Aftermath: The U.S. Senate Debate

Tonight, Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith faced off in their first debate - and the only one televised statewide.

What do you think? Did either candidate score big? Did either candidate exceed your expectations?

Did Jeff Merkley make the case for change? Did Gordon Smith manage to avoid the stigma of the Bush Administration?

Will this debate change the outcome on election day - or, at least, the argument over the next 25 days?


  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    I'm sure lots of folks around here will disagree, but in terms of style, comfort, and appearance, Merkley blew it. He seemed so stiff, awkward and unsure. Smith reminded me of Obama--calm, cool, and slick. I worry that Jeff did not win many votes tonight.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)

    Gordon Smith, U.S. Senator from Oregon, 1993-2009. Jeff Merkley, U.S. Senator from Oregon, 2009-.

  • RW (unverified)

    Kari or Jeff, could someone PLEASE move the comment I just now put in the other thread on this awful debate? It's the comment regarding the dynamics as well as a coda-comment on Smith's ad campaign.

    Thank you for helping me put it in the correct thread, as this was not a posted thread when I wrote the comments a minute ago. Thanks...

  • (Show?)

    Chris #12 -- Are you kidding? Did you even watch the same debate?

    Smith was wrong on all the nonverbals. Hands in his pocket, exasperated sighing, slapping the podium, grimacing. He was nervous and tight.

    Merkley was calm and confident, smiling comfortably. When he criticized, he turned and looked at Smith.

    You must have been watching some other debate.

  • (Show?)

    RW -- we can't move comments. Feel free to make your comment again here.

  • rw (unverified)

    Forgot to list the thread to move it from -- it's in the "where should we donate" thread. Thank you for putting it here for me.

    And Chris: I agree with you. Terribly disappointing debate, but Smith really did himself no favors. I did not seek to hate him, but I disliked his personality intensely.


  • (Show?)

    Didn't the Dow go below 9,000 earlier today? I heard very little that spoke to the understandable anxiety some of us may be feeling about this economy.

    I'd write more but - damn - this show on NBC - MY NAME IS EARL - is pretty funny.

  • RW (unverified)

    Just watched the Merkley/Smith debate. Merkley a poor, wooden speaker, but insistent upon at least talking points, not mere character assassination and maladroit spinwashing... Smith relentlessly and without charm flipping questions in a circle, attacking his opponent.

    M. not afraid to be calmly personal, but still more wooden and anxious-seeming than I'd have expected. S. simply contemptuous and vapid to boot. It was an awful, contentless expenditure.

    Smith intensely alienating in his lack of intelligent delivery, lack of aplomb or musicianship. Merkley, well, I am for him, but I was not impressed by much more in the delivery than his willingness to answer the questions asked and not bullshit around with games.

    I went to school with Tracy Berry as a girl - we were both in Forensics together -- I have to say she got my respect back with her crisp, cutting slices when Smith behaved the absolute ARSE on that request for each candidate to just answer the goddarned question: "three nice things about your opponent's VOTING record"... Gwen Ifill might have taken some fearlessness lessons, and I've got to say it would be fun to watch her skewer even the next MR. President in the name of getting the job done that WE need her to.

    Overall a wooden, uninformative debate, Berry being the best part; Merkley's standup nature being a good part; and my dislike for Smith cemented.

    ON another note: has anyone noticed Smith's tortured ad campaign in this light - the Matthew Shepherd ad done in aesthetically pleasing, somewhat sophisticated greytones guaranteed to appeal to the museum and fancy martini crowd; and then comes the tabloid shrill and cheesy colour schemes of the "scare the working class goobers" ads?... or am I imagining things?

  • amy (unverified)

    Smith is currently winning OregonLive's post-debate poll:

  • Stiff & Awkward (unverified)

    I have to agree that Smith came off slightly (if only slightly) cooler than Jeff.

    They both seemed stiff and plastic.

    Do I think Merkley by himself won over independents? No

    Do I think Merkley and our current economy, war, and general standing in the world helped him win over independents? Yes

    Do I think anyone watched the debate? No

  • julian (unverified)

    Well it was delightful to hear Palin was promoted from governing 650,000 citizens to 32 million. This definitely helps the responsibility gap that folks perceive about her (face palm).

    I came away thinking both gentlemen were nervous and tongue-tied. I didn't see that with Steve Novick or Candy Neville.

    My usual complaint is you don't have Citizens in the studio asking the candidates questions. It still has a stifled, filtered feeling to it.

    Nothing changes my vote. Smith is desparate and Merkeley will do more to change our energy portfolio, lift up the lower classes and protect the environment.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    Yeah, Kari, I guess I was watching a different debate--probably the same one that most people who have not worked for Merkley or know what "non-verbals" are--the one where Merkley looked stiff, uncomfortable, and frankly, a little stupid. I knew some would disagree.

    Don't get me wrong, I want the guy to win, and that's why I'm so concerned about his performance tonight.

    He said some stuff I liked, but I wish he had argued for a decent economic recovery plan, or wasn't following Obama so much on the whole war in Afghanistan thing.

  • DanOregon (unverified)

    Merkely was stiff and robotic, but loosened up when he was off his talking points at times. Merkley really should have made the point in his closing that a vote for Smith is a vote against Obama. Smith was very much off his game tonight, but still appeared more comfortable than Merkley. No questions on LNG, education, or trade? And Merkely really missed a chance to take a shot at Smith for employing non-Oregonians who send much of their wages out of state. Disappointed with the negative ad questions to lead and close the debate. First off, KGW is making a tidy sum airing those ads, Secondly, a lot of money is coming from out of state because this is an important seat. The stakes are high. Thirdly, they wouldn't be used if they didn't work. People are clearly noticing them. Fourth, Ron Wyden beat Smith in '95 by stopping his negative ads. And finally, thought it was funny that two attack ads on Dems, one of them Merkley, aired right after the debate. Not good timing for the GOP.

  • (Show?)

    Well, let's talk about the words then.

    Jeff Merkley hit it out of the park. He focused, like a laserbeam, on the key things that voters care about -- jobs, health care, bring our troops home, restoring tax fairness, and holding the bad actors on Wall Street accountable. He was very clear about his positions on the issues. He made it about the voters.

    Gordon Smith was frustrated. He made it about himself, complaining about the ads, obfuscating the issues, and trying to explain why HE is the only person who can represent rural oregon and be a bipartisan guy. (As DeGaulle once said, the graveyards are full of indispensable men.)

    But don't take my word for it. Head over to MOMocrats for their live blog.

  • globetrotter18 (unverified)

    Neither appeared to be a stellar debater. Stylistically, Merkeley's delivery was a bit nervous and his lines were delivered as if they had been mercilessly rehearsed without any regard to cultivating a natural-sounding, relaxed intonation. That was unfortunate, but he did stay on message and covered all of his talking points well from a substantive viewpoint.

    Smith came off to me as also being a bit nervous, and just not credible, because if you follow the issues, you knew he was bs-ing. As to the Palin-CA flub and related McCain endorsement by Smith, Merkeley or one of the questioners should have cornered him with respect to his endorsement of McCain as to why he is running ads touting his work with Sens. Obama, Kerry, Kennedy, etc. and is totally silent on McCain. That seemed like a glaring strategic omission to me. Maybe footage could be used for ad fodder. Not a bravura performance by either candidate, but don't think either candidate really helped or hurt his cause all that much. In my mind, the needle didn't move much as they say.

  • (Show?)

    Gordon Smith - Used Car Salesman!

  • rw (unverified)

    Kari, I agree that M. focused and stayed as substantive as this debate did get. Smith was a cloud of expanding toxic vapor in terms of the lack of core therein, the wayward pointlessness overall, and, simply, the lack of respect for the electorate I felt he displayed in those choices.

    However, I really wanted more from Merkley than appearances, for I need to know him better as a voter. It was talking points all the way. M. "felt" to me to have substance, earnestness, but outside of his insistence upon not matching Smith in the magnitude of game playing, I do not feel I came away knowing more than his script.

    We all know these talking points by heart as they are regurgitated between debates in different venues. I hoped for extra, not more of the same. As relief, I liked his "Three F's" moment... but that was not very clever either... but at least somewhat rhythmic and alliterative.

    Am I wrong in hoping/expecting someday for some breakaway maniac to just RESPOND in realtime instead of en pointe?

    Let me tell you, I've had to call a legislator's office a time or two to get help for issues that only a little so-called juice could solve for me... and I do not especially relish talking shite under my true name/initials about someone I may just have to call upon whose LAs surely watch these blogs... so I'd sure like to get more out of my chosen candidate for the effort and risk!


  • C'monKari (unverified)

    Kari, you can't be serious. If you weren't making money from Merkley, you could see that Smith was far more senatorial, and that Merkley utterly failed to make a case for dumping him. I have a lot of hope for Merkley, but he isn't helping himself.

  • Dan Steel (unverified)

    I thought Smith won hands down - I was pulling for Merkeley, but he just didn't come off as concerned about the Dow, and change in Foreign policy.

  • (Show?)

    And here's some reaction from a Republican blog, the "Oregon Elephant":

    [Merkley] recited his lines fine, but I'm just not sure he won over any undecided voters. His rhetoric was very populist, left-leaning. It will appeal to his base, but I'm not sure independents will be convinced. ... [Smith] fell into pettiness at times, and seemed a little prickly in his confrontations with Merkley. But all in all, he seemed the more moderate, which will appeal to independents, who are the real target in this debate.
  • (Show?)

    Wow... Looks like all the Merkley supporters are out celebrating the victory at the Blitz Bar in Northwest, while the Smith folks are showing up here to troll...

    Good times. Good times.

  • BB (unverified)

    I agree with Kari. Smith was whiney ,dismissive, rude and rambling. Merkley gave, for the most part, crisp and clear answers and he seemed much better prepared than Smith. Smith seemed annoyed and bored, as if we should not have a candidate to challenge him on anything he has done. His schtick about being bipartisan and moderate is getting old, given his record, but he was willing to waste his precious time tonight repeating it over and over. Has he not read the headlines today? He acts as if he has nothing to do with the problems in Wshington--reminds me of McPain ticket!

  • C'monKari (unverified)

    Here's the problem with BlueOregon: Disagree w/ Kari and you're a troll. Nice.

  • RW (unverified)

    Kari, that is offensive to me. I'm not a Smith troll. I'm a single mom who came home to watch the debate and spend time with my son.

    I expected a better class of dialog from you!

    Also, after being invited to be at a liveblogging, I showed up where I THOUGHT it was and found no BO folks, just lots of nervous people hitting on each other and spewing thier practiced "my talking points on the talking points" lines when there was an opening. I was not in the loop as to where this congregation planned for their next party. I was actually pretty primed for some good talk with people I think might have more than prepared lines...

    I guess I just don't like the clubbiness of that comment, Kari. I'm here thinking seriously about how the man I support did not really give me what I hoped for this night.

  • Tedd (unverified)

    Best Question: Name 3 things you like about the other guy's voting record.

    Gordon Smith's "non-answer" was politics as usual and so, so common in political debates.

    Jeff Merkley's willingness and ability to identify and give credit to his opponent speaks volumes about his willingness to answer questions. Even the risky ones.

    Thanks the person who asked the question and thanks to Jeff for having the guts to answer it!

  • Tedd (unverified)

    2nd try to post.

    Awesome to see Jeff Merkley step up to the plate and take the political risk of complimenting Gordon Smith's voting record even though Smith found it impossible to complement any thing Jeff had accomplished.

    Thank you Jeff. You just won me over.


  • (Show?)

    Its always amazing that a politician can speak so much and say so little at the same time.

    I think this debate will be decided by one moment, when Gordon Smith failed to note three positive policy/votes of Jeff Merkley. It showed he wasn't prepared, he doesn't really understand his opponents voting record aside from the talking points he's memorized on his airplane flights to and from DC.

    Jeff could of tired a little harder at getting to the point of his answers. Sometimes it felt like he was reaching, especially that first question.

    I think Smith gave the night to Jeff.

  • (Show?)

    Well, I think Julien comes closest to describing what I saw. Both men looked uncomfortable and tongue-tied at times. For the most part Smith appeared a wee bit more relaxed but several times Merkley really seemed to come alive and fire on all cylinders as he waded into a comfort zone.

    Smith's utter inability/unwillingness to name three VOTES by Merkley which he admired had to have hurt him with undecided voters. Especially since when it was Merkley's turn he very smoothly, decisively and articulately rattled off his three votes by Smith that he admired. Then Smith gets a second chance and he STILL couldn't name any - repleat with having that fact underscored by the moderator.

    My gut sense is that Merkley neither helped nor hurt himself with undecided voters. Smith did hurt himself just on the three votes question alone.

    Net win goes to Merkley.

    That said, I didn't like this debate any more than I liked the Obama/McSame debate the other night. Yeah, my guy won both debates. But it was because of their opponents performance than because of their own performance.

  • Frank (unverified)

    Merkely was significantly better than Smith, but Smith falling back on neo-con anti-tax mantras made him look utterly wretched. Merkely was merely pretty weak. They both look like back benchers a little out of their depth.

    To be fair, this financial crisis makes a lot of people look out of the depth right now. Only the really brilliant or those who have studied the subject matter their entire career get what's going on in the financial markets right now. Everyone else has a bit of lost look on their faces right now.

  • (Show?)

    Neither was as smooth as Obama, but I don't think either had a great advantage on style.

    I was a little disappointed that Jeff did not address the issue of negative ads more directly. There really is a disgust in the electorate about the ads. While Jeff's own ads are not the most negative, the public does not distinguish between the campaign's own ads and the outside ads. Jeff should have addressed this more specifically and made a more positive statement. I think he lost a real opportunity here.

  • BlueJay (unverified)

    As a liberal populist, I was really thrilled by Jeff;s performance tonight. Yes, he seemed a little eager to sock it to his opponent, a man who has been accountable to noone for the last six years. And the one minute response format just made the urgency worse. But he was not shy in dealing out the body blows about Iraq, the deficit, exporting jobs, Cheney's energy policy, and so on. All Smith could come back with was some slogan that rural Oregon needs a voice, not a visitor. Smith did seem to have a moment of candor talking about the need to attract and keep industry, but Jeff should have called him on the spiel about US Corporate taxes being the second highest in the world. At least he got the chance to point out that Smith is the one running all the attack ads. Overall, inspiring to the base, angering to pubbies to see their guy getting publicly eviscerated. Centrists who judge by the issues had things spelled out clearly by Merkley tonight. Centrists who judge superficially, well, Smith's got that #50 ranking to brag about....

  • (Show?)

    KGW has the whole debate on its website. I'm just now getting to see it and both men seem stiff at the start (I really regret missing the liveblog--I have about a million observations). That first question was no treat for either one. But Smith especially seems weirdly stiff and uncomfortable.

  • Dylan (unverified)

    Kari - you need to realize you are in a dangerous place, that of a person so sure of his own beliefs that he is unable to approach a situation with any shred of objectivity.

    I can't stand Gordon Smith. I want Gordon Smith to lose more than I want John McCain to lose. I have even given money to Jeff Merkley...twice, but I can honestly say that Merkley is probably the worst debater I have ever seen. Gordo presented arguments that you could drive a mack truck through, but Merkley completely failed to adapt to the questions and Gordo's answers. He couldn't have sounded any more like a politician. My wife had to tell me to quit yelling at the TV set, "Why don't you say..." or "Don't let Gordo get away with that," or "Say it with half with the words."

    Merkley's debate was much like Sarah Palin's. He came in with a few talking points that he was going to get in no matter what. The only difference is that Jeff lacked Palin's charisma and charm. I find it amazing that we keep selecting nominees who make John McCain look charismatic.

    The last thing I am going to say is that Jeff's closing statement was so bad it made me laugh. He got about 20 decibels louder and completely changed the tone of his voice to make it even more wooden and robotic sounding.

    Kari needs to pull his head out of his a**. No one wants Jeff to win more than I do. He is right on EVERY single issue, but his debate performance was impressive as Sarah Palin's interviews with Katie Couric.

  • (Show?)

    of course the suckiest part of the night was the Dodgers' loss to the Phils; they'll bounce back tomorrow afternoon just fine.

    in less important matters, Jeff did a great job. he had far more substance in his answers, looked and sounded confident, and did more than enough to bolster his slim lead and probably give it strength. Gordo bounced between lackluster and snippy. he seemed irritated to have to put up with this nonsense.

    my nickel analysis of Gordo is that he'd be fine with losing & retiring. what's he got to gain from another term in the Senate? he may well be in a super-minority (so to speak); he'll have no stature. no colleagues to support him. he'll have to kowtow to the new progressive agenda, and given that he's a thorough-going conservative, that will just gall him. there's nothing in this for him. he can lose, blame Obama & Schumer, and go back to being Massa on the plantation.

    he just didn't look like he gave a damn about anything except proving the occasional point. i expect in the next debate he'll come out even more prepared to go dirty. that's about all he has left.

  • (Show?)

    Rebecca -- You're just fine. My comments were NOT directed at you. You're very welcome here.

    Rather, my comments are directed at the large numbers of commenters here that are brand new, tonight, never-before-seen on BlueOregon. They're straight-up Smith supporters and concern trolls.

    I think it's kind of hilarious, actually.

    I'm waiting to hear reactions from our regular readers and commenters -- not the "flood the zone" GOP trolls. (Make no mistake. It's a deliberate strategy. Follow the link.)

    As for the anonymous jerk-off who declared that the rule here is "Disagree w/ Kari and you're a troll" - well, that just proves that you're not a regular around here. This blog is more tolerant of dissenting voices than most others. We don't delete comments just because people disagree with one of the contributors or editors. (Hell, we disagree with each other all the time!)

  • (Show?)

    (I really regret missing the liveblog--I have about a million observations)

    Hey Jeff, you can still catch the liveblog and at least get a replay of what we were talking about as it went.

  • (Show?)

    Well I liked the debate. I understand that smooth delivery is always nice, but at least in Oregon, substance is better.

    Come to think of it, you know who Jeff Merkley reminds me of? Ron Wyden. Ron knows his stuff, and he comes off as honest. But "smooth" is by no means the way I'd describe his speaking style, with his tendency to intersperse "Ahs" in strange places in his sentences.

    But it sure hasn't hurt Senator Wyden any, has it? Just face it - Oregonians don't like their politicians to sound like politicians. They like to hear plans.

    So chill out. Jeff did fine.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    It is notable that Merkeley is winning the KGW online poll and Smith the Oregonlive online poll. So go figure.. In the end does this debate have much sway? Isn't the real issue about giving a thumbs down to W and Repugs and everything they have wrought on this country? I think that's how the voters are going to see it. Ed Rollins on CNN tonight, number one Republican pundit, former campaign manager for Reagan, said tonight that Obama will win and the Dems will win 60 seats because of what's happened to our economy.

  • mamabigdog (unverified)

    Gordo's most terrible and telling moment was the point at which he was given three full chances to say anything nice about Jeff's record.

    Not only did he refuse to do so, he the took Jeff's comments as more opportunity to talk about himself, rather than redeem himself from his asshat behavior.

    Jeff was great tonight. Gordo sounded tired, annoyed and whiny that he had to be there. The sighing, looking at the floor when responding, and that "McCain Green" tie certainly didn't help his lukewarm responses one bit.

    Game: Jeff Merkely, US Senator from Oregon

  • RW (unverified)

    Sokay, then, Kari.

    As an aside, just after you made the "troll" remark, this site began to act up fiercely. Either my connect was suddenly bad, or someone[s] worked to flood you or otherwise cause the blog to play up. ... or that finicky functionality slog that drives one nuts upon occassion...

    Anyway, ok. If I drank these days I'd say you owe an Hornitos...

    I'm up for Frontline - there's gonna be something good to see there, a comparative in-depth on the presidential candidates. And I hope some people take the time to mine that Charlie Rose site - it's quality on the loose.

  • Ray Duray (unverified)

    Gentlemen and Ladies,

    I'd like to put the debate into perspective. KGW currently lists as its top story the winter storm closure of SR-20 at Santiam Pass. Two weeks ago the Farmer's Almanac said that it would be a cold day in.... America for most of this winter. Most Wall Street pundits agree.

    Now as far as the "debate(TM)" was concerned, I think that Jeff Merkley missed an astronomical opportunity early on. The first question from the media flak was about the nature of ads. (Apparently the media loves the profits and can't help themselves when it comes to asking supremely unintelligent lowest-common-dim-nominator questions.)

    Of course the ads are coarse. That's about what you can do in a 30 second sound bite (or a progressive blog comment for that matter).

    Jeff Merkley's missed golden opportunity? It came at Minute 4:08. Senator Snuffy Smith said "I'll take mine down if you'll take your's down..." That is the precise moment that Jeff Merkley could have turned his back on Smith, dropped his drawers and mooned the sitting (and now flabergasted) Senator from Frozen Peaville. There would be no further questions about "stiffness" after such a display of cheekiness, not to mention cojones.

    My name is Raymond Duray, and I approve of this mess...

  • backbeat (unverified)

    Can someone


    Explain to me why all the questioners were white males?

    I'm really, really getting tired of this.

  • rw (unverified)

    Heh. Ray for Mayor. You know, Ray, dad and I keep to our separate roads in peace, but I have to say you just put me in pleasant mind of my progenitor who runs for mayor of Eugene, variously, in a cigar and a bowler hat and full jester regalia.

    He runs as a real candidate should, as if he can't lose and will never win. He talks real b/c he knows he won't win. Gives him the room to say what has to be said. Which is, of course, Shakespearean.

    Runs in the bones.

    Ray for [something] office.

    The Constitutional Coyote

  • globetrotter18 (unverified)

    Well, hope posting here for the first time tonight doesn't automatically label one a "concern troll." I came here to read instant reaction after the debate, as I was curious to know what others thought. As noted earlier, I thought neither gave a particularly polished performance, but that Merkeley won on points, given that he made the better points and stayed on message. Of course, my perspective was colored because I came in as a definite Merkeley voter to begin with.

    In any event, it should be acceptable discourse to say that this was no Lincoln-Douglas debate and that Merkeley (as well as Smith) was not the smoothest, and not be taken down for it nor attacked in an ad hominem manner. You should be able to voice an honest opinion and say you thought Merkeley did a bit better, but his win was by no means a slam dunk. To insist otherwise, is to encourage a Stalinist bent, and I don't think that's anyone's intention here.

  • backbeat (unverified)

    Smith's delivery was like a mortuary director.

    His arrogant, sniping delivery was offputting.

    I thought Merkley did very well. Lookin good, charlie

  • JTT (unverified)

    Just got home to the TIVO'd debate. Jeff took 5-7 minutes to loosen up, but he really hit a good stride about halfway through and peaked at his closing. He's no Obama, but Merkley clearly won this debate.

    Do I think anyone outside of the studio audience and the standard politico crowd watched? Doubt it.

    The telling question in the debate was the "3 positive things in the voting record"...Gordo's unwillingness/inability to answer was disgusting if not predictable. Jeff's answer was classy.

    Throughout Gordo was smug, condescending, dismissive, and sick-slick.

    You really have to wonder who Gordo was trying to appeal to. Politics is all about knowing your audience and KGW broadcasts to the most liberal portions of the state (I doubt the other media markets were simulcasting the debate...correct me if I'm wrong). I don't think his pro-Republican, opposition to responsible regulation, and anti-winfall profits tax messages appeals to the debate audience.

    Glad to see Jeff kickin' some Gordo-ass. I think you folks who thought Jeff sucked must have stopped watching after 5 minutes.

  • backbeat (unverified)

    I just realized something quite amazing.

    Haven't see one single Smith yard sign.


    (SW Portland-Tigard-downtown areas)

    I love how Merkley said he was not in favor of the FISA deal, etc.

    Great job dude, you've given me a pleasant surprise after Schumer supported you. Nice performance.

  • LT (unverified)

    If Republicans are saying this, "Smith fell into pettiness at times, and seemed a little prickly in his confrontations with Merkley. " then it seems Gordon doesn't have a huge cheering section. Haven't seen the whole debate yet--taped it as I was doing things while it was on.

    However, I did see the part when Gordon was saying the one and only reason companies choose to be in this country creating jobs is corporate tax policy. I don't believe that--infrastructure, educated work force, closeness to customers, opportunity for continuing education and recreational opportunities for their employees mean nothing?

    But what I really found interesting enough to leave the room with the TV and turn on my computer was at the beginning where Smith talked about Merkley's 2003 vote on the House resolution which was such a big argument here in the primary. Something like "if you think he was always against the war you should know about his 2003 vote...".

    I'd been talking to a friend (and telling him the debate was on at 7) who has always voted for Gordon Smith in the past, and is a not very political swing voter. I emailed him the link to the Blue Oregon post "smearing Merkley with GOP talking points" by Greenlick and Nolan, and told him I was very unimpressed with Smith bringing that up in the October debate--given that it had been hotly debated in the primary and the post had something like 179 comments.

    From what I have seen so far of the debate, it looks like what the older man in our neighborhood said today, "they use those negative ads because they don't have anything else to talk about".

    Most politicians are not blessed with Obama's speaking skills. But my impression of the parts of the debate I have seen so far is that if Hubert Humphrey or Wayne Morse were to come back to life, they'd be impressed with the strong fighting on issues of the current Democratic nominee.

  • (Show?)

    Explain to me why all the questioners were white males?

    Agreed, backbeat, agreed. Of course, Tracy Barry stole the show -- as she pushed back and insisted on answers.

  • Ray Duray (unverified)


    You are a man (I assume) after my own heart. And when you elect me Mayor, let me tell you that I'm offering you the golden opportunity to offer me my first bribe. Shucks, why should we wait? I could use the money now, while I'm still a political virgin.

    Years ago I used to live down near Austin, Texas. I still have fond memories of a fella down there who decided to rise up from his humble beginning in South Austin from where he rose to own a fine emporium in Central Austin called "Oat Willies". It turns out that Willie made a trade in drug paraphernalia, which made him more of a Democrat than a Republican, who I understand tend to specialize more in pedophilia. Family values, ya know.

    Well, lo and beholt, Oat Willie actually turned out to be a pretty popular as well as populist candidate. He was rather like the Matt Gonzales of his day. (Smart people will recognize that Matt Gonzales nearly upset the Democratic Party in EssEff, CA and turned San Francisco into the first openly Green city in America.) I'm pretty sure I'm voting for Matt Gonzales for Vice President, if'n I can split my infini-ticket and vote for Simply Cynthia McKinney for President and Chief Prosecutor.

    But I digress.

    The mayor race joke slogan from the pot-head Oat Wlllie was "It's nice to have friends in high places."

    rw, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Especially if you come through on that bribe.

  • rw/Rebecca Whetstine (unverified)

    Nope. Woman. With a gloriously well-integrated masculine aspect.

    I could offer you a vine-ripened 'mater. AFTER you find me that fantastic li'l garden apartment swag in exchange for my dirty tricks knowledge base... and I can edit your slurred talking points.

  • backbeat (unverified)

    At one point Smith said, in reference to mental health, that "I didn't come to this issue, it came to me." Sounded like he has delivered that line a thousand times and he seemed so proud of it, his delivery so sickly smooth.

    That line says everything that is wrong with Gordon Smith. He is totally out of touch with anything that does not "come to him." If his immediate family or life is not affected by it, he doesn't care, doesn't give a damn.

    He also does not allow his own voters, Oregonians, to "come to him" so that he might find out what we care about. He halted the Wyden town hall meetings years ago, we can't get anywhere near him. He is selfish and out of touch.

    Let's hope the voters put him out, cuz he ain't never gonna come to us.

  • DanOregon (unverified)

    I guess what surprised me the most about the debate was that for a campaign that is really one of the most watched Senate races in the country, both candidates didn't seem ready for a close-up. Smith's been about as good of a Republican Senator Oregon could hope for, and I don't begrudge him for touting his rural ties. That said, Oregonians can help the country take a huge step forward by electing Merkley. If people are tired of the gridlock, elect Obama/Merkley. We know what we get from Smith, who might be the GOP's best hope for Governor.

  • (Show?)

    That line says everything that is wrong with Gordon Smith. He is totally out of touch with anything that does not "come to him." If his immediate family or life is not affected by it, he doesn't care, doesn't give a damn.

    Backbeat, the phrase you're looking for is "Miss America Compassion". He has no compassion for anyone, until something personally affects him, then suddenly he becomes a one-issue liberal. But he's so blinded that he doesn't see that it calls into question the philosophical underpinnings of everything he believes. He just needs an issue to talk about. "Um, world peace?"

    Mark Schmitt, writing for the Decembrist (as noted here at BlueOregon in 2005):

    I'm tired of giving quasi-conservatives credit for what I call Miss America compassion (I'll explain in a minute). [Senator Gordon] Smith's son's suicide led him to support more funding for suicide prevention and for mental health care generally. Great -- my life has been affected by suicide also, so I'm all for that. ... But what has always bothered me about such examples is that their compassion seems so narrowly and literally focused on the specific misfortune that their family encountered. Having a child who suffers from mental illness would indeed make one particularly passionate about funding for mental health, sure. But shouldn't it also lead to a deeper understanding that there are a lot of families, in all kinds of situations beyond their control, who need help from government? Shouldn't having a son whose illness leads to suicide open your eyes to something more than a belief that we need more money for suicide help-lines? Shouldn't it call into question the entire winners-win/losers-lose ideology of the current Republican Party? ... And that's what I mean by "Miss America Compassion." These Senators are like Miss America contestants, each with a "platform": Mr. Ohio: "Adoption Assistance." Mr. Oregon: "Suicide Prevention." Mr. Minnesota: "Community Development." Mr. New Mexico: "Mental Health Parity." Mr. Pennsylvania: "Missing children" The platform is meant to show them as thoughtful, deep and independent-minded, but after the "platform segment" they return to play their obedient part in a degrading exercise that makes this country crueler and government less supportive.
  • Ray Duray (unverified)

    Dear rw,

    Re: "Nope. Woman. With a gloriously well-integrated masculine aspect."

    So let's just call you ombibulometatastic. For your gardening skills.

    You are certainly cultivating me. And you want to be my editor? I'm blushing. Hell, I should be from Flushing. Oh, wait a New York Minute. That certainly didn't come out right.

    But enough of the Yiddish toilet humor.

    So, what's on offer here, dear? "li'l garden apartment swag in exchange for my dirty tricks knowledge base... "

    I'm thinking A HORA! PORA! In reverse: The Popular Concept is... LEFT IS RIGHT!

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Jeff Merkley hit it out of the park.

    Kari, you do realize that the "hit it out of the park" and similar baseball-hitting metaphors are the most-often mocked phrase of any comedian trying to parody the mindless drivel of the paid spin merchants after a debate.

    Dude, check in with the popular culture every once in a while to avoid making a cliched ass of yourself.

  • (Show?)

    Smooches to you too, Pat.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Gee, kari, I apologise for ever referring to you as "smug." Whatwas I thinking.

    Seriously, the "hit it out of the park" thing is THE most common cliche from liberals or conservatives after a debate. People were making fun of it back in 2004.

    Get some new schtick that isn't an instantly dismsissable sound-bite. I mean, your folks should get their money's worth, right?

    Smooches to you, too.

  • butch (unverified)

    That was ugly. This was a replay of Obama v. McCain where Obama clearly won on style and at least drew even on substance....only this time Smith was the 'style' candidate...

    Merkley was clearly over matched on style and probably on substance as well. Merkley was a robotic sound-bite machine with his constant, out of context Bush references. He sounded dumb and stiff.

  • How embarrassing (unverified)

    It's hilarious to read how certain each side is their guy won on style and substance. Both of them came across to me as empty, pandering tools. They both are an incredible embarrassment to the people of Oregon, and neither of them is even close to being Senator material.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, I thought the little boy in the audience who kept moving around to see himself on the audience monitor in the studio was amusing. (Although my husband thought he was obnoxious.)

    Jeff may have the best ideas and plans, but if you don't follow politics, he does not come across as self-assured when speaking to an audience. He did take a good portion of the debate looking nervous. The minute Gordon messed up the "Sarah Palin Governor of California" bit that is when Jeff seemed to relax and became self-confident.

    Folks do vote on style (sometimes to their own detriment) and my hope is that Jeff will get some coaching as Gordon continues to self-destruct with his lack of understanding of what is hurting Oregonians.

  • Elizabeth Scherdt (unverified)

    Having watched Jeff Merkley at a candidate fair in West Linn this spring, he has improved much. So I saw a lot of betterment in his delivery. On the other hand, except for having a more expensive suit, a better hairdo, and millions of dollars, Smith did not come across better on the meat of the debate.

    For the good of the country, I will vote Democratic. A lot more hinges on this race that a "wooden" delivery. It's the issues needing to be addresssed, and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, and a Supreme Court which does not seek to deprive people of personal rights. Merkley will do more for the people who don't live in the top of the income tax bracket.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "my hope is that Jeff will get some coaching"

    Deb - You and I were coached by a wonderful lady in high school. Could we steer him towards her, or should you or I volunteer?

  • rw (unverified)


    I do not look at these debates and do that win/lose thing. Not to offend anyone up here, but I think that's a stupid game and pretty meaningless unless there has been an entertaining debacle.

    Every base is observing for all to shore themselves up. And the undecideds are just not revealing their own bias, may not even be aware of their own bias.

    So they are watching and waiting for the manipulable moment buried within their possibly-unexplored psyches.

    I do honestly view it as simply as that at this time.

    To me it's not about who won or who lost, as that's all perception on the part of the observer, and, frankly that baloney has NOTHING to do with the actual functions performed by these debates.

    Perhaps, Embarrassing, you should reframe your observation of the won/lost remarks in view only of that... for me, an old debater, I am offended that these are even called debates.

    They ain't. We need a president who will move ot rename these suckers as soon as he gets in. Therefore, I guess I'll join the ranks of the undecided: till I hear someone say he gets it about my subtle little hobby horse, I'm not gonna vote.

    Where do I go to not-sign-up?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "for me, an old debater, I am offended that these are even called debates"

    I am not only an old debater, but also one who coached deabte as well (Deborah Barnes can attest to that one). I am not really offended that they are called "debates" as such, but more amused that they are referred to as "debates". Every debate I have seen this season (President, VP, Senatorial)all have one thing in common - just mention the party points and you'll do fine. Maybe these 'debates' could focus on one topic (like they do in real competition) for each debate rather than letting them get seconds to blurt out the party line.

    When you deal with the masses, you have to make do with what is there. If they gave us a formal debate (like I have coached in) I can guarantee you that it would turn off even more people. Why do you think Nixon "lost" his debates with JFK? Nixon was known to be an excellent formal debater, but his 5 o'clock shadow on the TV cold cocked him.

    If you just listened to Jeff/Gordon without the camera, it would be a tossup, yet just seeing the indifference Gordon expressed through his mannerisms during the hour, you could tell why many here are touting a victory for Jeff and his DSCC entourage.

    By the way, Jeff was just a bit too loud sometimes, but it was overshadowed by Gordon's supposed irritation.

  • Embarrassing (unverified)

    rw - Just to be clear, you'll see I wasn't framing the debate as who won or lost. I was remarking on how others were doing that.

    Now I agree with you these aren't debates. Having followed the political careers of both of these guys, I doubt either of them is actually capable of doing anything but the going through the motions of formal debate, much less actually constructing arguments that aren't completely riddled with just logical fallacies.

    My comment was and is remains that neither of them are Senator material. If you don't remember Wayne Morse, and maybe Mark Hatfield who wasn't quit of Morse's stature, you may not have a reference point to understand what I mean. Both of these guys just come across as wanting the status and perks of the job so bad they can taste it, and pretty much will posture and pander any way they have to to get it.

    Merkley was particularly offensive to any notion of integrity in his passive-aggressive defense of 527s since it is the DSCC, the very people whose support and money he desperately sought in the primary, and who ran all of his advertising that won the primary for him, that are doing most of those ads. For him to say with a straight face that he has no control over what they do suggests the man truly is at least as venal as his partisans here accuse Smith of being. One can't help but wonder if Merkley is uncomfortable in the spotlight and always argues about how he works best behind the scenes because he can't stand up to public scrutiny.

    I think for the benefit of some here it's important to note there are two types of "undecided" voters: Those who really could vote for either one (and perhaps will break for Merkley), and those who really find it hard to vote for either one (and probably will break as "no-vote" in the race, as we saw in the primary). For those who are honestly either type of undecided, there doesn't seem to be any reason to argue the debate helped those in the first category make a decision, and some reason to argue it pushed those in the second category to lean towards "no vote". As in, "I don't vote because it only encourages them". I find myself as a matter of personal integrity having to seriously consider the "no vote".

    In the comments we see how the big commentators here tend to group those two categories together, and make the childish mistake of slamming anyone in the latter category as being in the first category. That just shows they aren't half as smart as they think they are and why some of Merkley's worst enemies in this election are his supporters.

  • (Show?)

    Neither of them did very well IMO. I don't think Jeff had as much substance as those who think better of his performance seem to. One thing that particularly disappointed me was that he had an opportunity to say something along the lines of "I'll work with other Democrats and any Republicans who care about ordinary people to make sure that the "bailout" is handled in a way to keep people with foreclosure problems in their homes as much as possible," and passed it by for one of many repetitive vague calls for accountability.

    Listing off issues isn't really that substantive, which mostly is what Jeff did.

    He also seemed to have a strategy of tying himself to Obama, but handled it inconsistently and badly. On the war issue he didn't say "I'm for a plan developed by a number of new candidates that would get U.S. troops out in a year," he said "I support Obama's approach," which makes me think less of him, since it's a bad approach. And now I wonder which it is -- has he changed his position? Most watchers won't be aware of the difference, the point is that he could have taken a crisper, stronger position but didn't.

    And yet, in the end he nowhere, esp. not in the summation, said "Barack Obama is going to need help in the Senate to get done what needs to get done, I will do that along with Senator Wyden, while Gordon Smith voted with George Bush 90% of the time and will continue to support failed policies." He only said he'd be a truer partner to Wyden.

    Despite the tone comment of previous critic I thought Jeff's summation was the one place where he started to get a little more substantive.

    It was interesting to see the Smith seemed to feel defensive about his "rural" base.

    It is hard for me to evaluate how Smith did because essentially his two arguments were "I'm more for rural people" and "I'm against taxes and Jeff is for them." Just as with Jeff there was little substance behind the claims. Though he did claim credit for his salmon-killing approach to the Klamath water conflict -- I guess Jeff thought criticizing him on that would cost rural votes?

    Anyway, it's hard for me to judge how persuasive those claims might be.

    Jeff didn't manage to connect the dots clearly among the debt increase due to the Bush pro-rich tax cuts, Smith's desire to make that deficit permanent, and what the Obama plan he supported would do regarding the deficit / debt issue. Nor to clearly make the argument about why middle class tax cuts are better for the economic problems we face. Nor call out Smith clearly on the false, absurdly false, claim that the Bush tax cuts actually increased revenue, which they certainly did not.

    I thought it was weird that neither of them looked at the camera. I guess they were looking around at the audience, but it made them both look shifty-eyed. If the camera work were more creative or there had been a camera that gave a view of their visual interactions with the audience from a different angle, that would have been different, maybe -- but they both got bad prep on that aspect I thought.

    Overall I was disappointed with the whole thing and don't think it helped Jeff, not sure if it hurt him or if it helped Smith.

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)

    I detest Smith, but he seemed polished last night. This contrasted with Merkely's nervousness. If the undecideds are looking at presentation, I think Smith wins. If they are looking at facts, it is all Merkley. Luckily, the second half of the debate, Merkley was doing better. Hopefully, by that time undecideds hadn't already changed the channel.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Merkley: somewhat stiff and low on charisma, but good on issues

    Smith: human equivalent of oily margarine contaminated with melamine

  • (Show?)

    Neither candidate is a good debator, full stop. So what? Are we so disconnected from civic life that we think the sole criteria for being a US Senator is the ability to debate?

    Jeff Merkley has many gifts, all of which were showcased when he was Speaker. He understood policy, organized his caucus to pass laws, helped elect Dems so that he had a majority, worked with Republicans to get large majorities on many passed bills, and on and on. That's what he'll do in Washington, and what we want him to do. Yes, he's wooden, but he'll make a great senator. I thought that came through in the debate, even if he was unable to deliver it as smoothly as Obama.

    At the same time, we also know how Smith conducts himself--he's a reliable vote for the GOP. Over the past 12 years, he supported the policies that put us in this place--the Iraq war and Bush's insane policy of preventive war, the faith-based belief in deregulation and privatization, a bitter, sustained attack on social liberals, and so on. The US we have now, which Americans uniformly agree is on the wrong track, was put on that track by Smith. Bill Lunch said Smith looked, in his attempt to defend Bush, like a vegetarian forced to eat baby back ribs. He's running from his record.

    Forget the stagecraft. The choice is pretty obvious. No wonder Smith looks so cranky.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    Jeff, Kari, and all the other spin doctors--

    I'm not saying Merkley is not better on the issues. But I am saying (and it seems like lots of people agree) that when it comes to "stagecraft" and style--things that may influence folks who follow this less than we do--Merkley ain't got it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I really want the guy to win. And that's why I'm glad that there was a playoff game on at the same time as the debate. He wasn't terrible, but saying "he hit it out of the park" is a bit much, no?

    I know it's verboten around here, but it's impossible to not imagine Novick's responses to some of Smith's garbage. The whole thing would have been smarter, funnier, and a hell of a lot more entertaining.

    Back to the issues, though, Chris Lowe is right--Merkley should should be much better on the bailout and the war.

  • RW (unverified)


    There you go again, inserting references to the Oliphaunt in the bedroom - China.

    Glad I did not have to.

    When will someone please put up a thread on China so I can do this right?

  • RW (unverified)

    [hoping I hit "back" quickly enough to not-post]


    There you go again, inserting an adroit reference to a current Oilyphaunt in the bedroom -- CHINA.

    When is someone going to write an article so I can get it all out of my system?

  • I post uunder many names (unverified)


    I post under many names here cause I like to use my choice of names to convey what I'm feeling on the topic. Earlier in the post I went under "Stiff & Awkward". I also never post under my real name cause of the child-like games/taunting/sandbox behavior that go on here sometimes.

    I am not a troll. I am not a hater. I am a registered Dem and according to the VAN, I have a 100.00 Turnout Score. I'm guessing a lot of people probably post under a variety of names and those people aren't trolls either.

    If Anti-BlueO folks have nothing better to do during an election cycle than to get on here to throw grease on the fire - then I'm worried about the state of our affairs.

    Maybe in situations like this you should put down the Merkley horn and just let people comment for a while before jumping in? I dunno what the right call is? You do a great job here at Blue O with not only content but also moderating. I just get a little peeved when I come to this place and see the Merkley kool-aid coming out where it shouldn't.

    Is Merkley the best speaker (no pun)? Hell No. Did he flat out win the debate? Hell No. Does that mean that he isn't the better qualified, all around smart guy, who works better in the building doing the job elected officials are meant to do rather than playing well to the tv crowd? Well, he is that guy and that is why I am voting for him. But... I am still allowed to call him a jackass from my couch cause he should be doing better speaking to the public by now cause we NEED to win this race.

    Anyways...let us all stop the mental masturbation and sandbox behavior here and keep it to an honest talk?

    Speaking of honesty: Kari, I'll even promise to post under the same name from now on. You can even pick my title. :) Serious.

  • (Show?)

    I thought Merkley did pretty well although I would have laughed out loud after Smith boasted about being such a team mate with Wyden. It took until the closing statement for Merkley to mention how Smith cancelled out 1700 votes by Wyden. Inadequate rebuttal of Smith's constant reiteration of moderation and working across political lines!

    And when Smith kept insisting that Merkley had voted so many times to raise taxes was there any sort of rebuttal? No! I distinctly remember being in the chamber when the Republicans went appoplectic when any hint of tax raising came up. If any tax measures were passed in the '07 legislature while Merkley was Speaker, they would have to have been supported by Republicans. Again, we saw inadequate refutation of Smith's repeated lies.

  • (Show?)

    I wasn't able to watch the debate live--watched the KGW clips. Neither of them looked overly polished or particularly sharp. Jeff was not great at the beginning, but about halfway he seemed to find a groove.

    Smith wasn't great..wasn't horrific.

    In the end though...the challenger stood up to the incumbent and gave as good as he got. If undecideds were looking for a reason to choose Smith over Merkley--this debate didn't provide it at all.

    Given the deep dissatisfaction with Republicans and Smith's awful approval ratings--Smith needed to demonstrate that he was clearly the better candidate. Not only didn't he NOT do that, he probably hurt himself. His demeanor was awful. And what was up with the sighing?

  • Bob Repp (unverified)

    I thought both candidates appeared very wooden or simply reiterating their respective campaign points.

    Nonetheless, Merkley never really addressed the concerns of rural Oregon at all. Inartful as it was, Smith did tick off the things he's done for the rest of the State.

    Also, lets not forget that Merkley, sincere as he may be, may well never break with his Party on any major issue. Smith has. Before this campaign heated up, many Democrats have given Smith credit for breaking with the Repub. leadership. Merkley would never do that. Smith gets my vote.

  • (Show?)

    Also, lets not forget that Merkley, sincere as he may be, may well never break with his Party on any major issue.

    Define "major issue".

    Merkley has forcefully and very publically differed with Governor Kulongoski and some of his union backers on LNG here in Oregon.

    Merkley vociferously differed with national Dem leaders on the historic $850 BILLION bailout package, including the very same Senator Schumer who has steered so much money into helping him defeat Smith, as well as his Party's presidential nominee.

    Merkley publically disagreed with the equally historic Iraq blank check that so many Dems in Congress voted in favor of. And he has publically disagreed with the sheepish acquiescence of many Congressional Dems on the subject of Iraq ever since.

    There are other examples as well.

  • (Show?)

    I'll take on faith that Merkley improved later on, but the first reel was a horror show. Oddly loud, running his words together, and PUT DOWN YOUR HANDS, DUDE. I don't know what that palm-down, hand-out sweep move was that he kept doing to point at Smith, but it was awkward looking.

    Smith was creepy, smarmy and of course lied his ass off...but the problem is as usual that most won't know that. Merkley had the right positions but seemed to highlight them poorly.

    This is one of those times where most objective Oregon Democrats must be wondering if this was the right choice. As was predicted, Smith was going to hammer taxes no matter who it was--and I can't help but think that Novick would have thrown it right back in his face. Merkley is publicly ashamed of his tax record; Novick lauds it.

    To the extent mainstream voters watched this, Merkley needed to give a solid reason to get rid of Smith that was starkly represented. A tie would go to Smith.

    I still think Merkley will pull it out, though. He's going to be dragged along with the wave.

  • Jack Sullivan (unverified)

    I still think Merkley will pull it out, though.

    "still"?! You can correct me if I'm wrong, TJ, but you were saying that Merkley can't beat Smith. When did that change?

  • Peace (unverified)

    We have a debate going on called NCLB 10% and GS 94-142,and contractual agreements as we all review reform efforts with the DC schools !American Teacher's March on Washington !Take the train if the gas pumps in your state have plastic on them ! Heads up !Do you think in any reform educational effort that your tax dollars pay for basic needs should be met in school buildings in America prior to firing 200 teacher's ? Did anyone ask that question and we missed the debate show down ! Read "Manufactured Crisis" before you blame it on the teacher's !Find it very interesting the list of top executives making reform efforts, don't have a degree in education or is there a doctor of education listed at the top in charge. However,teacher's will be paid 132,000 if they give up tenure.We have doctor's of education in some states that aren't making that kind of money.Perhaps money would be better spent to prevent law suits and taking care of children principle's and teacher's worried about GS 94-142 as well as basic needs met in American school buildings ! Were educational questions in the debate ? It's an IDEA !They have the money to pay teacher's 132,000 but don't have the money to take care of GS 94-142 ? Thank-you !

  • Peace (unverified)
    <h2>We have a debate going on called NCLB 10% and GS 94-142,and contractual agreements as we all review reform efforts with the DC schools !American Teacher's March on Washington !Take the train if the gas pumps in your state have plastic on them ! Heads up !Do you think in any reform educational effort that your tax dollars pay for basic needs should be met in school buildings in America prior to firing 200 teacher's ? Did anyone ask that question and we missed the debate show down ! Read "Manufactured Crisis" before you blame it on the teacher's !Find it very interesting the list of top executives making reform efforts, don't have a degree in education or is there a doctor of education listed at the top in charge. However,teacher's will be paid 132,000 if they give up tenure.We have doctor's of education in some states that aren't making that kind of money.Perhaps money would be better spent to prevent law suits and taking care of children principle's and teacher's worried about GS 94-142 as well as basic needs met in American school buildings ! Were educational questions in the debate ? It's an IDEA !They have the money to pay teacher's 132,000 but don't have the money to take care of GS 94-142 ? Thank-you !</h2>
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