In a paradigm analysis the comparison between the youthful and highly articulate Lib Dem leader and John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential election over Richard M. Nixon may be more accurate.
Senator Kennedy as the race's underdog surged to victory based on his telegenic edge over Vice President Nixon, who unwisely spurned the advice of Republican incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower to pass up the debates, which gave the youthful Democratic nominee a chance to showcase his platform for change to a national audience getting acquainted with him for the first time.
In the case of Nixon, who was actually only four years older than the more youthful appearing Kennedy, he had become internationally known as Eisenhower's vice president. Nixon had received vast international media attention for his "Kitchen Debate" with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow just one year earlier.
While Barack Obama was elected on a mandate for change accented by the slogan "Yes we can!" in the case of Kennedy a broad effort was made to differentiate himself from the older leadership of Eisenhower and the Republicans and an administration that chose a high interest, tight money policy designed to prevent debt acceleration and what he advertised as a New Frontier, a bold new image for America and stronger federal action.
Kennedy represented an emerging young executive class that was seasoned by World War Two. He wisely ignored personal attacks on the popular Eisenhower and drew a sharp contrast between himself and his party, which he asserted possessed bold and fresh ideas, and that of a stodgy Republican Party wedded to the past. He mentioned former Republican presidents and presidential aspirants such as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Thomas Dewey.
Meanwhile Kennedy kept repeating the same phrase "Let's get America moving again!" Here is where the comparison between the dynamic Democratic president of the sixties and the youthful, telegenic Nick Clegg of the current election becomes particularly insightful.
The major reason why Clegg's debate performance gave his party at least a significant bump in the polls was that voters liked the contrast he offered to the two traditional parties.
As the Lib Dem super salesman his message consisted of offering something new contrasted with two tired old models, namely Labour and the Conservatives. One could practically hear Kennedy in the background drawing laughs by presenting an old Republican slogan of "Keep cool with Coolidge."
In analyzing speaking efforts and presentations, all three candidates came across appearing well informed and articulate, sounding like successful business executives. As the great American historian Theodore H. White said relative to favorable debate results, it comes down to delivering concise comments that resonate with listeners.
A classic example was Ronald Reagan in his only debate appearance opposite President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
The reason why Reagan's one-liner at the close of the debate in the form of the question "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" resonated is that Americans were in a difficult economic situation from Arab oil embargos while concurrently a hostage crisis continued as Americans were being held in Iran.
The question is whether the Clegg debate surge represents the beginning of a trend that will continue to national balloting or whether Labour and the Tories will be successful in presenting the Liberal Democrats as spoilers who should not be considered to govern Britain.
On that front the Conservatives are currently moving energetically. The April 22 Financial Times in a story by George Parker and Chris Giles reveals that Tory shadow business secretary Ken Clarke is warning that Britain faces a "disaster" if voters continue their current flirtation with Nick Clegg. Clarke says that the pound will "wobble" and that "markets could take fright and the International Monetary Fund could be forced to intervene if the Lib Dem advance leads to a hung parliament."
One can expect the Tories and Labour to consistently hammer the theme of the harm that a hung parliament will wrought if voters vote for Clegg's party in large numbers.
Look for the hung parliament debate and what it would entail to emerge in the two remaining joint candidates' televised confrontations, wherein the Conservatives' David Cameron and Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown can "gang up" on Clegg by making the same argument.