If there's one thing most people can agree on about Herman Cain as a candidate for the GOP nomination, it's that he was always good for a chuckle (sometimes at him rather than with him, but he did have his share of intentional punchlines as well).
Now that Cain's out of the race, Slate's John Dickerson has noticed that the crop of Republicans running are remarkably unfunny. Sure, humor isn't up there with "leadership," "values" and "management experience" on the list of qualities most voters prioritize — and with good reason. But there's an argument that the candidates themselves as well as political spectators are missing out because of this humor-free campaign season.
A remarkable fact about the 2012 Republican presidential campaign is that it is not funny. Republican candidates give speech after speech and draw only a handful of chuckles, and the occasional wry smile. This makes for boring politics, but it also makes for bad politics. People want to like politicians they vote for and a smile helps with that. Laughter is also an effective tool for undermining your opponents and spreading your message with voters …
Humor is particularly helpful if you're trying to contrast yourself with a struggling incumbent. A sour sermon of despair can't possibly leave voters at a town hall with a warm feeling.
There's a social networking benefit to humor too. A joke well-told gives the audience something they can pass along later to their friends. It magnifies your message easily or at least makes voters feel good enough that they report back favorably about their experience at your rally. Harry Truman's 1948 campaign — and arguably his presidency — was defined in a joke. During a speech attacking Republicans during that campaign, a supporter yelled "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" Truman replied, "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell." That quip became Truman's nickname …
Read more at Slate.