Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Tuesday, September 5

Gov: First Debate Held

I watched the first gubernatorial debate today in the Shaker Square (east side of Cleveland) campaign office of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), with staffers and volunteers in attendance. Going into the debate the popular expectation was that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) would perform brilliantly and the less-polished Strickland would stumble. I felt that Blackwell was slick but not as effective as antipated, and that on the whole Strickland performed very, very well.

Stylistically, the main difference between them was that Blackwell did a better job of looking at the camera. He also smiled more, although I found his smile rather jarring sometimes -- he kept throwing it in while attacking Strickland, which made it seem very false. Strickland stumbled a bit over words, especially when trying to recall lists of things (such as all the cities whose mayors support him), but Blackwell had a few verbal stumbles as well.

Blackwell's main themes are that Strickland is a liberal tax-and-spender compared to Blackwell as the tax-cut champion, and Blackwell is the agent of change while Strickland represents the "status quo." Strickland rebutted the second charge well in his closing, by the simple means of pointing out that Blackwell is part of Republican Governor Bob Taft's government. However, Strickland really missed a softball earlier, during the questions, when Blackwell actually said that Strickland "represents a continuation of the philosophy of Bob Taft" and Strickland didn't respond directly to it.

Blackwell relies heavily on his Turnpike privatization scheme and his 65% classroom spending proposal as the financial answer to everything, but Strickland was good on portraying these as dangerous gimmicks. Blackwell made a big tactical mistake, in my opinion, when he said that "We had a great election in 2004." Nobody outside his loyal base believes that.

Blackwell did well, I thought, in his portrayal of Strickland as a "sideline sitter and back bencher" by charging him with accomplishing little as a Congressman. The question "How can you turn around Ohio when you've failed to turn around the 6th Congressional District?" was clever. Unfortunately, Strickland began his response by saying "That's a fair question," which I think was a huge mistake. He should have trotted out his accomplishments more strongly, and he should have counterattacked Blackwell for being part of an administration that has ridden Ohio's economy into the ground.

When the Iraq War came up, I thought Strickland handled it brilliantly, noting his opposition to the war in the first place and his support for proper gear for the troops, citing Colin Powell for the reality that "If you break it, you own it," and saying that there is an alternative to stay-the-course and cut-and-run, which is change the course. He opposed a strict timetable for withdrawal, but favored "soft timetables" so Iraqis get the message that they must take up the task of self-defense for themselves. He completely owned the topic by the time he said, "The way that Mr. Bush is conduting this war is not smart." Blackwell's invocation of 9/11 in response didn't work at all.

Late in the debate, Strickland did well on characterizing Ken Blackwell as an extremist by pointing out that he opposed abortion even when the mother's life is in jeopardy. In response, Blackwell made the outrageous assertion that modern medicine obviates that situation, and threw in the completely irrelevant charge that early birth control proponent Margaret Sanger advocated abortion to reduce the population of African-Americans.

In the closing, Strickland was very good on representing change. "If you like the way things are going," he said, "vote for my opponent." Blackwell also depicted himself as the agent of change, but it just doesn't ring true coming from a member of the present administration. By the end of the debate I felt that Blackwell was the smoother debater, but Strickland won the debate on substance.


At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Keith Dyer said...

Is there video circulating online of this debate.


At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great description of the debate for those of us who couldn't catch it, Jeff. I read another account that described a nasty remark at the end by Blackwell about Strickland - did you catch that on the TV feed, or hear anything about it? Thanks - Brendan

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

I don't know about video on the internet -- good question! you might try the web site of the TV station in Youngstown that sponsored it.

There was indeed a nasty. The moderator made a facetious joke by asking the candidates if they would be willing to appear on "Dancing with the Stars" with Jerry Springer. Blackwell said something like "Just like his brother Ted, the only thing Jerry Springer can run is his mouth." Ted replied with something like "Well, that was a nasty remark. I just want to thank my worthy opponent for debating with me."

I can only speak for myself, but I don't think Blackwell did himself any favors with that crack.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They really need to stop being chicken and debate economist Bill Peirce. He'd mop the floor with them and his plans, not just tired rhetoric.


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