Senate and Vice-Presidential Debate Post-Mortem

October 12, 2012

Tonight Connecticut was treated to two debates. I think debates are important events because it gives the media the opportunity to ask questions to the candidates in an unscripted environment and the viewers can see the contrasts between them. However it is important for the media to spend effort preparing for the debate and set the agenda in a way that viewers can learn and gain new insights into the candidates. Candidates have the opposite goal: they want to make sure to reinforce their core message no matter what question is asked.

In the debate between Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon we were treated to what was mostly a re-run of the debate they had on Sunday. The moderators failed to tease out many (if any) novel issues for discussion between the candidates. Instead they covered the usual suspects. Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy both did a good job of sticking to their scripts, although for Linda McMahon this meant not answering many of the questions that were asked of her. In contrast Chris Murphy managed to directly answer many of the questions while also pivoting to his campaign themes. I am in fact biased, but Chris Murphy again looked more prepared and came out the clear winner here. However I was disappointed in the questions asked by the media panel. Hopefully the next one turns out better.

I was going to also include some analysis of the Joe Biden v. Paul Ryan debate but I do not think there is much I can contribute beyond what was said. The debate was extremely substantive, the candidates were animated, and the moderator did a great job. Hopefully the Connecticut media was watching because they had a good model to emulate.

What debate questions would you ask the candidates and why? How can we have better debates that better inform our electorate?

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