Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Debate

Phew...I've just returned to State College from the debate in Lancaster. So what is the verdict? Bob Casey sucks as much in person as he does on paper. Casey was awful--really awful. Maybe Casey looked better on TV, but in person he seemed uncharasmatic, inarticulate, and just plain dull. Unlike both Pennacchio and Sandals, Bob Casey didn't say anything of great substance. He just spent the majority of his time talking about Rick Santorum. Even when Chuck or Sandals critically indicted him on an issue, Casey just blathered on about how Rick Santorum votes with the Bush administration 98% of the time. Hello? Bobbie? Did you forget that this was a primary debate? Until this point, I've based my distaste for Casey on his stated positions. Now, I can tack on an utter lack of personal magnetism.

Both Pennacchio and Sandals' websites have declared victory. So who won the debate? Well, it's tough to say, but one thing remains certain: Bob Casey lost. I'm not basing that soley on my opinion. According to the level of crowd noise and everyone to whom I spoke afterward, Casey lost. No one is excited about Bob Casey, and I'm not saying that as a Pennacchio supporter. While I did talk to one woman who said that she would vote for Casey, it was only because she felt that Chuck and Sandals didn't have a chance. Be that as it may, she said her views would be best represented by Chuck Pennacchio.

I think that Pennacchio and Sandals broke even. While each offered some well-formed answers, both Sandals and Chuck gave the occasional wierd response. For example, Sandals proposed an absurd 18 month moratorium on outsourcing. That sounds nice, but how the hell is that possible. Chuck sounded a little disconnected when explaining how a US living wage could leverage other countries to reduce illegal immigration.

Chuck did much better on the Iraq issue than last time. He was the only candidate to call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Casey wanted to stay the course, Sandals wants out soon, but Chuck came across as really wanting to get out. Chuck definitely seemed like the strongest anti-war candidate. Regarding Iran and nuclear proliferation, Casey wants to keep the option of nuking Iran on the table--jackass--while Chuck argued that the US must renew the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Sandals made a weird reference to the "Axis of Evil." He was trying to make a point about Bush invading the wrong country, but ended up calling Iraq "not that evil." Now, don't get me wrong, the whole "Axis of Evil" line sounds like a cheap line from Hulk Hogan, but Sandals sounded ridiculous here. Although Saddam had no WMD, he sure as hell was a monster.

I have to admit that I liked Sandals' emphasis on the need to address global warming immediately. He also called Darfur the greatest moral issue of our time. I don't think Chuck disagrees with either issue, but credit is due to Sandals for bringing them up.

Pennacchio really hammered both Casey and Sandals on the issue of money in politics. Sandals tried to act like money doesn't influence him, but Pennacchio rebutted him for flip-flopping to get the NOW PAC endorsement. Casey kept calling himself an independent candidate (I guess a Democrat with Republican views counts as an independent), so Chuck hit Casey hard for accepting so much PAC money. Chuck kept coming back to campaign finance reform as the root problem for many issues. Career politicians don't bite the hands that feed them, and Chuck is the only candidate who accepts zero PAC and corporate dollars.

Casey was a dud, Sandals was kind of funny, but Pennacchio had passion. Chuck was really fired up. I'm hoping that he didn't sound too abrasive. I talked to people who went into the debate supporting Casey, but left voting for Chuck. I also heard from a couple that liked Sandals as a moderate choice. Many of Sandals positions are in line with Chuck's but Sandals tried hard to paint Pennacchio as unrealistic. It's kind of ridiculous, but that's Sandals' niche. In the end, I think that both Chuck and Sandals performed well, but Chuck has my vote.

Update:

CBS 3 in Philadelphia has the video of the entire debate here if you missed it!

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