexico, with it's lower labor and healthcare costs there is no savings apparent to the consumer only enhanced profits to the corporations..i can see some candidate style but without good questions i am having trouble figuring out the substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Sheila from NC

    Style tells me about the character of the person and substance tells me how they will handle the job.

    If they don't have true honest character I don't care about the substance or the experience.

    The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.
    — Abigail van Buren

    February 19, 2008 at 2:44 pm |
  7. Lori Altoona Iowa

    Substance. We have just put up with 7 years of someone telling us what we can and cannot do. If we did not agree with what he said, then we were anti american. If we did not stand by the current president, then we were as bad as terrorists....Now we need someone that listens to what we need and actually brings things to reality. Someone that can make something happen, over and over again. We need someone that can make amends with hundreds of other countries. We need a leader, we need an activator, we need a maximizer. We need someone that goes in and brings this country back to the greatness that was not that long ago. I am an american, but by god I'm glad the past 8 years are almost over and I pray that our country never makes the same horrible mistakes in judgment that were just made with this president. Use your best judgment when you vote. Vote for substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  8. Rex in Portland, Ore.

    You wasted this question, Jack. Substance, of course.

    It is, however, a real shame that there isn't any substance anywhere. Lots of style, lots of posturing, lots of pie promises – not a single attempt to discuss anything as complex as "functions of government". The closest thing to substance I've heard so far is Obama's remark about changing the mindset in Washington.

    Use your influence with Wolf to get some philosophical discussion on the agenda for the Feb. 21 debates, Jack.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  9. Nina Tyler

    Dear Jack:
    Substance is the most important but so far we have not heard about any substance. All we hear is preaching and fighting and crying that somebody was mean to them.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  10. Jacquie

    It used to be style- now it's substance. Eight years ago Pres. George W. Bush had the style, Al Gore had the substance. Americans went with style. Eight years before that Pres. Clinton really had style, Pres. George Walker Bush had substance. Again, we went to charisma and style over substance. I sure hope American's can learn from their past mistakes and go for substance over style. Just look where we are now!

    February 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Terry, Chandler AZ

    First: Style will grab the attention of the voters. Once the candidate has the attention he (she) moves into the substance mode.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Mike Smith, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Substance should always win over style. If we've learned anything in the past seven years, it should be that campaign rhetoric rarely matches the deeds that follow. In fact, they seem to do the opposite. Our current President campaigned against deficit spending and nation-building.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  13. Brian Nancoo - Trinidad

    It depends on what the voters go for. It looks like Democrats like style, which is why so many of them voted for Bush twice,and the Republicns like substance,which is why they came back to McCain. Style NEVER gets the job done,not in politics,not in business,not in any aspect of life.But style gets the girl more times than substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Joan, VA.

    There is no question but substance is more important, style can copied from other speeches but what one's plans are, constitute the real image of the candidate. Since you decided not to mention Obama's plagiarism, I decided too. Actually, in all fairness, something like Obama stealing lines-good or otherwise-deserved a question today. You just proved what others have said, Obama gets a pass on something that ,if Hillary did, would create a furor.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  15. Mateo

    I hold this truth to be self evident: Substance and Experience trumps words and style.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  16. Daniel Schmid in Chicago, Illinois

    Substance of course! If substance is the ability to make progress and a candidate doesn't have that then they are not suitable for the job.

    February 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  17. Jill Roy Jolley

    Although I am a Clinton supporter, I do think that style is probably more important than substance. If our elected president has more style, he/she can attract senior staff who are intelligent, creative and motivated. But, if we elect someone of substance, can her/his workstyle and communication style (or lack thereof) attract and retain the kind of wide ranging incredible senior government officials that it will take to turn the country around ? One leader of substance cannot replace 100 leaders of substance following a President with style.

    Jill, Monterey California

    February 19, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  18. paul

    Both style and substance matter. Your question should be what is more important: spin vs. honesty. That would have been much more stylish and substantiative.


    February 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  19. Harry

    Substance, Jack we seen what so called style brings you. Remember bush saying he was coming to change Washington. Thou should not lie.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  20. Mike McKibben, Lady Lake, Fl

    What Nic, from San Francisco, Ca said. I'll just second that motion. Good post Nic

    February 19, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  21. Chelsea in Sacramento, California

    My god Jack- what a blatantly obvious question! Of course substance is what matters over style in a president! Smooth talking and the fashion of rhetoric are immaterial traits leaders. (Attention Obamabots!)
    I am a member of the working poor in this country, and at 21 I am already near financial ruin in this economy due to the (utter lack of) leadership with any substance in this country over the last 7 years.
    If you are poor in America today you should support Hillary Clinton. Age isn’t as important, as economic class is in this debate. We don’t have healthcare, and we need it (we are the WORKING POOR). I have to pray not to get sick or in an accident; I have to hold out hope each and every week that I can meet all my families’ most basic needs.

    Hillary is my only hope, is our collective only hope. Barrack’s glossy speeches , supposed American Idol like hype- (the constant publicity that the media dotes out to him!) and suave one liners fade in the face of any real hard times; I would invite him to my neighborhood for a reality check on how hard life in America really is today...

    No amount of charisma can make up for Opawna’s lack of substance, and no amount of hype or (baselessly) perceived amount of “style” will amount to any real change in the hardships we face in this nation.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  22. Mary

    Substance is the most important; style and words don't mean much if you don't have something to show for them. Experience is what counts and when it comes to Obama; he is short.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  23. Mary Whartnaby -California

    Jack- if you classify personality and looks as style, then I would say that none of the candidates "knock me over" with style.
    The most important factor that I have YET TO SEE in both Republican and Democratic candidates is strength, conviction and the ability to have a definite plan on ALL critcal issues....and this is SUBSTANCE!
    The American people need to know that they are voting for a candidate who can LEAD THIS COUNTRY!

    February 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  24. Bradley

    I would have to say substance. Now my question, Who has it?
    Who has solid quality? What is the real meaning behind there campaigns?

    February 19, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  25. Dick B

    Dick B from Indiana

    In the campaign style is much more important. No one wants Ross Perot and his charts again. The goal of a campaign is to engerize people not put them to sleep with solutions. Unfortunately once elected style doesn't mean squat.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  26. Keith

    Actually, they're both important, Jack. You can have all the substance in the world... But, if a majority of people don't trust you, or can't relate to you (style), your substance isn't going anywhere.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  27. Mac

    Substance is the meat but style get's people to the table. You need both – in equal measures. An interesting point to note is that Hillary keeps claiming 35 years of experience, of which the vast majority was for private firms, yet she discounts Obama's private experience. I'm troubled to see the double standard but have come to accept that's what oyu get with the Clinton's...

    February 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  28. Stan in Sparta, Tennessee

    Style be damned. If you don't have the substance you're style will carry you about as far as a pair of bell bottomed jeans.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  29. Allan,Cameron Park, Ca.

    Just look at the picture, and at the debates Obama is constantly looking down his nose at Hillary. It shows contempt.
    He has no substance its all smoke asnd mirrors. I hope people can see through him.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  30. independent

    Substance, absolutely! I like to see exactly how you plan on doing things. I do not want to hear rhetoric. I have had enough rhetoric to last me a lifetime. I think, people need to lift their noses up and smell the manure.

    Lou, Florida

    February 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  31. Linda , Ontario, Canada

    I think it would be great if the candidates could deliver substance 'with' a little style.Why not, we certainly can't believe a word any of them say. They are politicians, after all. At least we could "enjoy" the process of their campaigning.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  32. Bruce St Paul MN

    In the televison and you-tube age, style wins out. Especially in a race where the candidates are very similar in their positions. Her experience may seem overstated to some people since both she and her opponent have been in the Senate, and she has been a First Lady. If that was a good training ground for the oval office, why has no previous first lady been mentioned as a candidate? Althouggh Senator Clinton has great command of the details of every issue, Senator Obama is no slouch. I think that because of his charismatic style, he may be underestimated in this area. Hilary's supporters think she has substance, but Barack's supporters think he has substance and style.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  33. Patricia

    Ofcourse substance is more important than style Jack. But, a person has got to have style in order to catch someone's attention in order to explain his substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  34. Bob from Traverse city Michigan

    I believe the answer to your question Jack is style as in leadership style. John Kennedy did not present the ABCs of how he would handle a Cuban Missle crises during his campaign for the presidency. How could he? It didn't present itself until after he was elected but it became the defining issue of his administration because of his leadership style. Substance is important too but I don't think any man or woman can be so wise nor intelligent as to be able to stand before the american people and recite the solutions to all our problems. The substance I want to hear is who each of thecandidates are bringing into the white house thru the back door. We weren't paying close enough attention to this substantive issue last time and we got Alberto Gonzalez, Donald Rumsfeld,Condi Rice, and Richard Armitage. Not a single one of these people received a single vote from the american people but they all ended up in powerful and influential positions in this administration after they were snuck thru the back door and now we are where we are. I wnt to know that my candidate has the leadership qualities to form a coalition of people to do whats right for this country after the best advisers available help him or her sort out just what is right for this country.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  35. Mat (Cleveland, OH)

    Jack, this is America. Substance doesn't matter as long as things are shiny, pretty, or don't affect the voter, which it seems these days, few of these issues actually do.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  36. Doug from Bloomington IN

    Style is almost more important than substance. Presidents surround themselves with highly qualified people to advise them and help them in the development of substantive accomplishments. If a president has no style, they will not inspire those who they need to push their vision forward.
    Besides, tripping someone up on substance is easier than tripping them up on style.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  37. Jim Galvin

    Style is for inspiration, substance is for the solution. Obama has both. McCain has neither and Hillary.... well, she's short, on both.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:28 pm |
  38. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    What should be important, isn't important because most of these candidates seem to have more style than substance. It just depends on which way the wind is blowing.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:30 pm |
  39. Tom, Avon, Maine, The Heart of Democracy

    Senator Clinton lost the substance argument when she didn't learn from the first time she trusted George Bush and got burned, Iraq. Buying into his attempt to start a war with Iran was a case of fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. She's awfully gullible, and not who I would prefer to be sorting truth from fiction.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  40. paul W.Dc

    Substance Jack, it has to be substance. Its not the nice people you have to deal with as President that you have to worry about its the bad characters. They wont be swayed by words, they will by substance. Hillary is saying "read my mind", she has thought about the issuses and formulated solutions. Barrack is saying "read my lips" and after yesterday you might just as well read someone else's lips because the notions are not so new.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  41. chris kelly

    Are you kidding me? It is style / packaging...unfortunately substance has been MIA for a long, long time. If that were not the case people like Ron Paul would have had the Republican Primary locked up after Super Tuesday.

    – Chris K. / Alpharetta, GA

    February 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  42. Terry North Carolina

    If it was style John Edwards would be leading the pack. Substance is what should be the canidates strength however there are a lot of people that will pick the best looking or the best dressed, I know this is sick but thats reality Jack.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  43. Jason - CA

    I don't believe this Style vs Substance argument is valid. Senator Obama has more years in Elected Office than Senator Clinton. Senator Obama also has details positions on pretty much every issue if you do some research. Trying to paint the contrast this way misrepresents the the depth to Senator Obama.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  44. Aisha (I-Sha),KY

    It is important for a candidate to have some style/charisma to add to substance. Clearly, substance is important, but it is easier to listen to when a candidate has some sort of charisma. There is a proverb that says,"You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." And, I like a vit of honey when it comes to my President.
    -Aisha KY

    February 19, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  45. Dave Brooklyn, NY

    It has nothing to do with style. The problem is that we as Americans are too stupid and too lazy to actually listen to and think about the candidates. Just report some sensationalist story, regardless of how shallow, (like pseudo-plagiarism) and we go nuts. Anything over a 5 second sound bite taxes our attention span and we tune out letting the media decide for us. That’s why we got the 8 year disaster we deserve. If we actually listened to all the candidates and took the trouble to check them out, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich would get a slam dunk.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  46. Paul Moscow, ID

    Both are important, Jack, but the real question is: which one do people actually care about. The policy positions matter, but most voters think policy is boring. They just want to vote for someone they like. If the candidates got up in debates and talked about the substantive differences they have on the issues, the viewers would fall asleep, because in the case of Hillary and Obama, there aren't many. Style on the other hand, will draw in the crowds and keep them quite entranced. Substance is dead on arrival, whereas style motivates one to action.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  47. Thomas, Tallahassee FL

    It's very unfortunate that we have come to this, but it is without a doubt style that is more important these days. It's also a shame that these two assets seem to be mutually exclusive most of the time. Go ask a few Barack Obama supporters why they like him and listen to their answers, it really is pathetic how this has become another American Idol rather than a presidential race.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  48. Tom, Y-town, OH

    Style or Substance...?? Well we sure know who has substance...havent seen it or heard it in years, but when you do, you don't have to guess "is this what they call substance?" No. You know in your heart what it is. You react to it. Now style is something like butter on bread. If one has style to go along with the substance..look out....that's what they call momentum.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  49. Penny Lane Fairview, Texas

    Jack I can not eat style. I can however eat something of substance. Neither of these Candidates, Obama or Clinton have much substance. Hillary's past is plagued with failure and disappointment. Obama is running on a "NO" vote for the Iraq war. Hell that does not make him a genius. Most of us said "NO", and shook our heads when Congress authorized Bush to go to war. Saying No does not make Obama anything. Same with the "Change" campaign. I mean wht the hell does a promise of change get you? If a plane load of terrorists fly into a building next year what will have "changed"? There are no guarantees Jack. Period. It could happen on their watch too.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  50. James in Cape Coral,FL

    You have to have both especially when dealing with foreign leaders. But let's not forget JFK, a charismatic candidate who put on a better performance than his opponent, was too young and inexperienced to do the job well, but went on to be one of the greatest and most popular Presidents in our nations history. I'm not saying Obama is Jack Kennedy, but maybe it takes charisma to rally Washington into actually getting something done that's benificial to American's.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  51. earl illingsworth

    Substance is the needed ingredient 99% of the time, and the Clinton's have it all. I don't want a, "parrot" or a" talking head", "stuffed shirt ",etc. running my country. Style, as I interpret it, in my book of knowledge, is characteristic of a vain person,and that ,"My Friend's",(I hope i'm not plaglarizing John McCain using those two words)is our current President Bush#43! Enough Said!!! Earl from Provincetown,Mass.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  52. Ishmael

    Jack , both things are very important and key to becoming the next president, but what gets you to that position is winning the votes...and usually you win votes with style!

    February 19, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  53. john b

    style always wins...JFK vs. Nixon...nuff said

    February 19, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  54. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    Style is the only thing that people pay any attention to. Just look at all the news coverage of made-up celebrities. Substance is that stuff that gets flushed down the toilet!

    February 19, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  55. JoAnn in Iowa

    A good candidate has to have both style and substance. Style to get the voters involved in the process and wanting to be a part of what happens next. Substance to understand the issues and how to proceed. Lucky for us Obama has both!

    February 19, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  56. Andrea

    You need both, but you also need believability.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  57. snoopy

    It is definitely substance. If anyone had watched Hillary on CSPAN last night they couldn't possibly vote for obama. She addressed ALL of the issues concerning this country. obama speaks of hope change and time for a new generation. that can only go so far...you need to address the issues. You don't have to love a candidate but you do have to vote for the one that will do the best job. I would rather have a candidate that could lead this country and restore our image in the world then a candidate that draws big crowds and says nothing of substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  58. MIchael Coogen in Lorton, Virginia

    All the candidates suffer from lack of substance....it is the candidate with "Chrisma" that will succeed. It is not whether you tell the truth or misformed, but rather the "chrismatic form" in which you communicate the idea.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  59. Christian-Chicago, IL

    In a presidential campaign, I'm not sure which is more important. Based on the democratic race, they're about even: Style(Obama) has the slight edge over Substance(Clinton) right now. However, when it comes to an actual presidency, as opposed to a campaign, substance is much more important. Your charisma and rhetoric may get you to the White House, but once inside, if you can't provide some substance for the United States, you'll be looking for a job in 4 years.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm |
  60. BJ Smith

    It takes style to get there, substance to stay, please ask substative questions at the upcoming debate & we might be surprised. A few were ask during the hollywood debate & it came out pretty much a tie.

    By the way, everyone has a stump speech they use over & over but
    both webb sites have pages & pages of substance, but it seems a lot of people prefer the fluff & bickering.

    BJ from FL

    February 19, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  61. Bill, Quarryville, PA

    I think substance is more important. When Jack Kennedy got elected it was on style, he had very little experience. Khrushchev look at Kennedy and took him for a pushover which led to the Cuban missile crisis. The way Kennedy handled it saved our country and maybe the world. But what would happen to another young president who gets elected when all on style and not substance. Will he make the right decision? Will he be challenged be cause of lack of experience. I'm not sure I am willing to take that chance if Obama, who is electrifying when he makes a speech gets the nomination. I would have rather seen him gain more experience in gov't then run for president. You need a person with substance especially when you have countries like North Korea, India, Pakistan, and soon to be Iran joining the countries with nuclear weapons. Next time there might not be another Khrushchev who will come to the decision it's just not worth blowing each other up over.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  62. MIKE in Arizona

    Let's think of it this way:

    Suppose you had a brain tumor and there were only two brain surgeons available to choose between. Would you pick the one who had the substance of doing hundreds of complicated brain surgeries? Or would you pick the stylish one who had great new ideas on what a brain should be?

    This is a campaign to be the OCCUPANT of the oval office, not the architect.

    Mike in AZ

    February 19, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  63. Doug Pierson Tohatchi, NM

    Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Where is this substance that she has that is so much more than Obama's? She was a Wife of a President, not the president. She also has not been a senator long. What is this? Because someone has style does that also preclude them from substance? Why are you suddenly pushing for Hillary? There has been so little true reporting on issues that obviouly all we see is style and or lack of it. After all this is the media age and the fast draw and the best one-liner gets them everytime.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  64. Phyllis

    A woman will always appear that she has more substance because the way we a taught to be detail in proposing our positions. It is a carry over of being female in a male dominated sphere. The male assumes the universe speaks and understands as he does. So Obama, even if being pretty specific about what he wants to do, sounds vague when put aside a woman especially one that has worked with children.

    They both have substance. Obama has in addition style. Style is all important when trying to unite diverse populations. However, because there is diversity, substance must be the foundation on which style builds the popular following. You need both to win.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  65. Jessica Anunwah from CA

    Jack I think you are being a little one-sided, Obama does have experience. Style as well as substance matters, but I think in both cases it's hard to see their substance. Hillary being First Lady for 8 yrs doesn't constitute as experience, if it does, should we not all go and vote Laura Bush as our next President.

    February 19, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  66. rbrannan

    America has been thrown into turbulent waters by Bush. If I'm drowning in turbulent waters, I want someone who's been successfully swimming in turbulent waters for years to jump in and save me. I don't want someone who's, basically, only read books on how to swim, or how to perform CPR,or who hasn't been tested yet in turbulent waters. The person I want to jump in and save me is someone with "substantial" swimming experience; not someone who's only previously dipped their foot in the water ,or only has mastered "stylized" swimming strokes/ techniques on land. Give me substance over style any time. RB from PA

    February 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  67. tina Texas

    Substance. I want a canditate to show me they are for changing of the guard not the same old wore out mat they used before. I want something different. Where in the hell is Lou Dobbs? I thought he was serious about running?

    February 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  68. Steve in Melbourne, FL

    Both are important but I think to the average voter, style trumps substance. You can have all the substance in the world but if you're not able to present it in a nice, pleasing package then it may as well be worthless. Just look at former candidates like Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  69. Daniel

    Now that is an interesting question. This is a country of style and when you have both, then we can dance to your tunes.

    Danie, Denver

    February 19, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  70. Annie, Atlanta

    Usually substance, Jack, but not this time around. After 7 plus years of a propaganda induced haze, we finally woke up and are willing to risk it all on anyone who does not represent the status quo.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  71. Chad G. from NYC


    Obviously substance is more important. With regard to THIS presidential contest, lets face it; both candidates have substance. Obama's education/legislative experience are completely on par with Clinton's. They are both Ivy League-educated attorneys, both are senator's with comparable legislative experience (sorry Hillary, being a First Lady with a FAILED attempt at universal healthcare over 8 years does NOT qualify as EXPERIENCE!- its actually incompetence!), and they both are quite adept at debate. With that being said, STYLE is what differentiates the two; one has it in abundance; he maintains his integrity, communicates his empathy with the American people and isn't tethered to corporate interests, and the other just wants 8 MORE years in the White House at any cost!

    February 19, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  72. DavidJ from Atlanta

    After 8 years of neither does it really matter?

    February 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  73. Suzanne

    With current choices for Presidential nominee's I guess I choose style. It's sorta like watching the sinking of the Titanic. Everyone running to get their furs and diamonds so in the end they can be well dressed drowning and over their heads in deep water.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  74. Jess, Ohio

    Substance is more important to me. To me, Style represents a 'eurphoric' feeling which is wonderful to have and feel. It's inspiring and motivating but it ultimately fades.
    Each candidate initially has a 'style' in which puts them in the running for office. But I don't want rhetoric that's just gonna blow my skirt up, I want action as well. I think you need to have the experience, the contacts, and the raw reality that we as a country are in serious need of tangible change.
    All candidates want change which is essential. However, they need to realize that the change isn't going to happen at the top. Change must start at the bottom and it must include cooperation from both sides.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  75. Jorge from Monterey, California

    Style!!!! that simple... do you want another 4 or 8 years of a Divided country?? I personally will go away... to canada or to europe!! I will not stay in this country for a McCain or Clinton Administration!!!! No more of the politics as usual!!!!

    February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  76. Eugene in Northern California

    Jack, substance is far more valuable than style. You want style and I'll take you down, to my nearest used car lot. Style can be changed, to suit the situation but substance is constant and that's what our country needs. John McCain showed tremendous style, when her spent an extra 5 years, in the "Hanoi Hilton" rather than receive special treatment and go home early. He's showed his substance, from his lifetime, of loyalty, service and devotion, to our nation. If America wants someone who's ready, to go on day one, it's John McCain.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  77. Calvin Clayton, NC

    Personality is key to getting things done. If you are going to be the pushy, cracking the whip type of person, then you are going to hurt productive in the long run. A person that can handle the issues and still earn the respect of his opposition is someone that is a true leader. We need someone that has a positive personality when it comes to handling things they don't agree with. Someone who will work towards solutions that will benefit us the American people and not be all all about partisan politics.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  78. Brian, Columbia, Md.

    Normally, substance would be more important, but this is pivotal time for us on the world stage. Our style has taken a big hit lately in the eyes of the rest of the world, and some of our actions in recent years have made us seem self-serving and short-sighted. We need a candidate we can be proud of, someone who can remind both us and the rest of the world every day why America is so great.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  79. Julie VanDusky

    Jack, just like beauty, style fades. Substance lasts forever. Politicians that lack substance but have style are like one hit wonders; given enough time, they will fade with time and everyone will forget them. Ones with substance are timeless classics. JFK is not a timeless classic because he gave good speeches; he is because his legacy continues to have an impact on American politics even 40 years after his death.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  80. Richard Sternagel

    Jack, Style and charisma will beat experience every day as people have to be inspired before they let you lead them. I don't care about 13 pages of Hillary's economic plan! What I care about is whether or not I can trust the politician speaking to me! In that regard Obama has outclassed Hillary Clinton by a mile figuratively! Yes We Can!

    February 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  81. Jeff Johnson

    A candidate resorts to style when they lack substance. Substance is what matters because we expect substance from the President once he or she is elected and takes office. It is important to understand the difference between substance and experience. A politician can have years of experience in congress and even in the White House but that does not mean they have substance. Substance is a plan, it is vision, it is plain talk about the problems we face and a detailed plan of how to fix them. Substance does not need experience to be effective.

    If style is what matters the election coverage should be an episode of Project Runway and we should elect Heidi Klum.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  82. Ken

    Substance is the only thing that is important in politics. Anybody can buy style and charm. Would you hire soebody that talks and looks good but has no qualifications for a job in your company? I bet you want somebody with experience who knows what they are doing.

    Say good-night Mr. Obama and comeback in 4 or 8 years when you have actually accomplished something in your life. Words, even those plagarized, do not hold up to experience.

    Moultonboro, NH

    February 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  83. John from CT

    They are both important Jack. I don't think any of the candidates possess both. This country has selected style over substance many times. When will they wake up? There is nothing wrong with having a "boring" president as long as he or she understands the issues facing this country and has viable solutions.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  84. Stephanie

    This is a tough question because in answering style vs substance it sounds like Barack vs Hillary, but it is not. This question has to be asked of each candidate individually. On Hillary: style vs substance – in my opinion she is out to win the white house no matter what. Her campaign motto should be anything it takes. She has made huge mistakes like voting for the war and losing hold of her campaign. Her careless errors could show signs of a very selfish presidency.

    On Obama: style vs substance – I guess for me I struggle with the issue of experience. He has accomplished much more in his lifetime than many Americans. He is incredibely intelligent and eloquent. It is evident that he is capable of managing organizations and campaigns. He also seems to be a good judge of character. If you look at it like a job interview for president I suppose a sensible manager would first hire an employee who has the experience to get the job done – a proven track record. But we have tried that and we have failed time and time again. This is not a job interview. We are electing a leader and a major qualification is the ability to lead which Barack has demonstrated his ability to do. He leads, he inspires, and he empowers. Let us use some sense this time when we vote. Hillary is the past and Barack is the future plain and simple.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  85. Julie VanDusky

    Jack, all you have to do is turn on the tv and you'll find your answer. Americans care more about what Paris Hilton ate in prison than they are about global warming, the crisis in Darfur, the health care crisis, poverty... things that really matter.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  86. Cheryl from Washington, DC

    It is not an either or, but both. Both Clinton and Obama have style and substance, but right now the style that suggests inspiration and an "us and we" over an "I and me" seems to be more appealing. Both have substance. Obama actually has 8 years of real life legislative experience to legitimately claim. Clinton has the substance of her husband's years in office – accomplishments and failures, which are much more memorable because we lived through them.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  87. Jerry

    Substance is the most important, if you look at the style that we have in the White House now and prior to Bill Clinton then style is not what we need. If people think George H.W. Bush will help McCain they had better take another look at what a lousy President he was. People need to learn that the Republicans are for the wealthy and to hell with the little people. Both Bushes never had to do a hard days work in their life, everything was handed to them on a silver platter. Neither one of them can even spell the word work.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:22 pm |
  88. Jeff in E. Lyme, CT

    I say Substance. However, 50% of Americans are below the bell curve intellectually, watch Jerry Springer, think Pro wrestling is a valid sport and voted for GWB. Honestly Jack, I'm embarrassed.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  89. Georgia

    They are both imprtant but at the end of the day a leader with no substance gives the people nothing to look forward to. Substance is the depth of what the leader says. The ability to identify the problem and have a working resolution for the problem. Substance is not a lot of rhyming words and idioms.

    Style on the other hand can charm the people. It is highly deceptive.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  90. KJ

    By far, substance is more important in a campaign. Hillary is now grasping at straws & picking apart "words" when she's just as guilty of using Obama's words. She jumped on the "change" bandwagon right after Super Tuesday. The he said/she said ads turn off most Americans but the canditates and their campaign managers haven't figured that out yet. Don't tell me what's wrong with your opponent; instead tell me how you intend to fix this mess we're in. Besides, if I hear Hill-Billy's "ready on Day One" one more time, I'm busting my TV.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  91. Susan Norris

    Anyone who wins my vote must have both style and substance. In my opinion, Hillary has both, while Obama is lacking in substance.
    . Of course, when the media refers to Hillary's style, they most often are referring to her hair-do or her clothing instead of her brilliant agenda, but when they refer to Obama's style, they compare him in a positive light to such great men as Martin Luther King and Kennedy. The one thing I have learned from this race is that blatant Sexism is alive and well in America, while racism seems to be a dying disease..

    February 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  92. Nicki

    It depends which way the wind is blowing. The country is having a fling with style right now. However, if there is a terrorist attack or a major international crisis, we’ll all run back to our own brand of substance, be it Clinton or McCain.
    Detroit, MI

    February 19, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  93. Ralph

    Substance. But the people always vote as if they are choosing class president. They simply do not have enough knowledge or education in general to make a proper choice. They are easily mislead and abused by politicians. Rick, Yakima, WA.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  94. Chuck in Eugene Oregon

    Jack, both are equally important. What everyone needs to realize is that you can put all the substance (promises) you want in to it, but can you produce? Will Americans believe you can produce? Do you have the style (carisma) to cause Americans to believe in you? I prefer a great speaker who can make me believe, one that gives me general thoughts and ideas as to direction. I know that the promises are only as good as the candidates ability to lead the house and senate, to cross party lines and unite the whole governmental body. Obama appears to have that ability, and Hillary has yet to show me she does.

    Foot note: Promises mean nothing until you attempt delivery. Promise today are predicated on ones ability to convince the House and Senate to follow your lead. With out their support and backing your promises will fall on deaf ears with in that circle. Americans will remember empty promises and the candidate will pay in the end.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  95. Tom Huntington,NY

    Neither...Integrity is the most important. Oh wait I forgot we're talking about politicians here.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  96. MacDonald

    Substance is the full message in reality. Style is selling a message even if you don't have one. Salesmen have style but not necessarily Substance. So what do you buy into?
    Maybe you should have included "class" in that question. There is a real difference.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  97. Phyllis Hancock

    People should place their vote based on substance. Unfortunately, the media prefers style. As a result, their reporting becomes bias for the candidate who has the most style or is considered as more being likeable. Most people do not have the time to follow elections. As a result they are dependent upon the media for their information. Consequently, it is really is the media that elects our president. Not good.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  98. Jyothi

    Style or Substance ? I would say both. It is the self-earned and self-established substance wrapped in a natural style that is important in a presidential campaign.

    –Jyothi, Mckinney, TX

    February 19, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  99. Ron

    Style. How do you think the Republicans won? Of course if you call lies substance then the answer is different. I believe all the candidates have substance to their plans, but it is who can best articulate and inspire that will get elected.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  100. Phyllis Hancock

    Forgot to put Media, PA on my post. Sorry

    People should place their vote based on substance. Unfortunately, the media prefers style. As a result, their reporting becomes bias for the candidate who has the most style or is considered as more being likeable. Most people do not have the time to follow elections. As a result they are dependent upon the media for their information. Consequently, it is really is the media that elects our president. Not good.

    Media, PA

    February 19, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  101. Michael Inverness FL

    Jack, There really is no choice here. After all as you put it Americans always go for the glitz and glamour. Substance is really not a factor. While some politico junkies sit around and discuss substance issues most of us already know the end of the game. We are gonna be force fed alot of B.S. So the question becomes who do you want feeding it too you. Someone who smiles, and try's to make you feel good about it, or someone substative that wishes to explain every little detail and aspect of what you are about to swallow.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  102. John in AL

    Look, all those who say that Obama doesn't have any substance need to listen to what he is saying and if you're even more curious then read his latest book. It's a great read if you want to know where the man's head is. He does pose some ideas about how address certain issues, and he knows what is wrong and what is right and where he stands. Personally, I think any specific plans about how to tackle the issues would last about 2 nanoseconds once the oath of office is taken, because there will be many conflicting ideas and the president's job should be to pick the one he/she thinks best for the country.

    Style can bring people together and inspire them to come up with solutions. Substance comes with the job.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  103. Dr. Gonzo

    By the sheer virtue that the Clinton campaign is taking drastic steps to try and make Obama's style seem less than inspired, we must assume that style trumps substance.

    This is especially true in a race with two nominees with very similar platforms. Tone makes all the difference in the world. Obama's is far more inviting, while Clinton's is something less than trustworthy.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  104. Johnnie

    With all the emphasis on Obama on the networks, this is a no-brainer. Style wins all the way.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  105. Karen in Fairfax, CA

    Both are important. I support Obama because I see him as better able to use the bully pulpit to get people interested in civics, and to engage us all in more active involvement in pressuring for policy changes.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  106. Joy-Morrisville, NC

    One must be able to project syle in order to apply substance. Democrats are the lesser of two evils in this election and certainly have shown more style. At least they know the problems created by this administration. For sure Flip Flop McCain wouldn't be the one to turn this around. Our problems were created by the Republicans, why give them a third chance in eight years to get us into a worse situation?

    February 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  107. Troy

    I think substance but considering that our front runners are clinton obama and mccain, three people who have NO substance what so ever, I guess everyone else prefers style. More Sad times ahead Jack.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  108. Praetorian, Ft. Myers, FL

    Style is important. The should be likeable...well at least tolerable.

    But substance is the most important!! Deep respect for our values, clear and specific goals, realistic appraisals of the current situation, and able to show they'll hold our trust sacred.

    A track record is helpful.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  109. Paulette Bent Dallas,PA

    America needs a President that has both qualities. Leadership style is very important to achieve desired results but without substance our country isn't going anywhere. Obama may be charisimatic but as I heard earlier on CNN today, the "honeymoon" with him may be over. Clinton has walked the walk before and has been in the trenches. I am certain she will stack her Cabinet with more than qualified people. We need a Leader that can get the job done – not a show horse!

    February 19, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  110. Katy

    Both, style & substance; see the order.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  111. John Onyango

    Jack, suggesting that Obama has style and no substance is just not right, I believe he has both, from law school to community organizing, state senator to US senator, he has proven that he has style and substance, I cannot speak for Hillary, I cannot say she has style, well it keeps on changing, for substance, she has been having it for 35 years, and no one knows what she has done for those 35yrs, I guess the choice is on the eye of the beholder.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  112. Tom Altman, Surf City, New Jersey

    Right now we need STYLE. After the last seven years of listening to that BOZO, you know, the one that must have been “left behind” in English class, taunt our enemies and our allies for that matter, I just want to hear from someone who makes me feel good! And not someone who’s gonna yell at me.
    Further more, can you imagine the change in the whole world when everyone looks at their newspapers on Wednesday morning November 5th, and they see the face of Barack Obama as the President. We’ll get respect again and I bet our allies will come back. And our enemies will scratch their heads and say, “Well, I guess they’re not all bad.”


    February 19, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
  113. Les Young

    I think you need both style and substance to be a leader I can asure you both Hillary and Obama have more of both than John McCain. Poor old John can not make up his mind. does he support Bush tax cuts or not. Is he against torcher are not things people will do to get elected.


    February 19, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
  114. lin

    How will style fix the housing problem or fix health care or get people working again or fix the enviroment or put (safe)food on the table. Its easy for some to go for style because they're not suffering, they seem to think it would be nice to try something different even if they're not sure exactly what it is. hmm! please Its should always be substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  115. joe

    Obama is different than Hillary he has both.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  116. Jerry Wilson

    Jack, President Roosevelt led us through the great depression, and World War Two. Reagan led us to the largest government in our history, and trillions in deficite spending, and recieved a ten point higher approval rating than roosevelt in your survey yesterday. So apparently style trumps substance.

    Jerry Wilson

    February 19, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  117. Marti

    Substance at this point in our country. We are in a mess due to Bush/Chaney regime and need a leader with substance. One that can have the go from day one, the experience and the know how. It is Hillary in my mind.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  118. lin

    How can style fix the housing problems or create good paying jobs or fix healthcare or fix the enviroment or fix social security or just put food on the table for many poorer families? Its substance that the country needs.Some people might go for style only because they're not suffering, they see it as somthing new to try not taking in account the people who really need help. There is 37,000,000 people going hungry in the USA. and they need substance

    February 19, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  119. Thomas In Canada

    When is comes to being elected, public perception is reality. Nothing anyone can do about it. That's the perception anyway.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  120. Brian, Fl

    Substance of course,
    The filp side has to style on the other side of the coin.
    Sen Clinton lacks both, she is still a penny compare to Sen Obama
    shining dime.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  121. Malcolm from San Diego

    Substance, Substance, Substance! Were not voting for the next American Idol, were voting for the person who can best fix ol' W's 8-year mess. While Obama is charismatic and very inspiring, I'm pretty sure if he's the Democratic Nominee and subsequent victor in the General, come 1-20-09 he'll have a Cabinet, a panel of Joint Chiefs, and dozens of White House Staff looking at him for direction in how to best serve the American People. "Change, we can believe it", while moving to chant, doesn't get my family healthcare or fix an economy dependant on China's handouts. Senator Clinton might be boring, but she'll get the job done. And that's what we all need, most of all.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  122. Sandi from Atlanta, Georgia

    Substance is the cake; style is the icing. You could have the cake without the icing, but would you have the icing without the cake?

    February 19, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  123. Dennis G form FL

    I want a president than can keep me entertained!! Bring on the governator!

    February 19, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  124. SUE


    With the WAY the voters have been voting, so far......you would think it should be so-called "STYLE".........however, Obama's "STYLE" won't bring jobs to beople or healthcare or keep the "terrorists away!!!"

    SUBSTANCE, obviously, is the answer.........which HILLARY CLINTON possesses. She is the ONLY Candidate that DOES posses SUBSTANCE and has shown it over the past 35 years!!! You can "talk the talk" as they say.......but, can nyou "walk the walk???" Hillary can do BOTH!!!! Because she HAS "been there" it is the EXPERIENCE that counts, NOT "pretty words!!!!" like Obama spouts out!!!!! He has PLENTY of time to gain "experience and substance" over the next eight years, as "possibly" the VICE-PRESIDENT!!!!

    Thankyou, Jack.

    SUE/Arlington, Mass.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  125. Melissa Odom

    People will say substance but they will actually vote for style. Obama is ahead because of style – not substance. Bush won the Whitehouse because of style – not substance. Bush was also a "uniter" who was going to change the way politics works – Just like Obama claims.

    Americans don't seem to learn from their mistakes.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  126. Sandi from Atlanta, Georgia

    And for the record, Jack, I'd choose the Prius.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  127. Glenn Northern VA

    I think you do a disservice to Obama by saying he has no substance. You obviously have never looked at his website. He has detailed position and policy changes listed on topics ranging from civil rights, education, economics, foreign policy, health care, homeland security and many others. He also does not accept donations on his website from PACs or lobbyists. Hillary does. Now that's substance.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  128. Dennis,American living in Costa Rica

    Style is more important to me. In a time in our Country when I have lost all faith in our Government to do anything. Barack Obama and his charisma and speeches (no matter where they came from) have inspired me to believe once again which is exactly what I needed. Hillary Clinton wants to debate but I think that our Governement representatives argue too much. We need someone who can inspire the people to rise up and change the things that are wrong. What made America great was the power was in the people and the Bush administration has completely forgot about us. Barack Obama has brought the people back and we are excited...watch out World!

    February 19, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  129. Billie Kentucky

    you need both, if not, you have McCain.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm |
  130. Arlene from New York

    This is exactly the question that is going to have to be decided by the Super Delegates. Will their pledge be for the candidate whose attributes are Charisma, Style, Glamour, all in vogue right now...or will they pledge to the candidate who has Substance and Experience, the very attributes that are unfortunately going the way of the Doo Doo Bird!

    February 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  131. craig in palm springs, calif.

    Substance with a bit of style is perfect. Vote Hillary!

    February 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  132. Pete, Fla.

    Substance, Jack. America isn't in a very good situation right now, and we're responsible. Obama is more of a slap on the wrist, put you in the corner, and forget about it in a week kind of person. Clinton, on the other hand, will take away your cell phone, unplug the TV, ground you for a week, and basically take control (and it may not be "stylish"), which is what we need. America needs the rancher, not the cow.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  133. Pete from Yalaha, Fla.

    What are you saying Jack, that Hillary's pantsuits aren't stylish?
    You know Obama could never pull it off well.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  134. marcus mt.olive


    February 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  135. Jeffrey Woodell, Woodsfield, Ohio

    Most certainly substance. What good is "change" without experience? I'll tell you. Change without experience is like sitting on the fence. It could lead America towards it's darkest times. With the country at such a crucial state, I'm not willing to risk our future on a candidate that is easier on the eyes.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  136. Sky Ipsen - Idaho Falls, ID

    Every candidate has substance (except perhaps Ron Paul) or they never would have made it this far. At this point in the campaign, style is infinitely more important. Just ask Nelson Mandella, JFK, Martin Luther King JR, Ronald Reagan, or George Washington.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  137. David Magenheimer

    Substance is the attribute that *should* be more important. Unfortunately people are so fed up with the government that they really want to believe a bigger change is possible. It also doesn't help that the media seems infatuated with Obama.

    When are we going to get to the substance in this election and stop making it a popularity contest? Also, what about the same old Congres that the next President will have to deal with? It's nice to have a dream of change but without substance to lead the old guard in Congress down the path of change nothing will change.

    Danville, CA

    February 19, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  138. Ron Montanez

    This year it's all about substance. In the end it's going to be about "the economy stupid!" again. As destructive as the Bush and Cheney needless war in Iraq has been. By the time the general election gets here more and more people will be suffering with the Bush recession. Just as the GOP planned it. Style and speeches are great for inspiration on what could be, but jobs and restoring the housing market, and universal health care is needed ASAP. To me that means Hillary.

    Stevenson Ranch,CA 91381

    February 19, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  139. William Armstrong, Michigan

    between style and substance, substance every time. However, a prerequisite is honesty. I have to beleive that the candidate will actually do what he or she tells me they will do. Then I will consider your substantive proposals on their merits. There are some exceptions of course I wouldn't elect a psycopath no matter how honest I thought they were being. Which explains why I didn't vote for ron paul.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  140. Ron Russell from SF

    One look at the empty suit residing in the white house should give you that answer. He's living proof that the average American is an idiot and should be required to undergo an IQ test, before being allowed to vote.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  141. Rodney from Roanoke, VA

    I hope that America's next president will not be chosen based solely upon his or her style or ablility to deliver an electrifying speech. Dealing with the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, addressing our economy and declining infastructure, improving foreign relations while keeping us safe from the threat of terrorism will require much more than style! These people aren't running for president of the Glee club! They are running for the most powerful and perhaps the most influential position of leadership in the modern world. Style, gender and race shoud be the least of considerations in this election.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  142. Linda Hennessee

    Jack, in 2008, it is essential that we choose substance over style. We have two wars, a deteriorating economy, a falling dollar, a warming planet etc. This is a year to elect "Most Likely to Succeed" over "Most Popular." We cannot afford to take a risk on "style".

    West Palm Beach

    February 19, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  143. Jerry from Nineveh, Indiana

    Style? Substance? Why is it that everytime I see one of these candidates behind a podium, I'm reminded of Professor Erwin Corey?

    February 19, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  144. George. Barrington NH

    Obviously substance is more important. Despite what people dont like about Hillary Clinton, you can't deny that she is in a better position than Barack Obama to run the country. You can talk like a preacher and "borrow" other politicians speeches, but that will not get the job done.

    February 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  145. Aaron Deskins in Lewisburg, WV

    Id like to see stylish substance. However, i dont see that happening in this political design. I don't think a president can press the international community into peace and fight our wars with pretty speeches and hip style. Because of this, im with the substance candidate, no matter how boring or lethargic that person may be.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  146. Joe (Charlottesville, Virginia)

    Hey Jack,

    This is a false distinction. Substance and experience are not the same thing. You've set up Senator Clinton as the "substance" candidate, but more experience in Washington doesn't mean more firm beliefs or a greater commitment. You can spend 50 years in government and not stand for anything, and you can stay out of politics your whole life and have firm beliefs you fight for tooth and nail.

    To answer your question – you need both style and substance to be an effective President, but you need style – the ability to convince voters, Congressmen and foreign leaders to follow you – more.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  147. Jamie in L.A.

    Regarding style or substance, why don't you go ask Dennis Kucinich what he thinks? If people focused on his ideas rather than his inseam, we might actually get someplace.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  148. Karen, Texas

    Substance, certainly. Style alone will get you headlines, but no rewards. Substance, when worked correctly will bring many rewards, and then the headlines will follow.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  149. Eileen Carnegie, PA

    Substance please- I've seen too many people in leadership roles that are full of "BS". I don't care how you look or say it -just do it!

    February 19, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  150. Robert Butler

    Both style and substance are important factors for a candidate. It's how style or substance is defined determines weather either is used a measuring stick for office. I'm an Obama supporter and still am looking for a single issue that speaks to my definition of substance, "What has Hillary done that has impacted me or the nation? That is, what has she written/sponsored, no matter if it passed or not, to help me or others like me?" No response from Clinton supporters, specifically, but they do bring up the idea that her age is somehow lined to experience which means substance. The thing is we all know Obama has style, but I also know that I can answer what has he done to impact me or the nation? He got campaign finance reform passed and has a clear history of creating the change and forging alliances with both parties.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  151. Melissa

    Style vs Substance? That's a no brainer Jack. For the last 7 years we've suffered under the regime of G W Bush, the man who was the style against McCain's & Kerry's substance. They told us that we should ignore his lack of experience because they would surround him with the best and brightest this country has to offer-see where that has gotten us. I will take Substance every day of the week and twice on Sunday!

    February 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  152. Missy in NM

    I think the candidate needs both but I vote for substance first and then style. Unfortunately what is acceptable style for a man is considered inappropriate (to put it nicely) in a woman. By the way, if we weren't disregarding the votes in two of our states the numbers would be much closer. Why the democratic party reps opinion counts more than our citizens is beyond me.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  153. H. Thomas stockton, ca

    style is the means to substance -i.e. Obama's argument: that you can propose all the substantive policies you want but people have to like and believe in you as a personality first before they will take the leap with you and help build the puvlic pressure to move Congress for the change. Obama has put forth a healthcare plan and an economic stimulus plan, so I really don't understand why he is so often pegged as being lacking in substance, I suppose because the mouths in the media are lazy and always playing to bad stereotypes.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  154. Gary Delaney

    Substance is, but don't overlook charisma (style) because it inspires, and we need to inspired while the new leader conducts business in the whitehouse. A new face that emboldens change and someone in whom we can trust. Someone who has not 'sold out' to special interests group would be a needed change. Also, we don't need a demogogue who will give the military a blank check. We spend most of our budget on it already. Lets take care of the citizens at home.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  155. Joy

    Both.They go hand in hand togethter to make a big difference in getting the message across.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  156. MilesFromNowhere

    Substance IS style.

    Senator Obama: Time to walk the talk.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  157. Billy

    The question presents a false choice insomuch as it assumes that Obama lacks substance. Both are important, Obama has both, and he deserves to be our next President.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  158. Carlos

    What this this substance you speak of?

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  159. Private

    Style, or charisma, is the impetus that builds political coalitions. It achieves results.

    Concord, NC

    February 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  160. Valarie in Baton Rouge, LA

    Do not insult my intelligence! SUBSTANCE!

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |

    It's actually confusing to me that the opponents of Obama are constantly emphasizing his so-called "lack of experience". How much experience and substance does a politician need to implement change if he was elected by those who support him? Those experienced politicians in office brought about our current national problems now. If that is vital to our prosperity, where was all that political experience and substance during the last 7 years? Based on that criterion, my 14-year-old son could run this country. The real question could be...what has substance got us?

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  162. P Frank

    Your question implies that Obama is simply a candidate with "style" and that Clinton is the candidate with "substance." You contrast their experience by claiming that Hillary's career and resume are "beyond impressive." I keep hearing claims that she is the more experienced candidate but when I look at each of their resumes, I see that they are both relatively new Senators and both lawyers. The only additional experience that Hillary can claim is that she was married to a previous President. Does that really count as "substance?"

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  163. Kevin

    all of these things matter to me it depends on what they are going to do for the country

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  164. Juanita Wilson

    One Jack Substance

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  165. Jane - WI

    Substance is most important. We are living in dangerous times, and giving a good speech is not going to solve any problems. Calling for "change" is fine, but change is not always for the better, and we need specifics about what kinds of change we are talking about and exactly how they will be accomplished.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  166. Dawn (Las Vegas, Nevada)

    Why is it that because Sen. Obama has style – people think he does not have substance? Look at what he is for. Listen to what he said today about Cuba. He really is a candidate of change, and it is about time this country changes – especially when it comes to dealing with other countries of the world.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  167. Matthew

    Substance a thousand times over, and we all know Hillary has it. Obama is all style, and as the last couple of days have shown, some of that style isn't even his to begin with.

    Philadelphia, PA

    February 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  168. xhuga2

    Style Man. The rest is given by Whitehouse advicers.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  169. Tray

    Syle or substance..? I think a 'GREAT' president should definitely have BOTH...but I think we should define the word substance. It should contain but not limit :
    on-job performance (senate or state gov.t)
    proper judgement
    and political integrity (on-job & campaigning).
    But I think it would be a failure in the subjective and broad thinking of the American people to believe an advantage in one (style or substance) hinders the other.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  170. Drew, Clemson, SC


    As a 21 year old voter looking for a positive future–I think it is having the style to be able to get the substance (policies) in action.

    Thanks for all you do.

    February 19, 2008 at 6:14 pm |