Friday, October 22, 2010 By Aaron Brown
I'd say that hardcore supporters of either candidate got something they wanted out of this debate. Cravaack appeared energetic and well-spoken. He detailed what I'd describe as a boilerplate list of conservative positions on health care reform (favoring repeal and "starting over"), stimulus spending (against), and government spending generally (reduced). He started the night the more personable of the two candidates.
Oberstar was able to display his encyclopedic knowledge of northern Minnesota issues, history and statistics on several occasions. After a what I'd call a choppy start he was dishing out strong, passionate arguments for his votes on health care and the stimulus. He had the better closing statement by far, hearkening his Iron Range roots and his mantra of fairness for hard working people of the 8th District.
It was interesting to see the two discuss abortion policy. Both are pro-life, but Cravaack won the endorsement of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life when the group labeled health care reform as a pro-abortion law. Oberstar denied that the bill would do anything to fund abortions and that leaving children and the poor without health care was not a pro-life position. The degree to which these exchanges win pro-life votes really depends on the set of facts one chooses to prioritize.
I encourage you to check out the archived debate at The Uptake, which did a fantastic job covering the event, or in the replay on MPR's Midday on Monday, Oct. 25.
I have to admit that there were about 40 nonconsecutive minutes where I had to step away from the debate to read stories to my kids. One of the stories was "The Enormous Crocodile," a tale in which a large croc emerges from the swamp for the purpose of eating children. A series of attempts to gobble up children are foiled by jungle creatures appalled at the enormous crocodile's greed and horribleness. At the end of the story the elephant throws the crocodile into the sun, where his is sizzled up "like a sausage."
Something about this story synced up real nice with the debate, even if it distracted me from several important answers. Kind of like listening to "The Wall" while watching the Wizard of Oz." (Judy Garland is from Grand Rapids). I think truly undecided voters got a good view of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates tonight. Partisans got some of what they wanted. I think the drama now begins to subside and we settle into what will still likely be an Oberstar victory, barring more bleeding from the DFL side.
It'd be a real good time to drop a new poll on this race, though. A real good time.