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CD2 Gubernatorial Candidate Debate

September 29th, 2009 by Kevin

Attended CD2\’s Gubernatorial Candidate debate tonite, and while I\’ve met/talked to most of the candidates one-on-one, it was interesting to see how they handled the group format.  While there was nothing wrong with the event and the organizers did a great job, unfortunately at this stage of the game, the group format isn\’t always the most informative.   Let\’s face it, all of them are fairly mainstream conservatives and there aren\’t going to differ on many, if any, of the issues.  This is exactly what happened on many of the questions.  If not for the politician\’s inate ability to turn a one word answer into a 1000 word diatribe, the whole debate would have been over within 15 minutes.

At this stage of the game in order for things to get informative or interesting, discussion has to inevitably fall into one of two categories.

Policy Hell

This is both the most interesting and frequently most boring category.  This is also where an inexperienced candidate gets bogged down in details.  You end up losing most of the audience and the few that are still paying attention are probably more updated on the details than the candidate is.  In the end the discussions drives way off the beaten path into the rhubarb.

Which isn\’t to say it\’s necessarily bad.  For example, the 65461 Minnesotans with carry permits have been very disappointed in the Pawlenty administration, specifically Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion, for their inability to fulfill their promise to uphold the law regarding the reciprocity issue.  So many of those 65K carry permit holders hold a great deal of animosity towards Pawlenty, and by extension Republicans, and have withheld their support.  They\’re going to want to hear that the next Republican isn\’t going to pull the same idiocy.

Now you start that conversation and most of the audience isn\’t going to have a clue what you\’re talking about.  And even if you have a coherent answer, you\’re debating with a guy that lives and breathes this stuff.  On the other hand, if you can pull off having that conversation without losing the rest of the audience, heh, you just convinced 65K voters to vote for you.

Presentation

When the menu is the same at every restaurant, it comes down to presentation (and cost but that doesn\’t work as well in my analogy).  If we all agree on the ideas and changes that need to be made, it comes down to how you get things done.  Which candidate can best present out ideas?  Which candidate can best present them in a way that appeals to the Average Joe.  Which candidate can generate the funds to get that message out in an effective way?

This I think is where most of the discussion of candidates needs to revolve around.  Even if you very generally look at each candidate through this lense, you\’ll find that our nine candidate field, pretty much boils down to four \”serious\” candidates.*  If you don\’t have the ability to raise millions in campaign funds, and then use that money to effectively deliver our message to the masses, you\’re just taking up space.  And by effectively deliver, I mean in a manner other than what we\’ve been doing.

Hopefully future events can stick to these areas of differentiation, rather than engage in a lot of preaching to the choir.

*No I\’m not going to name the four.  I\’m trying to keep it productive rather that get in a pissing match with each candidates supporters.

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Posted in 2010 Elections, True North | 3 Comments »

3 Responses

  1. J. Ewing Says:

    It would be amusing, though, to see if anybody else agreed with your four. I’m trying to remember who won the SCC straw poll. I know Seifert came out #1 by quite a bit. Pretty sure that Emmer and Anderson did well. Kohl, maybe? Just running it around in my head, I think that would be the “conventional wisdom” top four.

  2. Harry Says:

    Here is a link to the results of the SCC straw poll.

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/polinaut/archive/2009/06/taxpayers_leagu.shtml

    Seifert was first by quite a bit, followed by Emmer and Brod. Everybody else was bunched together in the single digits.

  3. Matt Abe Says:

    Excellent analysis! BTW most of these big group debate events also provide a meet-and-greet opportunity for candidates and activists, at a point in time when both sides are motivated to do so.