The News & Observer asked four area political pundits to share their reaction about Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate. Here are their thoughts:
Andy Taylor, political scientist at N.C. State University: “The candidates are really beginning to distinguish themselves. Faison was feisty, repeatedly using language that the party’s base would approve of. Etheridge discussed his experience and steady hand, embracing his Washington record in a way you just don’t see candidates doing these days. Dalton, perhaps because he is left with no choice, projected himself as a technocrat, full of practical ideas.”
Thomas Mills, Democratic political strategist and co-founder of Bates & Mills Consulting in Carrboro: “The candidates’ closing arguments summed up their appearances pretty well. Walter Dalton talked about programs and policies; Bob Etheridge talked about experience and leadership; and Bill Faison talked about himself.”
John N. Davis, political analyst and editor of the Raleigh-based John Davis Political Report: “Bill Faison won the UNC-TV debate hands down by staying focused on the most important issues of the day, jobs and the economy, by answering the questions with strength of anti-establishment conviction, and by barely restraining from spitting every time he said the word Republican. He looked into the camera with the confidence of a military leader readying for battle and fire in his eyes when he mentioned the GOP’s “radical social agenda.”
Walter Dalton knows too much about the wrong issues for a one-minute answer about the right ones, but still tries to say it all. Intense, fast-talking, arm-waving government speak does not inspire the kind of passion that will move voters … towards you. Bob Etheridge is a gentleman politician steeped in Democratic tradition and bogged down in the issues, priorities and solutions of the past.”
Bob Orr, former state Supreme Court Justice now an attorney with Poyner Spruill in Raleigh: “Thank goodness for the GOP-controlled General Assembly which provided the Democratic gubernatorial candidates much of their material for Tuesday night’s debate. Lt. Gov. Dalton wins best overall with more depth and breadth of solid answers about a myriad of programs. However, his reliance on his experience and involvement with all these programs may not be the winning message.
Bill Faison incorporates “jobs” into every possible answer to every question regardless of the topic. He’s hitched his campaign to jobs, kicking “the radical Republican agenda” and appealing to the liberal base. The surprise is how effective former Congressman Etheridge was in answering questions and communicating in a comfortable style. Obamacare? “I support it.” Reason to vote for him? “Leadership.” The Republicans should not underestimate him if he gets the nomination. Finally, having watched the debate in person, in studio at WUNC-TV there wasn’t a smile or attempt at humor by any of them. For three personable individuals the winner will need to ramp up the charm factor in the general election.”