KATU Senate Debate - Merkley stole the show

Kevin Kamberg

I posted my thoughts and observations here after the KGW debate. And I just got home from watching the KATU debate live at Pacific University which is about a 2 minute drive from my house.

The KGW debate I effectively called a tie between Merkley and Novick. I thought Jeff did slightly better during the actual debate, and I thought that Steve outperformed everyone with his closing statement - which hopefully lends me some small measure of credibility since my creds as a Merkley partisan are, I think, beyond question here at Blue Oregon.

This KATU debate was substantially different, in my opinion. From my second row vantage point (as close as the audience was allowed) Jeff Merkley was much more animated and passionate in both his demeaner and with his answers. There was no stage of this debate which he lost. His opening statement and closing statements in particular were, I thought, outta-the-park home runs. But even the debate itself he dominated with passionate, on-message answers. Clearly all signs of the illness he was suffering from during the KGW debate was gone this evening.

I would say that Steve Novick easily came in second, but his closing statement lacked the zing that his closer at the KGW debate had. Several of his answers were, I felt, quite good. Particularly on immigration. But he didn't seem nearly as passionate or charismatic as Jeff Merkley. Candy Neville was improved from the KGW debate, but not so much so that she earned better than third place, nor did she credibly challenge either Merkley or Novick. David Loera was passionate but clearly nothing more than a one-trick (immigration) pony. I spoke to John Schrag, the editor of the Forest Grove News Times, afterwards and he kind of chuckled when I mentioned Loera and said that at least Loera made his point... "over and over and over."

Afterwards most folks in the audience exited while various media photographers took posed still shots of the candidates. But a small group of audience members surged towards the stage and patiently waited for the media types to finish up, at which point Jeff Merkley came down and found himself surrounded by citizens wanting to shake his hand and ask him questions while the other candidates chatted with each other and with dignitaries on the stage. All of which just reinforced my sense that he'd won the debate.

If you watched it live on TV, what were your impressions?

Comments

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Good to hear that Jeff's feeling better, and that he rocked the house.

    Perhaps we could post some of it here later?

  • LT (unverified)
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    Actually, I began to wonder if it might be possible that Candy Neville comes in 2nd--the old thing about ordinary voters getting tired of front runners sniping at each other. I could see how she could appeal to the voters who supported Karen Schilling<?> the 3rd party candidate who got enough votes in Jan. 1996 that she got more votes than the margin between Ron and Gordon.

    Actually, I was more impressed with Steve than in the past---yes he CAN be serious and diplomatic when he wants to be!

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    LT, I'd have been inclined to agree about Ms. Neville except that this afternoon Merkley and Novick weren't snipping at each other. The only snipping came from Loera and that only served to help both Merkley and Novick - both of whom handled the challenges very well, IMHO.

  • 18yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)
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    I was also at the actual debate. I felt that David performed off the wall bad. It was very hard to understand what he was talking about, expect that he felt that Merkley and Novick couldnt get anything right. Candy was better then the KGW perfomance and able to speak on more issues but she didnt do close to good enough. While she made some good points, she didnt propose (other then a carbon tax which I oppose and ending the war under the Merkley)really make any policy points while Novick and Merkley both made strong points on policy. So the debate really came down to Novick and Merkley. I thought Novick did pretty well with substance but it seemed from his tone that he didnt want to be there. Merkley brought the energy and made some good policy points but he didnt really make any huge zingers to win a slam dunk. I loved how Steve Duin called Merkley steve by accident. Overall I would give the edge to Merkley but not by much. I bolted the minute the debtae ended so I didnt get to see the candidates talking to the audience.

  • TroyB (unverified)
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    I think we may have been watching a different debate... It sure didn't look like Merkley won anything. I always find his answers to be one cliche after another. Jeff Merkley is no Barack Obama and the "hope and change" talk falls flat. I was impressed again with Steve's performance, but I have to admit I missed the closings, so perhaps I missed a Merkley transformation.

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    I don't think the debate was a slam-dunk for anyone. Maybe I've watched these two (Novick and Merkley) too many times to really judge their performances anymore. Honestly, the only people who surprised me were Candy Neville and David Loera.

    Neville did much better today than she did on the KGW debate and Loera surprised me with how pointed his attacks on Merkley and Novick were. (I found myself, more than once, wondering what he was doing there.)

    I thought Steve did well, but not as well as on the KGW debate. Merkley did better than the previous debate (I do understand he was sick), but still lacked the punch he had at the City Club debate. (I am glad that both of them have toned down the personal stuff. That's what we're for, right?) I suppose I'll go ahead and be predictable and say I give Novick a slight edge in today's performance.

    All in all, I doubt many (if any) minds were changed by today's debate.

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    I did notice something of an improvement in Merkley's delivery this time around, but he seems to have trouble modulating his voice, and the bellowing can be distracting. (Hillary Clinton does the same thing sometimes.)

    Both he and Steve sounded more practiced/polished in their responses tonight than they did on KGW, but Merkley also has an unfortunate tendency to use a lot of platitudes, which means that his responses were about 60%-70% content-free. Also, did you know his wife is a nurse?!

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    It doesn't appear that KATU has posted any of the video online. Their story ABOUT the debate didn't even include any video that wasn't muted and talked over by the reporter.

    Frakking bizarre.

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    Ok Kari, too much Battlestar Galactica.

    Personally, I prefer "frilling bizarre," but that's just me.

    Then again, I've had a hamster named Scorpy, and cats named D'Argo and Crichton.

    ; )

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    I've finally actually endorsed somebody, if it matters much.

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    Thanks for that, Chuck! Your feeling is the same one I've had all along.

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    I taped it so I could see it later; as of now I think it still says "TBA" in the guide listing. That's how importantly KATU took it. I couldn't find crap about it before the debate, on the front page. Ridiculous.

    Out of a dozen columns, have TWO been about something besides how great Jeff Merkley is, Kevin?

    David Loera was off the wall bad. I admit it, it is hard to stay focused on someone's ability to think when the communication connection between you is so bad. Plenty of people with noticeable accents nonetheless express themselves in a highly erudite manner. But I don't think I'd know what Loera was trying to say if he did it in Spanish and I understood Spanish. He repeatedly put Merkley in the "State Senate," he at least three times rapped Novick for stuff that only Merkley did and that he opposed (the DL documentation law), and his program ideas were things you'd get from a community college civics class putting stuff up on the chalkboard marked "How do YOU make a difference?" It was embarrassing. I hoped people weren't watching when he spoke.

    Neville's good, still not on the same level as the other two. They gave her rotten lighting; half her face was in the dark. They screwed Merkley too; what WAS that blob behind his head? It made Jeff look like he was talking from the helm of the Star Trek and they were stuck in something's orbit.

    Jeff was animated all right, but I thought way weirdly. He was really undecided about camera, Steve Dunn, the other contestants, the audience--he was allll over the place on camera. Too often I was wondering who the hell is he looking at?

    And the single strangest moment was Jeff using his opening statement to tell us that Oregonians hated Bush and Cheney more than anyone else in the country--then literally PUMPING HIS FIST and cheering, "Go OREGON!" with a broad and bouncy smile. Half beat, then right back into the senatorial patter. He cheered our negative poll result! I cannot for the life of me figure out the things that make Jeff celebrate. Business closing, jobs lost and retail space empty? Crack the champagne! People pissed off at crappy government in DC? Yay us! Most discontent, woo! And yes LT, I am going to tell undecided voters that Jeff Merkley celebrates inappropriately and seemingly in a pattern of schadenfreude behavior, AND has advertised beer drinking to get donations. And I will expect them to make a dialectical decision about the election right there and then.

  • Daniel Spiro (unverified)
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    Shocker -- Kevin thinks Merkley won.

    But back to reality, Novick leads in the polls. He is right for Oregon.

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    TJ -- FYI on my Tivo the guide listing said it was a CD5 House of Representatives debate.

  • Masterpiece (unverified)
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    I was unable to see the debate live. We used the Tivo to record it so I watched it last night.

    Jeff was very good. I believe he was easily the best on the stage. His responses were the most on point and he delivered them very well. He came across as passionate and engaged.

    I felt Steve's answers, especially in response to Loera, were quite good too. He wasn't as sharp as Jeff and didn't come across as being on his best game. Several times he felt stiff and uncomfortable, especially when it came to talking about why he was the best to defeat Smith.

    I think Ms. Neville and Loera are out of their depth.

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    Jesus--"helm of the Star Trek?" That will get my nerd credentials revoked for good.

    Helm of the enterprise.

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    One of the things that I felt Jeff did best in the debate was addressing issues that will resonate with non-idealogue, non-activist rank and file Democrats. Specifically, his veterans and education policies. The 21st Century G.I. Bill will resonate strongly because it's one of those policies that just hit you at gut-level as being... the right thing to do! It's also going to resonate very well with Republicans and make Gordon Smith's task that much more difficult.

    At least one middle-aged, middle class woman asking Jeff questions afterwards was asking specifically about his education track record - which is very strong. Another young woman, who happened to be a teacher, became part of the conversation too.

    Overall I think that Jeff just flat out connected with rank and file voters much better than any of the other candidates did. Again, as I mentioned in the post, he alone was down on the auditorium floor engaging interested voters while the other candidates shmoozed with each other and the media types on the stage.

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    Well said, Kevin. I really like it when Jeff's forceful on issues like education and the GI bill. In that light, I found his performance to be especially strong.

    How many people were in the audience overall?

  • 18yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)
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    The Oregonian put the audience at 100. Hopefully people noticed the large amount of high school kids in the audience. The Barlow High School Political awareness club brought around 10 kids to the debate, which was really cool.

  • Ted (unverified)
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    Here's my two cents, but they are pre-1983 pennies, which means they are worth almost $0.03 in their value in copper right now. Fortunately, the US Treasury made it illegal to melt down pennies for copper about the same time the Fed eliminated publication of the M3 money supply, so no reason to horde. I only say that, because I wish one of the candidates would take a stand on dollar policy.

    So my almost six cents worth says that Novick won. This was the first debate I watched (albeit with intermittent views to the NBA playoffs). Basically, I thought Merkeley looked the more polished, slick politician, but I liked Novick's answers better. I'm sick to my gut of slick politicians and infomercial answers.

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    "I'm sick to my gut of slick politicians and infomercial answers. "

    Nicely nutshelled temperature of the electorate, in 11 words...

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    Did anyone see the voter's pamphlet and the awful photograph of Merkley, compared to the good one of Novick?

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    So is Merkley a slick establishment politician or a whacked out disconnected bumbler. Reading the Novickians on the topic can induce instant brainfreeze or even AnalCancer (TM TJ).

    Merkley is what he's always been, a meticulous wonk who continues to work the tiniest of policy details and initiate discussions with any and all parties to stedfastly and successfully pursue the progressive agenda.

    The fact that he's been doing this successfully for several years under the Republicans and then as Speaker might just cause an honestly undecided person to see him as the very best guy to do the job in the US Senate.

    <hr/>

    Seems to me that logic goes by the wayside here in favor of the old romanticism of what a fighter should look like. The same proud liberals that deride the macho culture of the Far Right suffer no cognitive dissonance when they support the most flashy, gimmicky and mean spirited candidates out of what can only be described as a misplaced and dewy eyed romanticism.

    Screw the respective records of both statements and accomplishments of the candidates. I'm voting for the guy who satisfies my atavistic impulse to stick it to them (whoever "they" might be), and hey, He's a guy I'd like to have a beer with.

    Sounds like the precise impulse that motivated the NASCAR Dads to support Bush.

    <hr/>

    Oh and to Mr. Bray, looking at the voter's guide, I thought that Smith and Obrist both had better pics, but not being a single issue voter, I think I can overcome the awsome imagery somehow.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    RE: Merkley VP photo.

    Who is in charge of visuals for Jeff's campaign? First there was the video with his eyes in deep shadow; now a VP portrait that looks like he was out all night drinking before stumbling into the the studio. Jeff Merkley is not a bad looking guy, but you would not know that from his campaign media.

    A picture is worth more than a thousand words, or so they say.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    Merkley is what he's always been, a meticulous wonk who continues to work the tiniest of policy details and initiate discussions with any and all parties to stedfastly and successfully pursue the progressive agenda.

    Sadly for Merkley, "meticulous wonks" get elected to national office as frequently as, say, actuaries, accountants, and other folks who obsess about the "tiniest of policy details" (the oxford comma versus no oxford comma debate).

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    "The same proud liberals that deride the macho culture of the Far Right suffer no cognitive dissonance when they support the most flashy, gimmicky and mean spirited candidates"

    What candidate are you referring to here, relative to Oregon?

  • Jim Loewen (unverified)
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    Didn't seem animated to me on TV and I still see Novik as having a better chance in nonember

  • drosenfeld (unverified)
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    Novick is the right democratic to beat Gordon Smith. Why compromise principles for a chauch like Merkley? We don't need another Republican in Democrats clothes. I'm for Novick and BlueOregon should wisen up and start acting like progressive democrats instead of appeasing party fools. If we want progress in this country, we have to make bold moods. Tax fairness, real immigration before rounding people up and building fences, and actually ending the war by not FUNDING the war, would be just the first steps. Each of these steps the majority democrats have not accomplished. Novick will push the Senate to the left. Merkley will take it to the center, which in my opinion is no better than a Republican majority.

  • David McDonald (unverified)
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    I watched the debate and found myself wondering if both these guys were camera shy or lying. They both looked very nervous and uncomfortable.

    I gotta laugh when a self proclaimed "Merkley partisan" pretends to be a reporter.

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    Drosenfeld,

    Are you suggesting that the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and Basic Rights Oregon would all endorse a "Republican in Democrats clothes"?

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    "Are you suggesting that the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and Basic Rights Oregon would all endorse a "Republican in Democrats clothes"?"

    You're not suggesting they haven't ever done so, are you?

  • joe hill (unverified)
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    Geez, I think Novick won even on night when he didn't have his best stuff. Merkley is somewhere between a Humphrey moderate (that dates me, doesn't it) and the DLC. He accepts the system the way it is and wants to make it (slightly) better. Novick seems to get that the system is not the solution; the system is the reason we're in the present situation. The subtext of his campaign seems to be: We won't begin to recover from the present debacle by playing at the margins. I hope that's what it is, anyway.

    jh

  • LT (unverified)
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    Joe, I am also as dated as you are, and I don't see Merkley as H. H. Humphrey.

    As far as "Novick seems to get that the system is not the solution; the system is the reason we're in the present situation. ", I am not sure exactly what Steve proposes to do to change "the present situation". He has been more into clever ads and verbal zingers than actual proposals (for instance, does he support the Webb-Hagel 21st Century GI Bill?)

    It dates me to say I was a Eugene McCarthy college student. McCarthy was more witty than angry, he inspired lots of college students, but perhaps as important as anything, he used words to make people think rather than using words as zingers.

    In 1968, a carload of us went out to the local college town airport to see McCarthy make his first stop in California after winning the Oregon primary. A year later, I was student teaching in kindergarten---where getting along with others is a skill still being learned.

    I have also been a substitute teacher at all levels, and I'm a strong believer in the idea that actions have consequences. As Rev. Wright reminded the National Press Club today, "as ye sow, so shall ye reap".

    People of any (or no) involvement in the US Senate primary who have known Steve a long time may very well be having the same conversation I had today with an old friend about the recent Oregonian endorsement---a conversation which the friend concluded with "Yep! Steve has a sharp tongue!".

    Very often, solving problems means passing legislation.

    If one has a proposal one wants to get passed through a legislative body, there are 2 basic ways of doing it. One is persuasion. The other is coercion (famously one piece of very worthwhile legislation once passed the state senate by one vote after one senator said to the sponsor "I would like to vote against this bill because of all the pressure to vote against it, but I realize if I do that you would never forgive me" and the sponsor of the bill said "you are right!").

    Phrases like "playing at the margins" or "the system is the reason we're in the present situation" dont't strike me as being the way to pass legislation or otherwise solve problems. They are just vague statements of why the government doesn't work well currently. For some people, that is enough.

    I'm a long time voter who knows the difference between outspoken advocates and those public figures who border on being rude, harsh, disrespectful. Someone (Mo Udall??) once said the difference between wit and wisecracks was that wit had some intelligence to it and wisecracks were just zingers without thought (although the actual quote was better worded).

    HH Humphrey, whatever one thought of his views on the Vietnam War, was the definition of liberalism to a generation of Americans. He and Goldwater (definition of conservatism back then) were gentlemen of the old school--could agree without being disagreeable, knew the difference between opponents and enemies. HHH left a lasting legacy as a man of his times, a good representative legislator from the Midwest, a friend of agriculture and needy Americans.

    I wouldn't compare any of our US Senate candidates to the politicians of 1968.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    drosenfeld,

    <h2>What makes you call Merkley "another Republican in Democrats clothes"? List some votes, policy positions, campaign funders, anything to support your contention. Or are you just blowing smoke?</h2>

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