Marco Rubio’s performance in the New Hampshire Republican debate is being ridiculed among voters, in the press and on social media. The word often used to describe Rubio’s performance is one of the most damaging in communication. He’s being called a “Robot.” On Monday, less than two full days after the debate, a Google search for “Marco Rubio” + “Robot” brought up 2.5 million results.
Robot is not a good word. In the workplace robots are displacing American employees at a large number of tasks, eliminating humans from entire fields. Robots have a utility, but we don’t want them as friends and neighbors. We don’t ‘trust’ them.
Florida senator Marco Rubio may have lost much of the ‘trust’ factor he was building ahead of the debate. I’ve written that his message and delivery were beginning to win hearts and minds. On paper, Rubio’s policy platforms might still win minds, but his debate performance may have lost some hearts. In persuasion research we know that candidates who win must appeal to both hearts and minds.
Worse yet, reporters and bloggers covering Saturday’s debate are using words such as “glitch” and “malfunction,” all of which raise the specter of an uncaring, unfeeling and pre-programmed robot. A parody appeared on YouTube over the weekend set to the old Styx song and titled, “Marco Roboto.”