Something just struck me: As I do not watch television—and have not for 35 years—I have never seen any of the Republicans debate. I have only heard their voices from a very few selected sound bites on the internet. What I have done is read what they said and what others said about them.

This puts me in the odd position of resembling an American voter around the time of the invention of the radio. I know the candidates from photos and their policies and their past positions on this and that. Whatever rhetorical gifts and flourishes they possess completely pass me by.

As such I am immune to that thing that defines our politics in the television age, charisma. Which is:

1. a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.

2. the special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.

In other words I have been judging candidates as one would have judged Lincoln and Douglas during their debates, by their actual policies and not by their acting ability in public.

I have long wondered how pundits came to their conclusions about a particular candidate. I never realized how much the speaking and debating skills entered into any measurement of this fellow or that fellow. Things like gestures and postures and facial expressions and clothing never were any part of my view of any candidate.

Such ignorance is either a good thing or a bad thing. It cannot be a neutral thing.

Some would certainly say that by ignoring the televised debates I would be rendered unable to make a rational decision about a candidate. It is more likely that the opposite is the case. Concentrating on policies rather than persona clarifies things. It removes any smoke and mirrors placed before a candidate by his handlers and by the candidate himself.

May I ask how Abraham Lincoln would have fared had television been around in 1861? Tall and lanky, slightly unkempt and handsome only to his mother, who today could look upon such a visage without laughter? How would today’s media pundits have judged the Gettysburg Address? What if by virtue of his appearance Lincoln had lost the election of 1860?

We need to remember the 1960 debate between JFK and Nixon. Those who only heard it on radio judged Nixon the winner. Those who saw it on television judged JFK the winner. That election was as Wellington described Waterloo, ‘a close run thing.’ What if it had not been televised and Nixon won in 1960?

And so we come to John McCain.

But what exactly is it about McCain that makes him so electable? It’s certainly not the positions he takes.

Quite right. His views are those of a liberal Democrat. But there is

one other quality that I think is really at the core of McCainomania, and which has underpinned McCain’s support all through his long career: John McCain is incredibly charismatic for a modern politician…

McCain galvanizes the electorate in a way that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee can only fantasize. The feisty former combat pilot and POW excites voters as I haven’t seen in a very long time.

There it is, something about McCain that has completely passed me by. McCain is judged worthy because he is ‘feisty’ and ‘exciting’.

So was my first wife. At least for a time.