How did Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton do in the debates? The News & Observer asked three Triangle political pundits to share their reactions. The consensus: Dalton didn't do enough.
David B. McLennan, professor of communication and political science at Peace College: “Walter Dalton had a difficult task in the debate – to knock down Pat McCrory and to create a compelling vision of a Dalton governorship. Although Dalton attacked McCrory on his personal income taxes, his salary as mayor, and a racially insensitive ad, the attacks seemed overly shrill and ineffective.
"Dalton also had problems maintaining focus with his answers to questions about what he would do as governor, especially those about health care and tax incentives for businesses. On these responses, Dalton got bogged down with details and tangents. McCrory, on the other hand, clearly answered the questions and effectively defended himself against Dalton’s criticisms. On the whole, this was not the debate that Walter Dalton needed to cut into a double-digit lead that Pat McCrory enjoys in the polls.”
J. Michael Bitzer, associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College: “Dalton certainly came out aggressive in this debate, and he needed to. McCrory tried to take the high road early on, but responded to Dalton’s attacks with the “Perdue-Dalton administration/good-ole-boy and good-ole-girl” charges.
"Both men focused on a number of specific policy issues, but details seemed lacking on both sides, particularly in facing the realities confronting the state. One of the clear winners tonight seemed to be rural voters, with both candidates actively courting that constituency. McCrory seemed to present a more coherent campaign message that stuck to common themes of his campaign, while Dalton seemed to be trying to find a general campaign theme throughout.”
John Davis, political analyst and editor of the Raleigh-based John Davis Political Report: “Pat McCrory did not have to win the debate to win the governor’s race, he simply had to avoid making a big mistake. He accomplished that. Polls consistently show his support at 50 percent with at least a 10-point lead over Walter Dalton.
"Conversely, Walter Dalton’s support has been stalled around 38 percent ever since his late entry into the race due to Gov. Perdue’s … last-minute decision to not seek re-election. Dalton desperately needed a clear win in the debate to jump start his campaign. He failed to do that.”