Round III | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Round III

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2006 at 8:58 PM

Sorry, I actually went to the gubernatorial debate and chatted with folks after for a while. Anybody tear themselves away from baseball to watch? Thoughts?

My quick ones:

Asa won on points. He's a more polished speaker and debater. His answers are more tightly focused and more packed with specifics. Mike filibusters and drifts into legislative wonk talk.

Asa is working on a more aggressive, combative approach. He's not exactly a bulldog, but he challenged Beebe sharply on his ideas on combatting illegal immigration. Beebe has a good sound bite  -- prosecute the employers -- but Hutchinson has the edge on understanding of the specifics of the issue, even if I disagree with him philosophically. The state cops have enough to do without hauling itinerant laborers to lockups all over the state.

Beebe got to close and he finally put together his superior case on the grocery tax -- remove it, but do it responsibily -- in an effective way. The facts are in his favor, but he stumbled earlier  in the explanation. Asa makes it sound simple. $700 million surplus. $270 million lost by removing grocery tax. But the $700 million is a two-year accumulation and the growth rate isn't guaranteed. Plus, Asa has lots of ideas for spending money, not only putting in more state trooper time arresting Mexican laborers. Beebe kept saying he had the facts to prove Hutchinson was wrong, but he never produced them or articulated his argument -- the superior one -- in a quick and convincing way.

Otherwise, the lead for tomorrow's newspapers might be Hutchinson's defense of Huckabee's gimmicky covenant marriage bill, a widely ignored and meaningless piece of base-currying legislation. Beebe's answer -- though nothing but true -- came off sounding flip. If you have a good marriage, you have a good marriage. If you don't, you don't and no second ceremony is likely to change that. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment for some in the audience, who knew that Beebe's first marriage ended in divorce. He made a reference that some people aren't mature enough for marriage.

Asa closed with God, guns and gays. Ho hum. But he perhaps offered a peek at a last-minute strategy with his reference to Beebe's failure to prevent the felonious excesses of Nick Wilson while a leading member of the Senate. This is rich turf. It could get ugly if he really tries to plow it.

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