When candidates square off in presidential elections, history shows that the winners are those whose smiles convey a positive message that inspires rather than irritates voters, communications consultant Jon Kraushar maintains.

He cites research by UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian indicating that non-verbal communication — including a speaker’s smile — can be even more important than what is actually said.

And that could bode ill for President Barack Obama’s re-election chances in 2012, according to Kraushar.

In an article for Fox News, Kraushar examined the “smile factor” in several recent elections:

In 2008, Obama’s grin and his “hope and change” message trumped John McCain’s grimacing warnings about the economy.

In 2004 and 2000, George W. Bush’s smirk and cocky smile overshadowed the “terminally serious and insufferably pompous” John Kerry and Al Gore, Kraushar observed.

Bill Clinton’s “jaunty smile” and confidence defeated the “scowling” Bob Dole in 1996 and the “strained” smile of George H.W. Bush four years earlier.

But Bush’s “frenetic grin” was positively endearing in 1988 against the “mechanical smile and robotic messaging” of Michael Dukakis.

Ronald Reagan’s smile and sparkling eyes were unbeatable in 1980 and 1984 against the “dourness” of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

“In a presidential contest, whoever appears more upbeat is victorious over whoever seems more uptight,” according to Kraushar.

As for the 2012 election, he writes: “Today, President Obama looks and sounds uptight. An air of desperation has crept into his face, eyes and body language.

“To beat Obama in the general election, Republicans must select a candidate with both a verbal and non-verbal message that by comparison with Obama’s, packs the power of a smile — and puts a smile on the faces of a majority of voters.”

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