I just watched the Indiana Senate Debate from Monday night. I believe that Brad Ellsworth prevailed in the debate, and, if you were an undecided voter, I think the debate might have made a difference. Who knows until we see some polling. More debates are scheduled on October 22 and October 25. Will people watch them?
Let's look at each candidate's performance in order with how I think they finished in the debate.
In third place, Dan Coats.
Coats gave a very uneven performance. He started out stammering around. At times, he appeared half asleep before going all "mad as hell" at the end. I thought his biggest flub of the night was not answering the jobs question and instead going into a riff on why Ellsworth was wrong about his lobbying record. It was a brilliant maneuver by Ellsworth that knocked Coats back.
On term limits, Coats totally whiffed. According to Ellsworth, he recycled an answer from a previous Senate debate with now U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett. Coats also said that he introduced the idea of term limits. That's not likely unless he was alive in ancient Greece or Rome. They both had that idea. Hmm...did he invent the Internet, too?
Coats was clearly bothered by the format of the debate. For a guy that had done this before, he looked poorly prepped and came off as aloof, out of touch, and over-confident.
Positives: Nice tie
Negatives: Unprepared, Used "alternative lifestyle" and a myriad of other non pc terms, off balance all night.
In second place, Rebecca Sink-Burris.
Sink-Burris proved herself worthy of being on the stage and added to the continuing list of good and solid candidates for the Libertarian Party of Indiana. Sink-Burris provided the appropriate third option for those upset with government and the two-party system to feel free that their vote would not be wasted on her.
Sink-Burris shined in spots. Her response to the same-sex marriage question was the best of the night saying, essentially, that the federal government has no place in marriage. She did call social security a ponzi scheme, and that's not exactly the truth.
Positives: Consistent, intelligent, coherent, and on message
Negatives: Nothing major other than coming off as small time in spots.
In first place, Brad Ellsworth.
Congressman Brad Ellsworth was unflappable. He was aggressive, bulldogish, and on target with his attacks. When attacked, he calmly sidestepped the volleys without breaking a sweat. Ellsworth, as a friend of mine said, came off as a candidate "with a brain." He successfully danced through the minefields without major injury.
His highlight was on the jobs question. Because he had used time to engage Coats on his lobbying record at the end of his answer to a previous question, it forced Coats to totally miss answering the critical question of how to bring jobs back to Indiana. By the time that question got to Ellsworth, he was ready with a fine answer.
Ellsworth also got some carpetbagger shots in on Coats. He said that the former Senator gave the same answer on term limits that he did in 1992 which was essentially serve as a Senator then go home and serve in the private sector. Ellsworth argued that Coats had not done that and that he had not paid taxes, voted, or held a drivers license in Indiana in recent years.
Positives: Aggressive but not angry, measured, calm
Negatives: Too nuanced in spots
All-in-all, I think Sink-Burris may actually gain some support from this. Ellsworth should have scored with independents. Seems to me that undecideds may break his way if they watched. Dan Coats needs to fire his debate prep team. What did he think he was in for? A walk down the street?
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