Friday, October 13, 2006


Kilroy v. Pryce debate

We should note that we were unable to see much of the debate, but had no problem with the audio, and we think that fact - for better or worse - shades our impressions. We should also note that we are working memory and not from a transcript, so we plead for a little leniency.

First, Kilroy won hands down. We had a few doubts about Kilroy at first, as explained below, but Pryce as the incumbent, was expected to come off cool, confident and savvy. Instead, Pryce was extremely defensive, bursting into inappropriate rants at times in the last half of the debate. We're sure that Pryce's campaign paid for top shelf debate coaching team but either they didn't do their job or she bugged out in front of the cameras. We lean to the "bugged out" theory.

Pryce seldom tried to build logical arguments and she seemed unrehearsed to the point of amateurishness. Bizarrely, Pryce seemed to go waaaaaay off message at two different points when she offered replies to questions that essentially went like this: vote for me because of what "they" did to Joe Lieberman. Does Deb really think Ohioans start their day catching up on the Lieberman-Lamont race, or even know what party Joe belonged to?

Both candidates sounded surprisingly nervous during the first third of the debate. Obviously, the stakes are high, but both are fairly experienced speakers. It sounded like each one was suffering from adrenaline overload, concentrating too much on recalling talking points. As a result, Pryce spent this opening period rambling and talking way too fast and then going off message when she still had time to fill. Kilroy, on the other hand, seemed to be thinking faster than she could talk, falling into political shorthand and skipping words at times.

But, in the middle third, both seemed to calm down - for a while. But, when the reporters' questions started about her ties to DeLay, Ney, et. al. Pryce seemed to stiffen again and go downhill from there. It didn't seem to be as much flop sweat as it was anger that was barely under control. We couldn't help but feel that Kilroy's campaign has really gotten under Pryce's skin and that she couldn't hold herself back from letting the public know how pissed off that anyone would dare challenge her.

Regarding issues, here is how we'd rate some of the key rounds:

Iraq: This came up early and we'd call it a draw. This is when both candidates seem to have their worst case of the nerves. Pryce stuck to the GOP line. Kilroy, once she calmed down, was unapologetic and seemed confident about discussing her opposition to the war from its beginning. She did, however, seem a little unconvincing when it came to trying to discuss what to do now in the Middle East.

Health care: Kilroy won on this topic. This was not the last time Pryce seemed totally out of touch with voters. Kilroy hammered on the GOP for taking health care off the agenda, and Pryce seemed indignant that her Medicare Part D work is underappreciated. Kilroy noted the large donations from PhRMA that Pryce had received and that she had played a role in blocking negotiations with the drug providers under Part D.

Economy: Kilroy won on this. Is Pryce really that out of touch? We've made a cottage industry out of noting Pryce's Pollyannaish comments about the jobs and such, but we really thought her handlers would sit her down and explain reality to her. Deb seemed irritated that anyone was all that concerned still about unemployment and growth. Kilroy slammed her on job losses, foreclosures - and for her dismissive attitude about economic concerns.

Negative Advertising: Kilroy won again, and this was the beginning of the end for Pryce. Pryce initially tried to blame "her opponents" for going negative first, and without naming specific ads. The whole thing about Pryce's mother warning her not to go negative but going negative anyway was painfully lame, as was her total inability to accept any responsibility for her campaigns to smear Kilroy's remarkably good record of service as a Franklin Co. Commissioner and member of the Columbus School Board. Kilroy's retort about how Pryce should have listened to her mother was great.

Federal Budget: A draw. Kilroy hammered on the deficit and scored with her "pay as you go" philosophy. Pryce went with the party line about the "reduced deficit." Kilroy needed a stronger response to the question of where the budget could be cut.

Labels: Kilroy won. Pryce accused her of being a hardcore liberal and Kilroy didn't back down. Kilroy accused of being a rubberstamp for Bush and the GOP. The era of voters being swayed by this liberal nonsense is over and a faulty strategy - especially for central Ohio - if Pryce wants to get beyond her conservative base.

Corruption: This was the kiss-of-death question for Pryce. Tactically, we were pretty sure Pryce would try to appear to be somewhat apologetic. Instead, the best shit Deb could come up with was, "I don't pay attention to who donates to me. Why would I?" Pryce served up a softball for Kilroy and she hit it out of the park.

Closing statement: Sheesh, did Pryce even practice giving one? And compared to Kilroy's classy upbeat closing statement (one that thanked the debate sponsors, the reporters, and her opponent) Pryce seemed at the peak of her anger and ready to leap across the stage and rip Mary Jo's face off. Beyond its bitter tone, the points Deb tried to make didn't seem to fit the debate that just happened. It was largely negative, and where she tried to go positive it was in areas that like the economy, the war and health care where voters have major, major doubts. She failed to acknowledge these doubts, and her inability to leave listeners with any sense of empathy or even a basic pledge to "do better" was her final undoing in the debate - and her final undoing in this campaign.


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