Which Candidate Handles Hecklers Best?

Comedians assess Santorum, Romney, Gingrich's techniques
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2012 12:39 PM CST

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum have all had their share of hecklers this election season (Ron Paul has largely emerged unscathed)—but who's the best at shutting them down? At Slate, David Weigel asked two stand-up comedians to evaluate each candidate's strategy:

  • Santorum tends to launch into lengthy debates with hecklers (his are typically gay-rights supporters) when he believes he can beat them. But he "blows it by staying out there long enough to get booed," says comic Paul F. Tompkins. In the video at left, "he should have thrown the mic down and walked off."

  • Romney has an arsenal of pro-capitalism zingers ready for any heckler (his are typically 99-percenters): He called one in New Hampshire un-American then moved right along. "He's smart, he knows his stuff, he's aggressive," says Rob Delaney. "Not that I'd vote for him in 1,000 years, but anybody who's not impressed with him after that performance"—viewable at left—"has never spoken to a crowd.”
  • Gingrich began the campaign largely ignoring hecklers, but these days he loves coming down hard on them. His strategy, as shown in the video: Let the complainer "babble" until she's annoyed other attendees, "then BAM. You unleash your zinger with a smile." Repeat as necessary.
So which method is best? Click through to Slate to find out. (More Mitt Romney stories.)

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