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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Second Gubernatorial Clash in New London; Foley wins

Republican Tom Foley was impressive tonight during the second Gubernatorial debate between himself and Democrat Dan Malloy. Many of the same themes from the first debate held last week reappeared, but the dialogue was conducted with a bit more civility between the two contenders. In summary, Foley came across calm, on the offense, and in command of the issues, while Malloy came across more defensive and clearly rattled.

There was some apprehension in the air from GOP supporters about how Tom Foley would handle this debate. As an executive, Foley's style is much more relaxed, and soft-spoken as compared with Malloy's hard-nosed, aggressive style. Many felt that while he came across arrogant and overly aggressive, Malloy had edged out Foley in their first meeting. Although the press seemed to take more of an interest in the nastiness of the exchange rather than the content. Tonight's debate, a much more reasonable affair, gave voters a better look at where the candidates stand on the issues. And usually an issue-based debate is helpful to Republicans.

I was happy to see Ann Nyberg moderating the debate. She is probably Connecticut's best newscaster, and offers a no-frills, matter of fact style of anchoring. I'm hoping that her newscasting style spills over into this debate and she forces the candidates to stick to the issues.

Out of the box, Mark Davis asks Tom Foley about his position on raising taxes to cover the budget deficits and to repair the State's economic problems. Foley made it clear that he has pledged not to raise taxes - vowing as Governor to veto any bill that contained tax increases , while Malloy refused to take any such pledge, and said the budget issues could require sacrifices. He outright said he refused to make such a pledge.

Malloy in his opening response tells us "he is humbled to be here." What? Dan Malloy humble? You've got to be kidding me?

Foley, seemingly wanting to get back to last week's debate (he probably kicked himself after watching it), took issue with Dan Malloy's numerous false ads claiming a number of things which he said were outright dishonest, and said, "If you can't be honest with the people of Connecticut, how can you lead?" I'm surprised but interested to see Tom Foley going on the offensive this time.

Interestingly enough, Malloy did not seem to go back down the road of defending his charges as he did in the first debate which struck a chord with me. Since he didn't press it this time, much of it was likely just normal negative political campaigning - exaggerations and lies. At this point, the only thing I wanted Tom Foley to do was to ask Malloy to either prove his claims or remove the ads since they were untruthful.

Foley was questioned by Mark Davis about whether or not state workers layoffs would be on the table, he admitted that while layoffs weren't imminent, he wouldn't rule them out, but claimed that a decision would be based on how negotiations went with the state employee unions. Malloy side-stepped the matter of being backed by unions, and the complexities of having to negotiate with those who were providing endorsements and backing. He claimed to have not guaranteed unions that no layoffs would occur, and dismissed the documentation which showed that he had made a commitment. He only would commit to an executive order mandating the use of general accounting practices - pretty weak. When pressed about potential layoffs, Malloy only said, "I will not sacrifice the safety net." No one quite understands what that means, but anyways we move on.

Davis then made a Lowell Weicker analogy regarding the raising of taxes. Foley gave a sound answer that he believed that Weicker raised taxes to address state issues, and the state legislature quickly spent to spending those funds basically outlining the problem with "tax and spend", raising more revenue through taxation only allows disbursement of the taxes on new programs, and hurts the economy. Malloy's answer was hard to comprehend. He took issue with Governor Jodi Rell, and referred to her as "Your Governor". Sort of an odd response, as if Tom Foley was somehow directly accountable for Governor Rell's decisions over the past several years. I think Malloy somehow forgot that Foley said he would have vetoed the budget if he were Govenor.

Malloy tried to make the case that because he was able to get concessions from Stamford City workers that he could do the same with Connecticut State workers. Malloy seemed to not recognize the contrast in size between Stamford City workers and the thousands of Connecticut State workers and their different unions. It appears as though Malloy oversimplies this aspect of union negotiations. Malloy talks about his ability to bring jobs to Stamford and rebuild it.

Foley counters by asking Malloy how his track record of raising taxes for 14 straight years in a row, along with the loss of 14,000 during his tenure is evidence of is ability to create jobs and promote business in Connecticut. Malloy avoids the question by stating Stamford is a wonderful city and that Foley moved his business there. Foley responds by asking Malloy is he's trying to take credit for Foley moving his business to Stamford, "You're not are you?" Foley goes on to say that Governor Rell also says the RBS moved to Stamford, Connecticut but confirmed that the decision had nothing to do with Malloy whatsoever.

One of the more interesting exchanges came during the discussion about keeping or abolishing the death penalty. Malloy repeated his position which is that if the legislature sent him a bill to abolish the death penalty, he would sign it, but with the caveat that he would allow Steven Hayes to be put to death if he received the death penalty. He said he opposed the death penalty on moral grounds. After clearly stating he supports the death penalty, Foley asked, "If you agree that the death penalty is [suitable] for Steven Hayes, but not for anyone else, then how can your position be based on moral grounds?" Foley basically exposed Malloy's position as purely political given the anger and outrage fostered by the Hayes trial, and the current climate. Malloy fell flat on his face, prospectively - of course.

In a bizarre exchange, Mark Davis comes off a bit rough yelling at both candidates claiming neither of them "make sense". What becomes a bit of a tirade and a bit of grandstanding by WTNH's political correspondent - luckily this episode is squelched by Ann Nyberg. Both candidates seem to be surprised by Davis' behavior. Foley tries to answer, and Davis starts to lecture, Ann Nyberg asks Davis to please allow the candidates to answer. Whew! I wonder if we will hear the inside story on why Davis become so irrational, appearing almost angry.

Ann Nyberg makes Mark Davis move to a new topic. He reluctantly agrees. Mark Davis askes Tom Foley about his position on instituting a mandatory sick time for all employers, to which Foley responded, that such a mandate was "radioactive to employers", he used this as a segway to discuss that these types of mandates are the reason that business are leaving Connecticut. Malloy said he supports mandating sick time for employers, citing nursing homes as an example, and calling it a "public health issue". He did not offer any response to how mandates may or may not cost jobs.

Paul Choineire asks Foley about binding arbitration and prevailing wages. Foley states that these are examples where the unions are using these as tactics to manipulate the legislature for their own purposes. Basically, one serves the other's interest. Malloy takes the opportunity to impress his union viewers by claiming that prevailing wages "helps to build up the middle class."

Paul Choineire follows up with a question to Malloy about his relationship with Unions, and given the long list of endorsements from Unions how he would be able to get Unions to make concessions given his close relationship with them. Malloy responds by going into a pro-Union spiel which avoids the question all together, but likely made union members feel warm all over that he has their backs - no matter what. Foley states the obvious, that which such a tight relationship, it will be hard for Malloy to get the people he owes so much too to give concessions particularly in light of his commitments to them as previously discussed.

Malloy becomes upset, and coyly says, "I never thought I'd quote Ronald Reagan, but "there you go again". (Which would have been funny if it didn't appear that it was so obviously rehearsed). In the same sentence he steals a line from Barack Obama: "Let me be clear." Its sort of a slap in the face to insult Ronald Reagan and then utter Obama in the same breath. To his credit, Foley responds, "You keep saying Let me be clear, and then you never are."

Mark Davis asks a bizarre question of Foley, something about being a member of the Cowboys, and raising money for George W. Bush. He boldly asks: "What did people get for [giving money] to George Bush". Foley replies quickly - "Nothing". Laughter from the crowd. Davis follows up about a question about why he participated in fundraising. Foley actually gives a really good answer - he says that he's been a businessman most of his life, and when don't run but want to be involved that being involved in fundraising, and helping in this manner is one of the options available to get involved in the political process. Hard to find fault with that answer.

On a side note, during his explanation, Foley says he's been involved in politics for 30 years, helping out, I sort of squinted and grimaced, waiting for Malloy to pounce on him for promoting his alleged "outsider" status. Malloy, who is usually pretty quick-witted missed the chance. But Malloy does use this as an opportunity to point out that Foley is rich, and plays the class warfare card. Yawn.

The Citizens Election Program comes up. Malloy uses this issue to try and create a wedge between Governor Jodi Rell and Tom Foley. Foley is against it and claims it was rammed through the legislature by Democrats for their own purposes, and Malloy responds by claiming Foley is attacking what Governor Rell called her cornerstone piece of legislation. The issue is dull and boring to the crowd, there's only the excitement about watching the two candidates disagree that saves the audience from nodding off.

The fact that Malloy then goes off on a tirade was a bit entertaining. Foley tries to lighten the mood by asking Malloy, "Have you ever considered switching to decaf?" Loud laughter from the crowd which is remarkable given that the hall is likely 80% pro-Malloy. Just hope that viewers at home aren't seeing Foley as too snide.

Paul Choiniere then lists some of Foley's positions which in fairness, are options that reduce the public burden caused by state mandates and state employees costs, and then asks - given all of this, don't you give state workers something to fear? Foley gives a straight-forward answer that at least doesn't skirt the issue, and says that changes are needed to control costs (a counter argument to raising taxes - a point he should have underscored.) Malloy seizes the opportunity to go into a long diatribe about how he's going to make the world a better place, and save the working class, the middle class. He accuses Tom Foley of trying to get rid of Health care and goes on an on exaggerating Foley's positions. Eyes roll and its the same old class warfare rhetoric.

Foley jumps on Malloy's points by saying that he never said he was going to take away Health care from employees. He offers its a fact that State mandated plans are too expensive, and he wants to revise them to reduce costs.

A final question about foreclosure is asked. In all honesty, I didn't get a lot out of the exchange between the two. Both seemed sympathetic to home owners but I didn't come away with any opinion of where they stood on the issue.

Closing Statements Time. Wow. That was fast.

Malloy takes an odd strategy. He personalizes his own story, telling the audience that he grew up poor, as a member of an eight child family. Talks about how hard his life was (I hear violins playing in the background). Then he says his mother died of cancer - I'm thinking this is in poor taste to try and pull at heart strings and sell emotion. In another odd moment, Malloy says that he worked to turn Stamford "into the Industrial Capitol of the World." A bit overblown. My own view is that he should have used the time to spell out his positions and sell them in the few minutes allotted.

Foley gives his closing and he sticks to the talking points about his ability to create jobs and solve the economic problems of Connecticut. He underscores that he wants to reduce costs in government through reform, and won't raise taxes unlike his opponent. He gives a very strong closing, probably the best closing I've seen of all the candidates in all of the debates. He came across competent and confident.

Overall, the debate was interesting, and was an issue-based exchange. These things are never long enough, and not every issue can be discussed. There were a few ah-ha moments, and a few moments from Mark Davis that served as a distraction. For the most part, you have to argue that with a mediocre performance last time, and a very good performance this time - Tom Foley benefits most from this debate.

I would expect the campaign to tighten over the next week or so. I think Foley could likely pull ahead given this performance. And the more the voters learn about him, the better they like him.

A final debate is planned for October 19 and will be shown on WFSB-TV.

1 comment:

Joe Visconti said...

Great play by play, I missed the debate and trust your take on it.