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How the candidates' speaking styles play

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"John McCain isn't going to go into a stadium and talk to 70,000 people – you all know that," Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who is one of his top advisers and a possible vice-presidential pick, said at a gathering for reporters in Washington this week. "It's not his," she said, pausing for a long moment before shrugging her shoulders, "personality."

Whether style matters is a subject of debate. But the times – rather than any axiom of politics – seem to dictate what sounds sweetest to voters' ears, analysts say.

William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson were star orators but never won the presidency. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were yawn-inducers at a lectern, but did.

An eloquent appeal to ideals like "hope" works best when voters want a crisp break from the past. When life is a daily struggle because of high gasoline prices and an unrelenting mortgage, they respond better to plain speech and nuts-and-bolts policy prescriptions.

When the times are a mix of both, voters can hear siren songs in each style of speech.

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