Opinion: GOP Candidates Fit to Be Tied

Could the ties that male Republican presidential nominee candidates are wearing be holding them back?

You almost don't need Saturday Night Live—not when you have the current cast of characters stumbling their way through the Republican debates. With candidates battling everything from sexual harassment charges to dumber than a box of rocks rebuttals, I think I know what is really holding some of these folks back.


Judging by the sloppy Windsors and ill-fitting collars, a lot of Republicans must have a low opinion of neckwear. Certainly the only woman in the race, Michele "Tea Party" Bachmann, would never overlook so important an item—if she wore ties, that is.

But the Minnesota congresswoman doesn't do ties. So that leaves us with the rest of the lineup, a 7 to 1 ratio of tie-wearing males—Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr., Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum—as opposed to one tieless female, who isn't going to get the nomination anyway.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess I am a Democrat. But I'm also a political junkie interested in hearing from informed individuals in either party who have a clue as to how to solve the many crises we face in this country and elsewhere.)

That said, some tie-wearing candidates fare way better than others, or so I decided when watching the CBS News/National Journal Debate in Spartanburg, S.C., on Nov. 12.

Those who want to see how high the bar is set should take a gander at Brian Williams, NBC's fashion plate news anchor. I dare you to find one instance of irresponsible neckwear when it comes to Williams. He is the personification of conservative (with a small "c") elegance.

If Herman "Godfather Pizza" Cain paid as much attention to foreign policy as he does his shirt collars (fit for a zoot suit), he might at least sound presidential. In Cain's case, however, his attire—the double-breasted jacket, yard-wide lapels and bright yellow tie—came off as a bit gaudy, as if he were ready to take John Gotti's place as head of the mob or treat a flashy showgirl to a late supper.


The front-runner, Mitt "Mormon" Romney, despite his billions of dollars and six homes (or however many there are), cannot seem to get the tie/shirt thing right, either.

No wonder he continues to hover around 25 percent in the polls.

If you noted his lackluster wardrobe on Nov. 12, you would have seen a man with a very large head and a very small Windsor knot. While the knot made his head look even bigger, the narrow tie emphasized all of the above.

Not only that, Romney's Windsor (and he'll hate me for saying this) was positioned in such a way that the tie bulged to the left—as if there were a Democratic healthcare mandate in there just waiting to get out—before it angled right.

Despite the former Massachusetts governor's apparent grasp of economics and world events, flip-floppy though he may be, Romney had another unforgivable wardrobe malfunction: the Windsor did not quite cover the area above the top-button of his shirt. That and his flyaway wisps of hair made the ordinarily dapper candidate look a bit harried and oh-so-slightly unkempt.

Where are Romney's handlers? All that advice from Republican strategists and no one clues him in on the importance of meticulous neckwear?

Then there's Newt Gingrich, the newest not-Romney flavor of the month. Despite Gingrich's recent rise in the polls, his collar issues are serious reason to doubt the King of Tiffany Bling can rise to the occasion. Turkey neck aside (sorry, Newt), there is no reason why his Windsor need be sloppy, his shirt wrinkled below the collar, and the collar-button line exposed above the knot.

Let's not even go into Gingrich's habit of buttoning the top button of his jacket, which simply amplifies his paunch. But the triple-wed former House speaker is not likely to remain a permanent threat on the campaign trail for long—not when he carries so much baggage and is likely to fly off the handle at the drop of a Tiffany charge.

As for Ron "Hardcore Libertarian" Paul, his jackets always seem one size too large. The jacket collar gapes open in back, giving him the look of a hunched over vulture peering down at his prey. Paul's opposition to foreign intervention of any kind (let Iran have a nuclear bomb!), not to mention his preference for allowing the uninsured to die rather than get treatment, is sure to give him plenty of prey to feed off of.

Rick "Brain Freeze" Perry is married to slick, shiny pastel ties. You could see your reflection in one of those things. But it's more the Texas governor's posture that troubles me. His habit of thrusting his chest out a la Jane Mansfield gives him a bluster more appropriate for a gunfighter than a candidate for President of the United States. Worse, there's no substance behind the bluster.


Rick "Ho-Hum" Santorum, twice a Pennsylvania senator, wears ties that match his flag pin and a long, thin Windsor knot that is the same shape as his face. He sometimes wears button-down collars—something I thought went out with pink T-birds, but that's a social conservative for you. Although Santorum has a fairly good left hook when standing up to idiotic notions like cutting off aide to Pakistan, he comes across as predictable and uninteresting enough to perennially reign at the bottom of the polls.

Of course! He was a U.S. senator! He has experience!

Speaking of experience, John "Mandarin" Huntsman's ultraviolet-pink tie may have been purposely chosen to call attention to himself, especially since no one seems to think to ask him much. Too bad, since he is one of the few adults in the room. Twice governor of Utah and most recently ambassador to China, Huntsman, unlike many of his rivals, would seem the ideal, articulate, knowledgeable Republican to pit against Barack Obama.

Except it's not that kind of year.

Who wants brains, foreign-policy expertise and governance experience when you can have Cain lollygagging over Libya and Rick "Forget Me Not" Perry trying to remember the one branch of government he most wants to erase from the face of the Earth?

Worse for the Republicans, Barack Obama is no slouch in the tie department, either. Head to head (or neck to neck), the Republican nominee best beware.

Sorry Saturday Night Live. We have plenty of comedians to choose from this election year.

Conrad vonBlankenburg November 22, 2011 at 03:46 PM
What a complete waste of time and words.
Bill Deck November 22, 2011 at 06:06 PM
This story needs a picture with all the candidates, They have to compete with cartoons of the prez.


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