After Wednesday's Indiana Gubernatorial debate, I had originally tweeted that it was the good, the bad, and the ugly: interpret as you wish. But I removed it shortly after tweeting because I figured the chances for it being taken significantly more negatively than I wished were pretty darn high. I thought John Gregg's (D) performance in the debate was basically strong. He did a really nice job laying out some specifics and covering the broadest range of policy terrain in the debate. His weakest (probably necessarily so) moment was going on the attack towards Mike Pence (R) and Pence's record (missing a truly extraordinary number of votes in the House; severity on social issues; and giving the impression of being more interested in D.C. than Indiana). I mean, he kind of had to do it, and he was careful about maintaining a mostly respectful demeanor while attacking, which is a fine line to walk, but it was a bit jarring coming at the end of what was, in the main, a cordial hour.
Pence, on the other hand, seemed to be trying so desperately to avoid saying anything to offend a potential voter that he didn't say much at all, beyond platitudes and generic “I'm for freedom”, “I'm for business,” “I'm for values,” “I'm for fiscal responsibility.” To which, the only responses could be “so am I” or “which ones” or “by what definition,” all of which would have gotten a bit parse-y. It's really a shame: this was a good opportunity for Pence to stand up and say a couple specifics about what he would want to do as governor. Instead he perpetually referred to his website and his Roadmap for Indiana, which seemed pretty dismissive of the people who had tuned in to the TV to hear the candidates say what they had in mind; the best chance to speak to voters who wanted to go beyond what's been printed on postcards and sent to their mailbox over this campaign season. Perhaps Pence should have stayed home and let the Roadmap stand behind the lectern in his place. It's a fair bet the Roadmap would have been marginally more appealing than the wooden and nervous-seeming Pence. The Roadmap's arguments certainly would have been more specific and substantive.
And Mr. Boneham, Indiana's reality television star…(sigh). I get the impression that this Libertarian's running from a really good place of wanting to make a difference. All the same, it was a rough night for the candidate, at times spilling into the unreal (is this an SNL skit?) and, at its worse, the painful-to-watch. His ideology seems inconsistent, as though he chose being a Libertarian because it wasn't Red and it wasn't Blue and not because he's for Libertarian principles of individual choice and responsibility and strongly limited/reduced government. Libertarianism isn't a moderate, purplish, middle of the road sort of ideology but many of Candidate Boneham's arguments seemed to waver between Left, Right, and confused. Additionally, many of his ideas were thematic (empowerment and common sense) and not directional; others seemed much more suited to the legislative than to the executive branch. Still, he did have a really good moment when delving into incarceration and the spot young adults find themselves in when they've served their time after committing a (presumably minor) felony and are discriminated against for the rest of their lives. In that moment, he seemed compassionate and he brought a genuinely new and important topic to the debate. And frankly, that led to Pence's most human moment as well: the rebuttal went first to Mr. Pence, who looked at Boneham as though Boneham had made him think about something new. Of course, the moment passed.
The Indianapolis Star called John Gregg the winner of the debate, Pence the loser, with Boneham doing rather better than expected. I think they got the winner right but, like so many Indiana Democrats, I don't know that it will be either adequate or timely enough to tighten up the gubernatorial race.
Monday, October 15, 7 p.m. Indiana U.S. Senate Debate between Richard Mourdock (R) and Joe Donnelly (D). In-studio only, broadcast on WFYI-TV.
Tuesday, October 16, 9 p.m. Presidential Debate between Mitt Romney (R) and Barack Obama (D), town-hall format. Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN.
Monday, October 22, 9 p.m. Presidential Debate between Mitt Romney (R) and Barack Obama (D). Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS.