What We Learned: The Debate Edition Vol I
Debate season is in full swing, with match-ups almost every night across the country. And the way these things get hyped, you’d think the candidates were about to step into a literal boxing ring and start swinging, gloves off, no mercy.
Usually that’s not at all what happens.
Usually debates are a relatively dull affair, despite the pugilism of the promos and the best efforts of the moderators. A question is asked. A candidate answers, 90 seconds. The next candidate answers. 90 seconds. If there are 3rd party folks in the mix, this can take a while. One or two pre-packed zingers get aired on the local news, but even those are pretty tame. Few voters’ minds are changed.
This year is shaping up, well, different. Linda MacMahon aside, no one is actually committing any staged ultra-violence for the crowd. But verbal punches are indeed being thrown, blows are suffered, and we may have seen a KO or two (I’m looking at you Florida and North Carolina).
So – in the first installment of the What We Learned series: Debate Edition Vol I, we examine the press write-ups from the morning after fight night.
Let’s go to the boards.
We learned that Mary Jo Kilroy is the “superior debater,” “relentlessly on message,” and “usually playing offense.” To be fair, she’s described as “less skilled at glad-handing,” but I’m pretty sure that means making people think you're happy to be somewhere you're not. Not sure that’s a skill to be proud of.
In Florida, Alex Sink “hammered” Scott “in her strongest jabs yet,” “slamming him repeatedly for the fraud scandal” and accusing him of lying to voters and trying to buy the office. “Sink went on the offensive more often than her opponent…an effort to blunt the effects of Scott’s barrage of negative ads.”
But Scott recovered quickly, offering masterful post-debate spin portraying Sink’s assault as desper – oh. No, no he didn’t. He didn’t do that at all. Unlike Sink, “Scott refused to speak with reporters afterward, dispatching in his place” his running mate, and former Gov. Jeb Bush. “Asked why he was taking questions instead of Scott, Bush said, “I don’t know.’”
Right. Less masterful, that.
And throughout the country, House incumbents were standing up for themselves, and defining their Republican challengers. Up in New Hampshire, Carol Shea-Porter “took the fight to Republican challenger Frank Guinta” during a debate that was “intense throughout.” In Nevada, Dina Titus was both “feisty” and “substantive,” “rattling off facts and zingers.” In Florida, Suzanne Kosmas and Republican Sandy Adams “argued face to face” during a “raucous” debate where Kosmas defined her opponent as “a far-right activist who’s out of touch with the mainstream.” Kosmas punctured the empty rhetoric of her opponent, laid out the impact of the $15 million dollars she helped ensure reached Florida to create jobs, and said “if you’re going to vote no,” as Adams would, “I suggest you do it looking directly into the faces of those whose jobs you would have to” eliminate.
The “verbal fray started with the first question of the evening” in North Carolina. Elaine Marshall “showed a new feistiness,” “took aim squarely” and “showed more aggressiveness in painting Republican Sen. Richard Burr as a tool of Washington special interests.”
AND…Burr went down. “Burr smiled, stumbled and even supported new regulations on business as he reeled under the barrage of Marshall’s pointed attacks.”
With T minus 18 days, we’ll be seeing debates nearly every night. Yesterday we saw match-ups in Nevada, Missouri, and Washington state. And as soon as we comb through the morning’s papers, we’ll tell you what we learned.
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