Thursday, October 14, 2010

Delaware Goes National

In the last few years, my dinky state of Delaware has taken to the national spotlight like a natural.  The #1 son, (and now VP), Joe Biden was the first to crack the TV ceiling and, whether you love or loath him, he gets creds for being an engaging and entertaining presence.  This year we have the race to fill his US Senate seat with an alleged trust fund baby running against an alleged witch.   Last night, Chris Coons, accused by his opponent of inheriting his wealth and not in touch with the common man, debated Christine O'Donnell, a self-described "fun" girl who abandoned the life of dabbled witchcraft and easy dating to enter a full time job of campaigning for office (any office) the last 5 years.  What was a local event became a national event as CNN's Wolf Blitzer acted as one of the moderators and, IMHO, chief instigator in a one hour broadcast on CNN.

It was not a pretty evening especially for the young (oh, so very young) Ms. O'Donnell.  She was prepped in the Sarah Palin manner and came on strong at first, taking the offensive, as she should have in order to hopefully make Delaware voters conscious of her serious nature.  Unfortunately, like the town facade in Blazing Saddles, O'Donnell began to crumble with statements like "when we fought the Russians in Afghanistan", "the secret Chinese plot to take over our country by (not so secretly...in fact with our encouragement) buying our debt", and failing to come up with one Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with (when questioned by a student) after proclaiming during her campaign that she disagreed with Supreme Court decisions.  The moderators, attack dog Wolf Blitzer and the always solid Nancy Karibjanian, kept the contestants in line, especially Ms. O'Donnell when she veered away from the point of a question into prepared speech land.  Ms. O'Donnell did face more pointed questions than Mr. Coons but she had laid herself out for this path with her ads and her mis-steps. 

An aside here, as a reminder of the TV ads, Ms. O'Donnell had a dark dress and a string of pearls.....waiting to cast a spell on her audience, perhaps?

In a bizarre turn (was she told to say this by her handlers?), she joked that Mr. Coons was jealous of her since she made it as a topic on Saturday Night Live.  Hmmm...didn't she get the point of the parody?  Does she know the definition of "parody"?  We knew from the debate that she was weak on history (the "fighting the Russians in Afghanistan" and confusing Iraq & Afghanistan comments) and finance (her lack of knowledge on how bond ratings are established or how county governments are legally required to balance their budgets).  Perhaps she didn't do too well in college in English and literature as well.

For his part, it must have been difficult for Mr. Coons to not subsume into Dan Akroyd vis-a-vis Ms. O'Donnell's Jane Curtin.   When asked to respond to some of the fact-less claims and throwing-out-chum statements by Ms. O'Donnell, Mr. Coons tended to respond that there wasn't enough time to go point-by-point or where should he begin.  At one point, he looked over at Wolf Blitzer and said that if he (Mr. Blitzer) could make sense of the contradictory things that Ms. O'Donnell had just spouted in response to a question then Mr. Blitzer was a much better journalist than Mr. Coons had given him credit for.  At points, one almost felt sorry for Ms. O'Donnell as to her lack of sense and knowledge and this was a very dangerous place to be as she is counting on the "I am you" stance against the "elitist educated" opponent she's running against.  Funny that the 2 President Bush's, representing her party, had both graduated from the the same eilitist institution of Yale.

In the closing statement by the candidates, Mr. Coons noted, "She's focused too little on the issues that really matter to Delawareans, and too much on the issues that make good soundbites," Coons said. "Ms. O'Donnell has experience running for office, but not really running anything."  That pretty well sums up the evening and the campaign choices.  Do you want a yappy dog nipping at your heels or a calm & collected Labrador guiding you.

The short of the debate matter was that Ms. O'Donnell spoke in generalities and with the insinuation that her judgements of error and lack of responsibility were traits that Delawareans would cling and claim to while Mr. Coons provided logical answers backed by experience and a hard-earned education. She was going for the sympathy vote; he for the thoughtful one. We'll see which voters show up in Delaware on November 2nd.

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Comments:
Thanks for linking to my post on Sarah Palin, and also for providing a thoughtful local perspective on this fascinating (albeit scary) race. In many ways, you have to hand it to O'Donnell; embarrassment and lack of knowledge don't seem to hinder her in any way. "I"ll put it up on my website" might work for Candidate Christine, but I never had a high school teacher or college professor accept that in lieu of answering a question on a test. The debate gave Coons a chance to shine and show himself as a smart, articulate, educated man able to poke fun at himself. Guess the rest of the country will have to trust in the common sense of Delaware voters and pray the polls don't lie.
 
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