The Campaign Spot

Did Delawareans Just Endure the Worst-Moderated Debate Ever?

You can find my as-it-happened quick reactions during the Christine O’Donnell–Chris Coons debate on my Twitter feed.

If Delaware voters tuned in expecting a bubble-headed, wacky ditz to ramble about masturbation and Satanism, they probably wondered where she was and why some woman who seemed to know about the issues was on stage instead. All of those cable-television appearances paid off for O’Donnell. She was polished, serious, engaging, and nothing like the caricature painted in recent months by Saturday Night Live, her old Politically Incorrect or MTV appearances, editorial cartoons, etc.

I’m not inclined to agree with the positions of Democrat Chris Coons, but he struck me as terrible. I wondered if he felt a bit like Al Gore taking on Dan Quayle in 1992 or Joe Biden taking on Sarah Palin in 2008; the opponent was supposed to be a blithering idiot and anything less than a TKO would be a disappointment. But Coons seemed intent to play it safe, to the point where the local moderator, Schoolmarm McFavoritism, had to invite him to jump in twice. Several times he said he didn’t have the required time to answer the questions, and so he punted. His answers were pat, predictable, almost rote recitation of standard-issue Democratic talking points. As I said on Twitter, the generic-ballot numbers in Delaware may be strangely relevant, since it seems Chris Coons is the Generic Democratic Candidate.

The moderators were pretty awful. Both Blitzer and the local reporter seemed hell bent on . . . well, the metaphor burning a witch comes to mind.

Yes, Christine O’Donnell has a lot of quirks, a lot of questionable decisions in her past, and a lot of evasive answers about those bad decisions. But it was pretty clear that neither moderator was all that interested in holding Coons’s feet to the fire, or interested in what he had to say at all. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the better of the two, was hell-bent on pinning down O’Donnell’s view on evolution. And he was the better of the two. This was the moderators’ chance to play hardball with their designated Villain Du Jour, and the fact that CNN aired much of this debate live illustrates that the MSM doesn’t just want to see O’Donnell beaten; they want to see her . . . well, metaphorically burned at the stake in the town square for her audacity.

Look, you read this site. You know I’m not a fan of Christine O’Donnell. But she deserved better than this, and so did the voters. This was supposed to be a debate, not a show trial.

Did this night help her? When you’re 21 points down, you have to simultaneously build yourself up and tear down your opponent, and it’s tough to do simultaneously. In the end, she’s a very conservative candidate in a state that isn’t very conservative at all, and that’s going to be a tough sell.

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