Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson to debate in Little Rock tonight | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson to debate in Little Rock tonight

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 9:28 AM

click to enlarge ROSS: Behind in most polls, faces off against Asa Hutchinson in debate tonight.
  • ROSS: Behind in most polls, faces off against Asa Hutchinson in debate tonight.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross will have their second debate this evening. The hour-long debate, held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will air live statewide at 7 p.m. on KATV-7 and will also be live-streamed on station websites. KATV anchor Scott Inman will moderate the debate, with KHBS/KHOG’S Angela Taylor, KAIT’s Diana Davis, and Roby Brock of Talk Business on the panel. 

Perhaps this event will attract more viewers than the pair's first debate, a snoozer held on a Friday night. That one didn't seem to move the needle much. Ross fans said Ross won, Hutchinson fans said Hutchinson won. Few watched. 

Even though the new debate hasn't started, Republican operatives will presumably spend the day announcing that Ross seems angry, their preferred analysis of Debate #1. The "angry" refrain is repeated so often by GOPs that a more cynical reporter than myself might leap to the conclusion that the cheesy groupthink is a hackneyed attempt at a coordinated message. As far as I can tell, the tag hasn't left the circles of the already-converted, so whatever.

I am quite familiar with what angry people look like on television, and Ross didn't look angry to me. The words I would choose, for both Ross and Hutchinson: creepy and awkward. They're just not very good on TV. It's a bit unpleasant to watch. I sympathize — TV is hard and I'm no great shakes myself. The state has been spoiled with governors with a knack for it — Beebe, Huckabee, Clinton, etc. Some people have it and some people don't.      

No, the problem for Ross, currently behind in most polls, is that he really needs a home run. With less than a month to go, he needs to be great in his own right, or land a knockout punch against his opponent. Hutchinson has improved since his previous runs for statewide office, and while he's a bit oily and bland, he is running a solid campaign. He's made no major mistakes. While his flip-flopping and wish-washy maneuvering on the minimum wage and the private option have been laughably blatant, he's executed the dance with the kind of slick confidence that lets good politicians get away with nonsense. He's the front-runner and he's acting like it. 

That puts the pressure on Ross to score a major blow, either in this debate or some time soon. Can he do it? Ross has raised a lot of money, built a strong ground game, and run a safe campaign with no major flubs. That just might not be enough for a Democrat running for statewide office in Arkansas. Pryor has, to the surprise of many, run ahead of Ross. But that seems less about Pryor himself and more about his opponent. Tom Cotton comes with enough negatives to give the Democrats a fighting chance. It's much harder to take out a generic Republican. And what is Asa Hutchinson if not a generic Republican?  

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