Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison and some gun-toting, federal government hating, political novice (Kidding: Debra Medina) got together and spent a lightly-moderated forty-five minutes taking shots, questioning records and carrying out a joint anti-federal government rally. As I've said before, bad media organizations live for spectacles like this, and the Almanac is no different dammit.
So without further ado:
The only things you need to know about the 2010 Gubernatorial GOP Primary debate (Part 1):
There are no winners here - OK, if you had to name a winner, that name would be Kay Bailey Hutchison. Yes, that win might be akin to winning "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?" but a win is a win is a win. At the minimum, she looked better than Perry and came off as more serious than Medina. All in all I thought, compared to the other candidates, it was a good showing for Hutchison. The question is: Did enough people watch the debate to really matter?
Line of the night. - It was a relatively weak night for comedy, but Debra Medina did manage to get in one line. Her "I have no plans to resign from the Senate" jab at Perry addressing a question to KBH that should have gone to her even elicited laughs from Perry. Not high comedy, but quick, against this crowd that's funny.
Unintentional comedy of the night - If you're not following the Farouk Shami campaign on Twitter you should be. If nothing else, the tweets of (I'm assuming) Vince Leibowitz pointing out Shami's dissimilarity to politicians by acting like a politician accusing Perry & Hutchison of playing politics.
Bad make-up job - Was it me, or did Rick Perry look a little bit like a kewpie doll wearing a bad toupee with that grin and constant head-bob? If anything, this debate provided a stark illustration of the issues Perry is going to have. Namely, his record is uneven at best, problematic at worst. His employment argument was the weakest moment of the night.
Moderation by default - This was possibly the worst moderated debate in the history of ever. Not only were the candidates frequently allowed to run overtime, there was also very, very little control. At times it felt more like a barroom political discussion than it did a debate.
Who makes up these questions? - OK, granted, the Austin American-Statesman asking about Roe v. Wade was a given (it also led to KBH's worst moment) as were the questions about taxation etc. But what in the world were people thinking letting a Johns Hopkins University graduate ask an obscure question about the Advance Directives act? Not that this act isn't controversial or important, but you sort of got the impression that the question was thrown in to make the candidates look bad. It worked. (As the Texas Tribune helpfully editorialized in their daily brief)
From here? So far I haven't seen any news on a Democratic debate (If I'm incorrect someone please correct in the comments) which probably makes sense for them since Bill White is the overwhelming favorite and there's no reason to put him in a position to make a misstep. The next Republican debate is going to be a Belo-ran affair that will be held Jan. 29th. At this point, only Rick Perry and Kay Bailey are invited, with Medina again fighting for inclusion.
What's not being said by pundits is this: Broadcast on PBS this debate probably counted among its viewership a maximum of 5% of all Texans. Within that 5% my guess is that at least 95% have already made up their minds about whom they are voting. Nothing that happens in these debates are going to matter. Rick Perry supporters thought Perry won, KBH supporters say Kay was the winner, Debra Medina supporters thought she nailed it, and Democrats & the media will claim Bill White to be the winner. The remaining 95% of Texans were watching American Idol and could care less.
The Almanac spectrum:
Kay Bailey Hutchison > Farouk Shami > Bill White > Rick Perry >Debra Medina