Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let the Games Begin

In the U.S. Senate race, the debate over debating has ended.
The two candidates have tentatively agreed to four debates over the next two months.
The first is this Sunday (Sept. 3rd) on the Tim Russert-hosted Meet the Press.
(In Philadelphia, the program airs at 10:30 a.m. on WCAU-TV. In Pittsburgh, on WPXI-TV at 10:30 a.m. In Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, on WGAL-TV at 10 a.m. In Johnstown-Altoona on WJAC-TV at 9 a.m. In Erie on WICU and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on WBRE-TV, both at 10 a.m.)
In addition, Bob Casey and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum will meet in a televised debate in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12th, to be televised on KDKA-TV. They will meet again, on Oct. 16th in Philadelphia for a radio debate on KYW-AM and a televised debate later that dayon WPVI-TV.
So, there you have it.

Now, the question before the court is: So what? In the coming weeks, when the airwaves are drenched in Casey and Santorum campaign commercials, will these sparsely-viewed debates make any difference?
I can remember one debate that did make a big difference, but firwst we have to step into the Way Back Machine and set it for 1986. It was the race for governor, Bob Casey Sr. vs. Bill Scranton 3d, one of the most tightly-fought gubernatorial races in the state's history.
All through that fall, Casey and Scranton see-sawed for the lead in the public polls. At the time, drawing from my kit bag of analogies, I likened their fight to two guys trying to scamper up a steep slope in slippery shoes. One would take a few steps forward, then fall back. The other would inch ahead, then slip back.
In mid-October, Scranton seized the initiative -- and, frankly, flummoxed the Casey campaign, by vowing to cease and desist from all negative campaigning. It was a tactic designed to serve two purposes: bolster the Republican among voters who were sick of negative ads and to inoculate him against the negative Casey ads (that the Casey campaign had in the can) that dealt with Scranton's younger years as, to use an antique phrase, a pot-smoking hippy and his record as a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.

Against this backdrop, the two candidates met on Oct. 22 for a debate in Philadelphia that was broadcast statewide. Viewing the debate in the studion, I thought both candidates acquitted themselves well. But, Casey clearly came across as the more conservative of the two -- he declared himself four-square against abortion. He opposed sale of the state Liquor Stores. He also opposed merit selection of judges.
Within a few days, the private poll numbers showed Scranton pulling ahead -- due mostly to a shift among women voters to the Republican gubernatorial candidate. As one Casey consultant told me at the time: it was as if every woman in the state went to the supermarket the next day and talked about how conservative Casey was.
Casey ended up winning that race, but the Casey-Scranton debate in Philadelphia was a debate that made a difference.

6 Comments:

Blogger plshark said...

For those who can't catch Meet the Press on Sunday morning, MSNBC now offers podcast and iTunes versions at MSNBC.com Podcast Feeds. I don't know how long they take to get the current week's show posted.

12:12 PM  
Blogger A Big Fat Slob said...

Is Romanelli going to be invited to either of the debates or to any of the joint appearances?

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Craigo said...

Why should he be? It seems clear that he's going to be kicked off the ballot due to the rampant fraud employed by his signature-gatherers. Should we let anyone who submits a load of fake signatures to be debate serious candidates?

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thought the original real bob casy squezzed ahead to stay when he ran the tv add showing young scration at some hippy event? drity p[ool no?

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By leaving Romanelli out ouf the debate he just continues his history of ignoring progressive points of view on his show.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looked to me like Ricky was angry and on edge throughout the debate, while Casey was cool and calm.

Grade this one on "Senatorial conduct" and Casey was the clear winner.

12:43 PM  

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