Should you give them a forum to express their views, or is it better to embarrass them by mocking their ideas in front of the crowd?
As these videos of Mitt Romney and President Obama show, both approaches can work. Although the men differed in tone, both employed a similar tactic: They offered the floor to their hecklers before re-claiming it. That’s a smart approach to help neutralize opponents who would otherwise continue shouting during a speech.
It’s worth noting that both men were speaking to friendly crowds—an important point that worked in their favor.
This first video, from earlier this month, shows Romney sparring with protesters concerned about Social Security and Medicare cuts:
After initially trying to shout down the protesters, Romney changes his tactic when he appears to realize that the scene could get ugly if he doesn’t offer them the floor (note the heated response of his campaign supporter in the crowd). After he allows one protester to make his statement, Romney takes back the floor by saying:
“The way this is going to work is that you get to ask your question and I get to give my answer. If you don’t like my answer, you can vote for someone else.”