As US presidential elections gather steam many hopefuls find themselves looking for their voice.
This year, things are no different. Many from John F. Kennedy to Mrs. Clinton's husband, Bill, have lost their voices at some point during White House bids- silencing them temporarily and bringing up unusual demands.
AdvertisementMr. Clinton has hummed, drunk up to 1½ gallons of water a day and used a wedge pillow while sleeping.
Then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, who dropped out of the 1996 campaign partly because of voice problems, had hired a vocal coach, inhaled steam and gargled with tea.
Yet, nothing beats this year's grueling nomination schedule. There have been 32 primaries and caucuses before Feb. 6. This alone leaves little time to rest tired vocal cords. Candidates are speaking publicly as many as a dozen times a day -- at rallies, press interviews and fund-raisers. The strain is audible.
After finishing second in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, Mitt Romney flew overnight to Portsmouth, N.H., where he launched right into a 3:30 a.m. rally in a cold airport hangar. His voice was very hoarse as he shouted encouragement to supporters.
The former Massachusetts governor pressed on. He appeared on morning talk shows and greeted the breakfast crowd at the Golden Egg, a local diner. There, Mr. Romney tried to hail New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg by yelling across the packed restaurant, remembers hostess Patti Fransoso. "He was more hoarse when he left. Poor guy."
To relieve voice strain, campaign workers do their bit for their leaders. Mr. Romney was occasionally left alone for half an hour so "he can rest undisturbed by phone calls, meetings and speechmaking," recalls Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman. "We stay out of his way and he stays silent." Mr. Romney is also known to prefer silence in his car as he travels between campaign stops.
Two days later, Barack Obama sounded the alarm. His voice sounded so croaky that workers called a doctor to come to his Keene, N.H., hotel late on Jan. 6. The physician examined Mr. Obama's throat, and prescribed several days of rest -- less than 48 hours before the New Hampshire primary.
"Those were instructions we had to ignore," an Obama spokesman was quoted, later on.
John McCain's voice was little more than a rasp at the Jan. 9 rallies in South Carolina. With a televised campaign debate scheduled the next night, his aides brought the Arizona senator a bottle of olive oil, which seemed to work.
The 71-year-old Mr. McCain took a tablespoonful an hour before the debate. "He sounded great," recalls Brett O'Donnell, his director of messaging and Liberty University's director of debate. The olive-oil cure has been "passed down in the speaking profession," Mr. O'Donnell says.
Politicians get all sorts of advice about how to combat hoarseness. Mr. Obama's all-time favorite home remedy is said to be a mix of hot water, lemon, honey and ginger. Yet, some suggestions are ineffective or potentially harmful, throat specialists say.
Jonathan Aviv, an otolaryngology professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, recommends that presidential contenders take antacids daily and keep off caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and mint. According to Aviv, these aggravate gastric reflux, which can irritate vocal cords.
Still, it' s not an easy task weaning exhausted candidates from their frequent jolts of caffeine. Mr. O'Donnell has seen Mr. McCain consume nearly a whole pot of coffee when they first met for breakfast in May 2006. He urged the Arizona senator to cut back.
Sen. McCain now limits his coffee to about two cups daily, and he doesn't drink any for a few hours before a debate. "His throat felt better," Mr. O'Donnell reports.
Some advice sound strange , though. Dr. Aviv advises that candidates not whisper when they get hoarse because whispering stretches vocal cords. "It's the worst thing you can do," he says.
Humming, can help say experts. While battling repeated bouts of laryngitis during his 1992 campaign, Mr. Clinton was taught to feel vibrations in the middle of his face and nose as he hummed, recalls James Y. Suen, his longtime otolaryngologist. Speaking from this "mask" area gives people "a better voice when they are hoarse" and reduces strain on vocal cords, the Little Rock, Ark., doctor explains.
Other suggestions include keeping vocal cords warm by wearing scarves indoors, correcting posture so as not to put a strain on the vocal cords and probably the most effective -shutting up.
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