The California recall “debate” was surprisingly informative. Here, for what it is worth, is my take on how the candidates did:
Gray Davis: Bad news. The implicit premise of the whole event was that he is a goner.
Bustamante: Pretty much a cipher. He came across like an accountant; his technique of inserting sotto voce responses to Arnold’s answers was annoying. His effort to defend the status quo and suggest that little is wrong in California was a non-starter. He didn’t help himself, but may not have lost much ground either.
McClintock: Deacon and I were, long ago, champion debaters. McClintock is a familiar figure in that context. He did great, except that he isn’t going to win. He didn’t either gain or lose support tonight, I suspect.
Huffington: A gadfly, and sometimes an entertaining one. Sometimes hard to understand, especially in the early going. Arnold nailed her on taxes. Who exactly is going to vote for her?
Camejo: A typically earnest, incoherent Green. Full of bogus “statistics.” All I can say is, if what he said made sense to you, vote for him. Please.
Schwarzenegger: Excellent performance. His basic pro-business theme came through well. He was strong, aggressive at times, sincere and knowledgeable. He came across as at least as credible a candidate as any of the others. One oddity: He frequently looked at another participant rather than at the camera. Weird, given his acting experience.
I liked the fact that there were three candidates on the left and two on the right. Lots of attention has been paid to the “spoiler” role that McClintock may play–understandably, given the current polls. But it may be that votes siphoned off by Camejo and, perhaps, Huffington, make as big a difference in the end.
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