Sizing up the Candidates: President Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney

PHOTO: President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

"Never underestimate the power of what you wear. After all, there is just a small bit of you sticking out at the collar and cuff. The rest of what the world sees is what you drape on your frame." –Oscar Schoeffler, editor of Esquire

Unlike the vice presidential debates, the presidential debates actually have some very important sartorial history behind them, known to have influenced the outcome of at least one election. In the first-ever televised debate in 1960, John F. Kennedy, looking young and fit defeated a pale, sans makeup (but political favorite) Richard Nixon not on substance or ideas, but on looks. Kennedy emerged from the debate with a lead in the polls, and simultaneously changed the way politics and democracy worked in America's new television era.

Take a look at how each man's clothing made them appear on TV. In black and white TV, Kennedy's dark suit and tie contrast perfectly with his white shirt and skin, whereas Nixon's light tie and light-gray suit made him look weak, almost like a ghost blending in with the wall behind him. Don Hewitt, 60 Minutes founder and director/producer of the Kennedy/Nixon televised debate, even went on to say that Kennedy won the debate on TV, but Nixon won it on the radio. With this bit of history in mind, let's get to the tape from last night, and although this one wasn't as easy to call (where's Paul Ryan when you need him?), this committee (of one) again found a binder-full to discuss.

Suits: Both candidates played it very safe last night with single-breasted, two-button, notch-lapel suits with flap pockets. President Barack Obama appeared to go with a deep midnight color -- a simple, effective choice for nighttime, and especially smart for the occasion since it's a color that absorbs artificial light very well. Gov. Mitt Romney's suit may have been midnight, but really it appeared to be black, which makes me want to offer my condolences to the governor or be told a sermon by him.

Either way, what is the American obsession with black suits? It's not a flattering color (especially not on Romney's lighter skin), it's not a versatile color, and it screams "I don't know what I'm doing. My mom just bought me my first suit!" It's almost like politicians want you to believe that they shop at discount stores out of necessity and boring taste. Maybe they want us to believe that the same "blind trust" that handles Romney's investments is the one making his clothing choices as well. I guess it would be a huge disaster for the American people to know that politicians are really rich men that love to spend money on, and brag about, their high-end suits.

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