Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Schaffer And Udall Spar At DU

9NEWS broadcast last night's debate from DU (video of the entire debate).

The atmosphere was testy, as Mark Udall dropped some of his "bipartisan" pretense, and both candidates exchanged heated comments about the other's record:
“He (Udall) said I saw no reason to reach across the aisle, that’s just not true,” said Schaffer. “The notion that somehow I’m partisan and you’re not Mark, you know you voted 94 percent of the time with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, you have one of the most partisan records in the United States House of Representatives.”

“When Congressman Schaffer was in the Congress he only voted for President Bush 83 percent of the time, but the other 17 percent he was to the right of President Bush,” responded Udall to which Schaffer shot back, “That’s not true either, Mark.”
This debate was a wash--Udall scored no major points, Schaffer was careful to deflect Udall's accusations of partisanship and other points he felt had been mischaracterized by his opponent and the media campaign, and the debate itself provided little new content for voters who have already decided how they will vote. The three debates this week will, however, be important for the undecided voters who should be receiving their ballots in the mail this week, or be able to vote early in about two weeks.

Aside from nearly getting thrown out for having a video camera--even though I was taking photos, not video (which would be a waste of time considering the debate was being broadcast live in its entirety and would be available online from 9NEWS)--overall the debate itself was poorly structured, the questions bordered on the lame, and the crowd was less than enthusiastic and the venue only 60% filled, if that (no doubt in large part to Monday Night Football).

"Lightning round" questions are particularly annoying, asking for rapid-fire yes or no responses on questions that often require more nuance than a simple one word response. Questions from audience members vetted beforehand work better in a town hall style format, otherwise they appear contrived. Unlike the debate moderated by Adam Schrager back in July that featured substantive questions and a highly engaged audience, the DU event was characterized by low-brow questions ("what is your favorite Colorado thing to do?" was among the "winners") and a decidedly inert crowd. Even with Schaffer and Udall sparring over campaign rhetoric, there was little opportunity for substance in either candidate's response, a problem attributable more to the format, not the candidates themselves.

Hopefully the debate tomorrow will provide even a slight improvement in highlighting the glaring differences between the two men in philosophical approach and legislative temperament.

SvU will have reports and a wrap of the debate tomorrow.

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