Wednesday night's second Republican debate gave us a closer look at all of the presidential contenders and a better chance to hear out the three top polling candidates: Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. Despite their super impressive resumes and skills in the board room and operating room, all of them make one very clear point whenever they hit the podium: They are not politicians.
But, according to Geoff Layman, a professor of Political Science at Notre Dame who specializes in political parties and voter behavior, that's something Americans are kinda into. They want a candidate who would seem at home on their living room couch.
"I think that’s been a constant theme in American politics -- even our founding fathers wanted to build protections into our constitutions against entrenched power and professional career politicians," Layman told MTV News. "We don’t trust the career politician and we want people who haven’t really built our career around politics."
Don't we want a president who eat-sleeps-breathes politics?
"I think right now Americans are very dissatisfied with politics -- probably for good reason. Our parties are so deeply divided it’s impossible to get anything done. Every year we have a crisis and a government shut down ... and people are fed up with politics as usual," Layman said. "So trust in government -- which has been pretty low to begin with -- has declined significantly."
Never big on the crusty "career politician" types, it shouldn't be a surprise that Trump, Carson and Fiorina are owning in polls in New Hampshire: Americans have always loved the outsiders.
From our love affair with military leaders to B-movie stars like Ronald Reagan, the prerequisites for the POTUS job are pretty flexible. Kanye's in luck, you don't need to work your way up from the bottom wrung of public service to get there. You do need people to like you.
"Likability is always important in politics — when people vote they want to vote for someone that appeals to them, that they like. Being confident, smart and having good positions are necessary, but liking the person is always important," Layman said. "The president is not just a policy-maker: The president is a symbol, the head of the nation."
After all, Layman said, the president broadcasts into America's living rooms regularly -- now in the digital age more than ever. While small-time politicians can probably work around being an American darling, the president needs that kind of charismatic spark to really appeal to the people.
If a politician's politician (someone who's made their name through elections alone) is a tired standard that Americans kind of hate, the bro politician is a remix of the old song. Mega personalities like Trump and Fiorina, who ruled the boardroom, and the quiet intelligence of Carson, who ruled the operating room, are such a change of pace: They can use their competence (real or perceived) in their fields to get voters attention -- and keep it by not falling into the same old patterns of their competition.
Voters want to go shot-for-shot with the POTUS
During the elections in 2000, a metaphor about having a president you'd like to have a beer with started to gain momentum. While in a literal sense you may not want your drinking buddies leading the free world, there's a power in that idea.
"There’s different ways to be likable and charismatic," Layman said. "Some achieve that with stature and respect abut other people have a more homey, down-to-earth charm -- George w. Bush had it, Bill Clinton had it. So that may be the modern version of what has always drawn americans to charismatic leaders. In the modern age you do want this person to be someone you’re comfortable with."
Being accessible, being charming and standing out from the pack is a really useful tactic -- winning over a heart can make it easier to win over a mind (and a vote.)
Real talk: Can these so-called 'bro politicians actually win?
Whether Trump, Fiorina or Carson can actually take the nomination (or even the presidency) depends on a whole mess of other factors -- getting voters and other politicians on your side is certainly part of that game -- and political experience certainly doesn't hurt a wannabe-POTUS on the ground.
This early in the game voters aren't really paying attention enough to pick apart inconsistencies or a lack of platform from a candidate, anyway.
"The same time the kind of people who are enthusiastic about these kinds of candidates are the people who don’t really like politics themselves and don’t pay a great deal of attention to it," Layman said. "Personalities -- like Trump -- might win them over now [when they're not paying so much attention] and the lack of specifics may not concern them as much."
While political outsiders have that exciting potential to shake things up within the party and offer new perspectives, Layman said they can also risk major burn-out once politics becomes their day job.
"Sometimes we find that when we have political outsiders as presidents, they find the legislative process can be more difficult and unwieldy and they often find it to be frustrating and not particularly well-suited to their skill-set," Layman said. "As a CEO or a surgeon you can kinda do what you want and do what you think is best. But, as president of the United States, you have to get congress to go along and get government agencies to go along and that may be more difficult than you think."