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October 18, 2006

A second look at the Senate debate

Posted by David Postman at 8:17 AM

I watched some of the debate again last night. I won't pick a winner between Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, Republican Mike McGavick and Libertarian Bruce Guthrie. I'm not sure there was one. All three candidates seemed to stick to what they wanted to accomplish and all did a pretty good job at it.

Cantwell ignored her opponents for the most part, speaking directly to voters about her record. McGavick turned nearly every answer into a criticism of that record. Guthrie showed himself to be well-spoken and well-versed in condemning the two major parties.

There's lots of coverage this morning with few surprises or disagreements about what was newsworthy in the hour-long debate.

In The Seattle Times, Alex Fryer points out what struck me at the time as an odd remark from McGavick.

While trying to strike a middle ground on abortion rights, McGavick said Cantwell "marches at the front of the NARAL parade." NARAL Pro Choice America is the nation's largest reproductive-rights advocacy group.

He started the answer by positioning himself in the middle, but the NARAL comment came off sounding to the right of the middle.

Mostly, Cantwell did not respond to McGavick's barbs. But, during an answer about the budget, she asked, "Do you want to send somebody to Washington who is willing to cut thousands of employees off his payroll and take a cash bonus as a reward for that?"

McGavick clearly was on the offensive, says Jerry Cornfield in The Herald.

With each answer, McGavick sought to create a seam in which to insert a critique of Cantwell on issues including Iraq, Social Security, abortion and immigration.

Though McGavick and Cantwell only had one previous debate, the face-to-face meeting yesterday lost some of its drama with a format that didn't allow for the candidates to question each other and by the presence of Guthrie who physically separated the two major candidates, and seemed to garner a lot of ink in today's coverage.

Writes Paul Sand in The News Tribune:

Guthrie's answers mostly tacked politically to Cantwell's left, including his response to drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. He said he would support giving the land to an environmental group.

"Do you think the Sierra Club would want to drill in ANWR?" he asked.

Dave Ammons of the AP (via The Columbian) says Guthrie "provided the fireworks and humor, a counterpoint to well-rehearsed soundbites from the two mainline candidates."

He staked out left-of-center positions that could erode some of Democrat Cantwell's base, strenuously opposing the war in Iraq, supporting gay marriage and decriminalization of marijuana and blistering both major parties for a variety of ills, including the big federal deficit.

In the PI, Neil Modie declares Guthrie the winner of the debate:

It gave the polite, well-spoken Libertarian a forum for an earnest presentation of his sometimes out-of-the-mainstream views, a gift of TV exposure and equal footing with two major-party contenders that a third-party hopeful rarely gets. In the process, it probably boosted his potential for peeling away votes from the two major candidates, more likely from Cantwell's Democratic base, given his platform: anti-war, pro-gay-marriage, pro-immigration and pro-marijuana-legalization.

(Modie must have run out of space before he could say who sponsored the debate. It was KING 5, the Seattle City Club and The Seattle Times.)

(CLARIFICATION: Modie left a comment objecting to the line I wrote that said "Modie declares Guthrie the winner of the debate." You can read his whole message in the comments, but I wanted to be sure to add his clarification here:

I trust that other readers recognized that I was saying merely that Guthrie probably gained the most from the debate because it gave him exposure he had never had before, and probably never will again - and not, as you mis-concluded that I concluded, that he "won" the debate on substance.)

Guthrie also put in a plug for other minor candidates, says The Olympian's Brad Shannon.

And he complained politely, yet conspicuously, that the Greens' Dixon and Independent Robin Adair also should have been let in.


Guthrie called his appearance a "tipping point" in a bid to build a viable third party to challenge the Democrats and Republicans.
What effect Guthrie's sudden exposure might have on the Senate race outcome is unclear. McGavick said Guthrie was clearly thoughtful but had ideas out of the mainstream.

Cantwell said the Libertarian did well, but she downplayed the potential of Guthrie drawing away Democratic votes with his support for Iraq withdrawal and legalizing medical marijuana.

Stefan Sharkansky has a brief review, and actually found something good to say about Cantwell. (It comes right after he calls her a "plastic partisan.")

Outside the Beltway says Guthrie's effort shows Noblese Oblige.

Stilwell, who is well known here at PoP, does a quick summary for the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

And Blog Reload focuses on the drug war portion of the debate.

For a libertarian, Guthrie gives a pretty tame endorsement for ending the drug war, but it's certainly better than what Cantwell or McGavick have to say.

UPDATE: Eric Earling has some thoughts on how the three candidates did last night.

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