A November 3 Wall Street Journal article by June Kronholz on the impact of presidential candidates' voices -- which included the reported assessment by “leading voice experts” that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) “can sound shrill” and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “can lack forcefulness” -- reported that "[v]oice coaches generally won't say whether they are helping a specific candidate, although none of those commenting in this article are involved in campaigns." The article went on to quote Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who discussed Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's lisp, saying, “It should have hurt him and it doesn't, and no one's going to make fun of him for it after 9/11.” But the article made no mention of the fact that, while Luntz is not “involved” in Giuliani's current presidential campaign, he has previously worked for Giuliani, and he has repeatedly heaped praise on Giuliani this year.
As Media Matters for America noted, Luntz worked for Giuliani's three most recent political campaigns: his campaign for New York City mayor in 1993, re-election bid in 1997, and aborted campaign for U.S. Senate in 2000. On the second page of the introduction to his book, Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (Hyperion, January 2007), Luntz describes himself as "[t]he man who worked for Rudy Giuliani, two-time Republican mayor of a city where Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans 5-to-1 (xii)."
From the November 3 Wall Street Journal article:
Keen to preserve the appearance of authenticity, the presidential campaigns said they aren't using voice coaches. (Sen. Clinton's campaign alone didn't return emails seeking comment). Voice coaches generally won't say whether they are helping a specific candidate, although none of those commenting in this article are involved in campaigns.
Speech slows with age and loses clarity, which some voice professionals say could be a problem for 71-year-old Arizona Sen. John McCain. Mark McKinnon, a McCain campaign adviser, calls the senator's voice “gritty.” But Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who has written about how words influence public debate, says he hears age in Mr. McCain's voice.
Of course, none of this may matter if voters have other reasons to like or dislike a candidate. That certainly happened with Mr. Giuliani's lisp. “It should have hurt him and it doesn't, and no one's going to make fun of him for it after 9/11,” says Mr. Luntz.
Voters also are quick to change their minds as momentum builds behind a candidate. George H. W. Bush's high-pitched voice aggravated the “wimp factor” in his 1988 presidential campaign but wasn't an issue after he was elected, says Ms. Jamieson.
So what would a Clinton-Giuliani match-up sound like, if opinion polls are correct when they predict the two will lead their parties' tickets?
Mr. Giuliani gets points for lower pitch and its implication of authority. Mrs. Clinton wins on inflection, with its suggestion of deep concern. And on speed, both give new definition to a New York minute.