July 14, 2008

Schaffer v Udall Debate--Update

**Update--no liveblogging (no wireless at the venue), but Ben will have a full recap, and I'll have photos posted later).

Quick takeaways and initial impressions--Schaffer clearly had the upper hand in the debate when it came to vociferous support (the Udall side was not full), a command of the issues and the details involved in policy, and in overall demeanor. Udall's answers were forced when they weren't simply regurgitations of campaign talking points, and his rebuttals routinely eschewed marked policy differences, and instead focused on rhetoric of "bipartisanship" and the notion that "we are all Coloradans, all Americans." Udall certainly didn't appear to be comfortable in his own skin appearing before the cameras and a somewhat more open style of Q&A, with questions drawn from email submissions to 9NEWS' Adam Schrager, who moderated the debate. Schaffer was on offense from the opening remarks, with Udall trying (and failing, miserably) to play catch-up.

As for the supporters themselves (and this will be revealed in the photos and video), Schaffer's proponents were motivated and loud--"fired up and ready to go." Udall's troops showed up much later, had very little presence inside the complex or on the street, and demonstrated a lack of coordination/organization and reflected poorly on a candidate up by 10 points in the latest polls. It will be interesting to see how the MSM plays the debate today--one that favored Schaffer in all meaningful aspects and really exposed Udall as a mediocre debater and Washington insider who would rather cater to special interests and promote delays and politicking with hashed reasoning (health care is a national security issue, ya know!) rather than dealing with issues head on.

Looking forward to the next debates, Udall faces quite a challenge. The format certainly favored Schaffer, and may be one of the reasons that the Udall campaign refused to sign on to Schaffer's debate series. It is clear Udall would prefer the closed-set, no-crowd debate format with canned questions from the host. To his credit Schrager ably kept the candidates in line and on topic, and dealt with unruly Udall supporters by threatening to halt the proceedings.
SP's El Presidente and Ben DeGrow of Mount Virtus will represent the Rocky Mountain Alliance 2.0 and the SchaffervUdall blog at the first debate held between former Congressman Bob Schaffer and Congressman Mark Udall for the Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Wayne Allard.

First, a preview:
The event in Parker will mark the first time the candidates debate, and the earliest one-on- one match observers can remember.

"I think this debate is going to be great," said Schaffer's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams. "They're both very good. They're both very smart. They're both very articulate."

Wadhams and Mike Stratton, Udall's campaign adviser, said they are excited the debate will be less structured than in previous years.

"The term has sort of been prostituted. The true debate format hardly gets used anymore," Stratton said, noting most events are a forum with people asking questions.

Today's debate moderator, 9News' Adam Schrager, said both candidates are "going to have the opportunity to engage each other." There will be no time limits, but he has said he will move on if the candidates get off track or try to "commandeer" the conversation.
We'll pick up the liveblogging as the debate gets rolling.

Stay tuned . . .

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