Debate: Winners, Losers, Highlights, Lowlights

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here are a few post-debate thoughts on the winners, the losers, the highlights and the lowlights. By the way, I fully admit that I'm pro-Terry, but these are my honest impressions of the debate from that perspective. If you don't think you can handle it, you might want to stop reading right now! :)

1. By far and away, the best line of the afternoon came from Terry McAuliffe. Challenged by Creigh Deeds as to whether perhaps he's promised more than he can deliver, Terry responded with this instant classic:
Do you want me to get out of bed and say I’m gonna be 50th? NO. You shoot for the moon. John Kennedy didn’t say we’re taking the rocket halfway to the moon, It goes all the way to the moon. That’s how I think. I apologize for being optimistic."
Rock and roll! (audience enthusiastically applauds, despite instructions not to do so]

2. In general, the debate felt rushed and an hour seemed too short. Also, the moderators were super aggressive, interrupting candidates to a degree I thought was a bit much, borderline rude. The end result was that it was hard for the candidates to establish clear rhythms. For whatever reason, maybe because he's by far the most experienced public speaker and debater, Terry handled this forum the best of the three, with Creigh sometimes seeming to become like Admiral Stockdale standing between Al Gore and Dan Quayle ("ping pong match").

3. On the plus side, the wi-fi worked great and the facility where the debate was held was fine. On the negative side, the sound was so-so, I hear the video feed was having problems, and the problem with the "time's almost up" and "time's up" cards was really uncalled for.

4. Surprisingly, the level of nastiness and negativity was fairly restrained in this debate (maybe Brian's realizing that it's backfiring?). Talking to people before and after, I think many assumed that Brian and/or Creigh needed to throw a bomb, go nuclear, whatever metaphor you want to use, in order to have (another metaphor) a "game changer." Afterwards, I didn't hear anyone claim that they had done so.

5. I'm not sure where Deeds was going on immigration (I didn't even write anything about this during the debate, in part because I was confused as to what he was trying to say), but it certainly had people talking and tweeting about it. Ben's tweet on this was, "Creigh Deeds doesn't understand where the laborers will come from if we are not pro-immigration. OMG." Yeah, weird. (Ben also tweeted, "Can you imagine if @bobmcdonnell said he wouldn't understand where the labor would come from if hispanics moved?")

6. Brian's line about his wife doing the dishes was a bit odd, I'm not sure if he meant that as a joke or what. Ben's tweet on this may have been a bit much, but entertaining nonetheless: "BRIAN MORAN SAYS KARYN NEEDS TO GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN!!!!!"

7. Brian completely dodged the question about payday lending, and then when Terry called him on it, Brian cut loose with a super-condescending line (something to the effect of, "I don't have time to teach you the legislative process of Virginia") that had the audience gasping in surprise at how harsh, uncalled for and over the top it was. Does Brian Moran really think that acting this way helps him? If so, then all I have to say is "WHY?"

8. The Dominion Power question could have tripped up Terry, but I think he handled it fine, pointing out that he's adamant about a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard and that if employees of the company (not Dominion's PAC itself) understand that he's not backing down on this and want to give him money anyway, that's their business.

9. Creigh and Terry agreed that a governor only has four years, and there's no way they're going to get Marshall-Newman overturned in that period of time (sad, but true, as we'd need to take back the House of Delegates, then get two votes in consecutive years to put a constitutional amendment to the voters; sadly, there's zero chance of that happening in the next few years. Sigh.). For that reason, Creigh and Terry both disagreed with Brian that the new governor should get distracted from creating jobs and restoring confidence in the economy by taking on divisive - and hopeless - issues like this one. I'd add that if Brian's the nominee, his empty pledge on this will really come back to haunt him politically.

10. Terry's closing statement was strong, as was Deeds' (particularly the part about McDonnell being outside the mainstream, and also that middle class families wouldn't stand a chance under Gov. McDonnell). Brian's was ok, but too much of a laundry list and not enough focus on anything in particular.

11. In the end, the prevailing sentiment appeared to be that Terry McAuliffe won this debate going away. Ben said Terry won it "decisively" (and also, "This is changing my mind on who to support"). One big-time Deeds supporter also told me he thought Terry won the debate. Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran needed a game changer in the last debate with just 3 weeks left to go, and they didn't get one. Thus, trailing in the polls, they lost.