I don't see how Iowans learned much from the debate. There seemed to be very little new ground covered. And at this point in the race, don't we need to cover new ground? One-liner after one-liner can make for a few laughs, but what do the viewers really learn? Perhaps, they can watch a candidate's behavior and judge which one is more "gubernatorial"? Does that mean Culver lost since he quibbled with the moderator about the rules several times and even got jeered from the crowd when he wouldn't let his point go? Or does he score points with the undecideds for not letting it go?
Here's what bugs me the most with these first two debates: I want followup questions. Culver in the first debate clearly had the strategy to avoid the moderators' questions and use his time to attack Branstad. I didn't see him do that as much the second time. But I think Iowans would have been better served if the panel could have asked followups to questions to try to force the candidates to answer questions or at least try to get more specific questions. At this point in the race, don't we deserve to hear more than "the other guy sucks"? Seriously. What did we learn about the future? Sure, we need to hear the points they make about each other's failures in office and their own successes. But shouldn't we also find out their vision for the future? It isn't like we are living in the best of times right now. Don't we need to find out how Iowans can go back to work? How our schools can recapture their past successes? How we are going to care for our aging population? What the emerging industries will be in our state? What about our health? We keep getting fatter. Isn't that a long-term problem for our state? I could go on and on. Perhaps, being a new dad makes me want to hear more about the future. I didn't hear that last night.
So who won? The Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich gave the debate to Branstad, although, she writes it was hardly a convincing win. Iowa State Political Professor Steffen Schmidt did, too, although, a bit more convincingly. He emailed me:
Interesting and fairly lively debate.The Cedar Rapids Gazette's Todd Dorman saw no game changer. He said Culver hit some singles but failed to get the home run he needed since he is down big late in the game. Culver did get props from retired University of Iowa Professor Bruce Gronbeck in a Quad City Times story.
If nothing else Culvers closing comment about Branstad “in the 1920’s” sealed his fate! He seemed rattled.
Also, Culver was sweating (Nixon debate) and kept touching his nose which is a terrible no no - Poker players see that as a clue that you are lying about the hand you are playing.
So what did you think?