Bore-atory: Obama, Romney, and campaign rhetoric

Romney’s speaking style, try as he might, often seems forced and rather wooden; people often comment on how presidential he looks, but he moves like Woody from Toy Story. Former speechwriters say there’s only so much that can be done about that. “He’s just not capable of transporting people where he wants them to go,” says Shesol. “You can’t change somebody’s basic style,” says Khachigian. “He is who he is.” Robinson agrees: “People can get better. Mitt Romney is studying up. At the same time, it’s paint-by-numbers. It’s just not in him to be an artist with words.”

But if the economy gets worse, more Americans may be drawn to a dry Mr. Fix-It, someone better suited to budgets than banquets. Rousing oratorical skill is not something people require in a good plumber or mechanic. In fact, Robinson says, stiffness could seem like proof that Romney would be a more effective manager. “If the Romney people are sensitive to this, they’ll say ‘Our guy is a terrific executive, and his speeches reflect his principal strengths. He can handle detail. There’s nothing flashy about him,’” he says. “They’d even spin his inability to be truly inspirational.”