Reviewing the Ross-Hutchinson gubernatorial debate | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reviewing the Ross-Hutchinson gubernatorial debate

Posted By on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 6:45 AM

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It'd be interesting to know the viewing audience for Friday night's gubernatorial debate between Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson on KARK and other Nexstar stations with statewide reach. (Green and Libertarian candidates didn't participate.)

It's possible, I think, that more people will hear about it from media coverage than by actual observation. Some will be filtered through social media.

It's not too late to watch it. You'll see above the broadcast schedule.

But here's a quick roundup of what's been said in various places:

* SUMMARY: For a thorough account of the back-and-forth, here's Steve Brawner in Talk Business. He drew no conclusions …. "occasionally snippy," he notes.

Michael Wickline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription required) focused on "tax cut friction." For my money, based on press accounts, Ross continues to win this point. Hutchinson's instant $100 million tax cut is 1) built on weird tax bracket cliffs where a $1 difference in income can cost you hundreds of dollars in taxes and also helps the poorest workers not at all. But 2) more importantly, it is a Sam Brownback-style tax cut. Whack it and wait for prosperity. Kansas, instead, has seen budget shortfalls and massive problems from an over-delivered, over-promised tax cut. Ross proposes a gradual overhaul of brackets as state growth warrants. It is fair for Hutchinson to call this non-specific. But it is also prudent.

Hutchinson's effort to distance himself from dishonest Republican Governors Association ads about Mike Ross' sale of a pharmacy was disingenuous to the point of dishonesty. As Ross said, Hutchinson could disavow the lies. He didn't. While saying he had no control over the obviously coordinated RGA attacks, Hutchinson also managed to parrot the tired Nancy Pelosi-Nancy Pelosi-Nancy Pelosi chant found there.

Ross nailed Hutchinson for flip-flopping on pre-K education, the minimum wage and the governor's fund to provide quick money for economic development. Hutchinson also was still evasive on the private option health insurance program designed and passed by Republican leadership in the legislature. Ross is for pre-K, the minimum wage and the private option — no ifs, ands, buts.

* MY MAN WON: From the Ross campaign:

In the first live, televised debate between gubernatorial nominees Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, Mike Ross’s small-town Arkansas values stood in sharp contrast to Congressman Hutchinson’s career as a Washington bureaucrat and lobbyist that put him squarely out of touch with Arkansas. Ross pledged to continue and build on the jobs and economic progress of Governor Mike Beebe that Hutchinson has repeatedly criticized.

From a Hutchinson spokesman on Twitter:

@AsaHutchinson showed tonight why GWB asked him to help protect America & relied on him in situation room. He is a leader & gubernatorial.

* BOTTOM LINE:

@johnbrummett) It's usual. Ross crushed Hutchinson on substance, but lacks touch.

Our David Ramsey put it this way after the riotous Arkansas Times 40th birthday party.

@ArkDavey Missed the debate. Drinking. Could watch on tape. Won't. Summary from my twitter feed: Ross fans like Ross, Asa fans like Asa.

* LIKEABILITY: I saw a lot of comments on this. Don't sneer. Personal connection has often been the defining element of Arkansas political success. The comments I saw tended to track political preference. Republicans like to call Ross "angry." Democrats see Hutchinson as condescending. But I did see some people I know to be Democratic voters make favorable remarks on social media about Hutchinson on this score, even while giving Ross the debate victory on substance points. If that turns out to be any measure of the electorate come November, it could be critical. Final decisions by 8 to 10 percent of voters are going to decide this race. Come lever-pulling time, it's more likely to be shaped by a general impression than a deep belief that one candidate was preferable on the governor's quick action closing fund.

* MY BOTTOM LINE: This debate won't go down in the history books as definitive.

PS — I got this e-mail debate evaluation from a Ross maximum financial contributor:

He just does not come off as warm as Asa. The view of Asa on the screen was more head-on and you viewed mostly the side of Ross' head as he answered questions. Asa, I don't believe truly has a well thought out plan as compared to Ross, but it just may not matter. Thought Ross spent way too much precious time talking about grandma and grandpa and should have been saying why he was different in a positive way.

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