Saturday, April 10, 2010

the one-and-only 9th District Debate in North Vernon

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener offers her report in the C-J (already!)...

The seven topics in the debate: health care, economy and debt, illegal immigration, the first bill you'd work to pass, term limits and career politicians, Iran, and when redistribution is legitimate.

My thoughts...OVERALL:

(I'll start with Young since his approach was the most interesting-- and had the most impact on the debate.) Young was very aggressive toward Sodrel-- from the opening statement forward-- taking pokes repeatedly on Sodrel's debate hypocrisy and Sodrel's faux fiscal conservatism. (In his opening, Young spoke of "lip service" and said that Sodrel had "cowered" from his debate promise! Ouch/Boom!)

Young's attacks seemed effective-- at least to those who know Sodrel's record-- but it's difficult to go negative and come off well. Young might have been better off to attack less often but to push harder when he did-- e.g., noting that Sodrel voted for Planned Parenthood funding twice. But that's easier said than done.

Young also missed a nice opportunity in the closing remarks. Sodrel used an analogy that if one is buying a house, you go with the one who has built a house. Of course, the analogy fails in that a poorly-constructed house would lead you to take a chance on one of the other three builders! Since Sodrel's construction is built on a shaky foundation, I'd have to go with someone else.

Hankins had his usual eloquence and passion. He gets right to the point; he's persuasive and compelling; he's all energy, conviction and principle. In one sense, he's not subtle at all; he just lays it all out there. But in another sense, he was quite subtle-- in his pokes at Sodrel. Hankins made a few references to the need to get away from "status quo politicians" to embrace new, courageous statesman. Overall, he stayed quite positive-- and left the squabbling to Young and Sodrel.

Sodrel was effective at what he does: a folksy and endearing style-- with solid substance on many issues, while ignoring or denying the flaws in his "experience". For example, when Young pressed him on fiscal conservatism, Sodrel replied that he had strong ratings from various conservative groups-- none of which are watchdogs for fiscal conservatism.

Things between Sodrel and Young were chippy all night, including the last blasts (just before the closing statements): Young said getting Sodrel to talk about fiscal conservatism is akin to asking Baron to teach anger management classes. Sodrel's retort: "When you're #3 in the polls, you have to do something desperate." (I assume he was talking about his own, old internal poll-- but maybe there's more info out there?)

If you just listened to Sodrel, he'd be a fine candidate. The problem is that he has a painful record on one of our country's most important issues.

Other observations
-All were in a suit-and-tie except Sodrel.
-There were about 350 in attendance.
-Young was very impressive in his reference to "health status change insurance"!
-Young took a poke at Sodrel for supporting ObamaCare and cited this YouTube video. Sodrel angrily denied it and said he expected those kind of attacks from Democrats not Republicans.
-Hankins comes off as very strong on fiscal conservatism by promoting the idea of reducing government to 2002 levels-- something specific.
-Hankins was the only candidate to prioritize pro-life (Planned Parenthood funding and the Human Life Amendment) as his number one issue. To reiterate that point, he asked for "clarification" and the candidates agreed that he was the only one.
-Sodrel said illegal immigration was his "biggest disagreement with Bush". I wish he'd voted for the Sullivan Amendment-- which would have punished businesses for hiring illegals. More broadly, it takes us back to Sodrel's faux fiscal conservatism-- and my desire that his biggest disagreement with Bush would have been that!

Who won? Everybody, in a sense.

1.) Warren was a class act, competent on the issues, and compelling as the common man.
(He entered the race late and has not campaigned nearly as much as the others.)
2.) If you want a fiscally moderate candidate who is effective at dodging valid complaints about his record and his debate promises, then Sodrel delivered.
3.) Young was sharp, effective, communicated his focus on fiscal conservatism, and probably will garner the most media attention with his one-liners and attacks on Sodrel.
4.) Hankins communicated his principles most effectively-- and his social and fiscal conservatism and his passion for pro-life probably line up with the most GOP primary voters.

Because they communicate effectively and have relatively less name-brand recognition, any debates would help Young and Hankins. Presumably, that's why Sodrel wanted to promise a lot of debates, while only engaging in one.

My original assessment of the 9th District race is little changed. Any of the four would be an improvement over Baron Hill. Young was more eloquent and passionate than I expected--and came across as quite credible on fiscal conservatism. After tonight's performance, he moves up another length over Sodrel. But Hankins is still the best candidate in the 9th by a few lengths.


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