Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ohio 13th Debate Overview.

I put Betty Sutton’s performance under the microscope yesterday because I hear complaints that Betty’s campaign has been underwhelming. The primary complaint is that she sing one note – corruption corruption corruption. The corollary, as this line of conversation goes, is that she has little in the way of a legislative plan. You can see some examples of the discussion in the comments on this post on Word of Mouth, as well as in the newspaper endorsements and WCPN discussion.

That’s what was on my mind going into the first of three debates between Ms. Sutton and Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin. Betty clearly has this won. Absent growing new heads in the middle of her closing remarks, what happens over the course of the debate doesn’t matter much for this election.

But I was hoping to see something that would make me feel better about the vote. And I did. Betty didn’t blow me away, but she certainly displayed some policy chops and agility. Despite being baited by Foltin who challenged the audience to count the number of times she mentioned “corruption,” she didn’t back down. She kept up the drumbeat.

But she also did a good job of relating it to her policy ideas. Campaigning is difficult in the current environment of toxic tax talk. If a candidate has no ideas for new programs, she has no ideas. If she has ideas, the audience then asks, “How do you pay for that?” Republicans have done a good job of convincing the electorate that Democrats can’t be trusted not to raise taxes, so Dems are at something of a disadvantage. By talking about the money lost to corrupt practices, Betty can talk about programs with an escape hatch when the cost question comes up.

As for her policy ideas aside from Good Government reform, I give a resounding “Enh.” I’m all about Googo reform, but I’m a policy nerd. I liked what I heard from the standpoint of giving something to the people who want Answers to Ohio’s Problems. I feel that Congress should be about issues that are truly national. I’m not big on each Representative carving a piece of the pie for his/her district.

But that’s just me. I’ll say that Betty seems to have a pretty good grasp on national problems, but can also talk NEO well enough to do retail politics.

As for Foltin? I kind of left scratching my head. On the one hand, he does a pretty good job of pumping his resume, minimizing his dark marks and sounding moderate.

Well, a little too moderate. With a couple of exceptions, Foltin sounds more like a moderate Democrat than – if there still is such a thing – a moderate Republican. He’s in favor of increasing funding for higher education, increasing government healthcare coverage, increasing funding for local mass transportation. He’s pro-environment. He’s against the Federal government passing laws regarding gay marriage and against meddling in Terri Schivo sorts of cases. Aside from some frankly anti-science pronouncements – he hasn’t seen science supporting either global warming or benefits of embryonic stem cell research – he would be perfectly acceptable Dem primary candidate.

Not only am I wondering about his choice of party, I’m wondering about which office he’s running for. He sounds more like a candidate for mayor – or perhaps some sort of regional supermayor – than for Congress. He held his own in the first half of the debate regarding the economy and slanted toward local concerns, but Betty dusted him in the debate on foreign policy. His answer to a question asking his priority in the first hundred days, he talked about reconnecting with local leaders as opposed to proposing any legislation.

Much is made of the difficulty moving from the legislature to an executive position. The same can be said of moving from executive to legislature. He’s used to being top dog in his little corner of the world. He didn’t show an understanding of how his work will change when he is one of 435.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why you think Foltin is Pro-Environment. He was quoted in the first debate as saying he doesn't believe global warming is real.

As for the "super mayor" thing, its probably because he neevr took this race that serious and was using it to assist him for his re-election campaign next year.

But your commentaries were great. Enjoyed reading them.

Pho said...

Thanks for the kind words, anon. Agree regarding what Foltin is doing, though I wonder how happy RCCC is with him on that score.

I said pro-environment because he says as an outdoorsman he is in favor of environmental protection and curbing pollution.

And oh-by-the-way, there's actually a tension between curbing CO2 and curbing other pollutants. Pretty much any technology that curbs air pollution post ignition (thus excepting things like scrubbing sulfur from coal) reduces efficiency and therefore increases the amount of CO2 generated. I don't mean to suggest that Foltin thinks that subtly, but it's worth noting. As Kermit says: "It's not easy being green."