Saturday, October 13, 2012

Republican Mike Pence Easily Outshines Democrat John Gregg in Gubernatorial Debate; Libertarian Rupert Boneham Finishes Second

I had time tonight to watch and make detailed notes of the gubernatorial debate involving Republican Mike Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.  Disclaimer upfront is that I am a supporter of Pence.  Our paths crossed at Hanover College and again at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, where I followed Pence as an unabashed advocate of conservative views, something not always popular in a student body filled with liberals.  With that disclaimer out there, here is my scoring of the debate.
Mike Pence, Republican Candidate for Governor

DEBATE FORMAT:  Political candidates are often faulted for speaking in sound bites instead of providing details detailed answers during debates.  But the problem is the rules.  The rules of this debate called for one minute opening statements, one minute answers to questions, 30 second rebuttals, and a 90 second closing statement. Candidates, facing those ridiculously short time restrictions, are placed in a position where they can give little more than soundbites.


All the candidates talked about their background. In addition to the biography, Gregg emphasized jobs, education,  bipartisanship, Gregg talked about his mentoring program and empowerment, Pence talked about the importance of economic growth and plugged his road map.

The candidates didn't get much time to do anything in the 60 second introduction.  On my 10 point scale, I score it as:

Round One Scoring:  Gregg 10, Pence 10, Boneham 10

ROUND TWO (Question:  How do you improve education given that more spending didn't result in better educated children.)

This question was asked by Andy Keil (sp.).  In asking how the candidates proposed improving education, he premised his question with the assertion that between 1980 and 2007 spending per student rose ten fold to now where spending per pupil is at $10,000, yet student test scores went down.    None of the candidates challenged the statistical premise cited by Keil.  While I'm not sure about Kiel's figures, I have seen figures showing spending on K-12 education increasing for decades far above the inflation rate.

Gregg answered by saying that the war on public education needed to end.  He cited his background as former President of Vincinnes University.  He emphasized a collaborative approach to reform that put teachers, principles and superintendents at the table.  He also emphasized preschool education.  

Boneham talked about teachers teaching to the test and that students are over tested.  He emphasized vocational education.

Pence talked about how public schools in the state had been struggling and that parents should be provided more choice, and teachers more freedom to teach.  He said there needed to be more emphasis on vocational education. 

The question was one designed for Pence to hit out of the park.  Instead he hit a double into the gap.  Pence should have emphasized how we've poured money into public education far above the inflation rate and we need to try a different approach such as charter schools and vouchers for parents too impoverished to afford private schools.  Pence talked about choice but wasn't specific enough. Still his response was better than Gregg's.  While putting teachers at the table is at the education reform table, there are no bigger obstructionists to education reform than principles and superintendents.  They would put the brakes on reform.  Pence and Boneham both scored talking about the importance of vocational education.

Round Two Scoring,  Boneham 10, Pence 10, Gregg 9
Total After Round Three:  Boneham 20, Pence 20, Gregg 19

ROUND THREE (Question:  How do you propose to make college more affordable, cut down on student debt, and provide useful skills.)

Question was asked by Bobbi Craig, office manager from Osgood.   Boneham talked about something I've seen first hand, students arriving at college unprepared to learn and having to take remedial classes.  Boneham's answer then kind of trailed off, talking about obscure things like putting books on e-readers, a good idea, but not something worthy of the limited 60 second answer.

Rupert Boneham, Libetarian Candidate for Governor
Pence brought in the personal touch, speaking of his three kids, two of which are in college.  He talked about how only 1/3 of students complete college in four years, and that providing incentives for on-time completion was a good idea. He cited a specific example, Indiana University, where that incentive program was being implemented.

Gregg again took the opportunity to plug the fact he was President of Vincinnes University.  He talked proudly of the effectiveness of Indiana's community college system and satellite campuses in making college affordable.  I thought the position was puzzling.  Indiana is near the bottom in residents with four year degrees and one of the chief reasons is the lack of a strong community college system.  Gregg did mention the problem with new building construction driving up costs.  Gregg capped off his answer by talking about the use of geothermal energy by Ball State University.  Gregg was all over the place on his answer.

Pence stayed focused throughout.  Gregg a question later adeptly pointed out a flaw with Pence's higher education answer, but since it didn't happen in response to this question, the point goes to Pence.

Round Three Scoring,  Pence 10, Gregg 9, Boneham 9
Total After Round Three:  Pence 30, Boneham 29, Gregg 28,

ROUND FOUR (Question: What role does mental health services play in education.)

The question was asked by Brett Rash (sp), a social worker from Fishers.  Even though the question wasn't up Pence's alley, he started talking about things he did know such as innovation and reform of education.  He talked about graduation rates and test scores being up.  Said mental health is important as is early intervention.  Pence then mistakenly referred to where he was as Hamilton County.

Gregg, a question late, hammered the fact that Pence's road-map wasn't good for non-traditional students.  He pointed out that many people, like himself, worked through college and couldn't graduate in four years.  He then talked about the cut in mental health funding and his role as an attorney working with Knox County hospital.

Boneham started off strong, recognizing the questioner.  Then it was downhill from there.  He talked about his career mentoring program.  He spoke of creating a system impacting the quality of life.  The rest of the answer was a bit rambling.  It was Boneham's worst point of the night.

On rebuttal, Pence admitted that Gregg had a point about non-traditional students, but then he went back to the importance of completing a degree on time.  Gregg again talked about mental health cuts and that the state surplus came from cut.  He talked about the millions of dollars DCS returned to the treasury despite problems.  It was Gregg's strongest response of the night.  Boneham talked about disclosure and seeing what happened. 

Round Four Scoring:  Gregg 10, Pence 9, Boneham 8
Total After Round Four:  Pence 39, Boneham 38, Gregg 38

ROUND FIVE (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Gregg's Statement)

In this format, a candidate starts off with a one minute statement, the other two candidates have two minutes to respond, then the original candidate gets one minute to close.  John Gregg led off by talking about manufacturing in Indiana, and growing and protecting Indiana jobs from competition.  He even brought up coal gasification (but failed to score points by mentioning on the controversial Rockport project).  Gregg could have used the statement to put his opponents in a position of responding to a popular position he had taken.  Instead it was sixty seconds of rambling that both candidates ignored in their responses.

Boneham answered by talking about creating a fair and level playing field and decreasing business taxes in order to have the lowest business taxes in the Midwest.  He talked about putting people to work and empowering people.  He talked about putting people to work and empowering people.

While Boneham's response was okay, Pence's was on the money.  He said that the next Governor should make job creation a priority.  He talked about fiscal integrity, talking specifically about three priorities.  (I counted four.)   1) ensuring there is an adequate surplus; 2) returning money to taxpayers; 3) freezing regulations; and 4) supporting education.  While it wasn't a response to Gregg's rambling one minute statement, it was an excellent outline of policy.

Gregg used his one minute rebuttal to hit Pence, saying the Congressman didn't support the auto industry when given the chance.  He talked abut how Anderson had 23,000 auto jobs and how it today has none.  While Gregg's flurry came late in the round, he did narrow the loss in the round fro two points to one.

Round  Five Scoring:  Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 9
Total After Round Four: Pence 49, Boneham 47, Gregg 47

ROUND SIX (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Boneham's Statement)

The Libertarian opened up by talking about criminal justice reform and the fact that some felons deserve a second chance.  He talked about empowering those people, making them productive members of society.  Boneham is clearly most comfortable talking about his issue.

Pence gave the first two minute response. He thanked Boneham for raising this issue.  While Pence said he wanted to make Indiana the worst place for one to be to commit a felony, he recognized the importance of giving people a second chance. Pence talked about working with Congresswoman Julia Carson on the Second Chance Act, transition programs.  Pence said that the government needed to do better to work on helping people start over.  Those of use who see the need for corrections reform have to be encouraged by Pence's response.

Gregg responded to Boneham's opening statement about criminal justice reforms by talking about wind turbines and alternative energy.  He asked why parts on the turbines were being made overseas.  He mentioned that there was no rail policy.  He talked about his opposition to free trade.  He said he was proud of his record as speaker, and would stay away from divisive social issues.  The response was rambling and made no sense to what Boneham's original statement was.
John Gregg, Democratic Candidate for Governor

Boneham was given sixty seconds to close.  He said it is a bad policy to lock up non-violent offenders in jails with violent offenders.  He talked about how many people are hurting and they want a second chance in life.  he said prisons should be used for violent criminals.

Round  Six Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 10, Gregg 8
Total After Round Four: Pence 59, Boneham 57, Gregg 55

ROUND SEVEN (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Pence's Statement)

Pence's opening statement dealt with fiscal responsibility.  He mentioned that when Governor Daniels' took office, the state had an $800 million deficit and owed $800 million to local units of government.  He talked about the need for fiscal discipline to make sure the budget balanced.

Gregg talked about the way to achieve fiscal discipline is to have bipartisan control over government, in this case a Republican General Assembly with a Democratic Governor.  He talked about Pence missing 86% of his votes and how Pence had never passed a bill.  He tried to paraphrase the Lloyd Bentsen line to Dan Quayle about knowing Jack Kennedy, by saying Gregg knows Mitch Daniels and Pence is no Mitch Daniels.  The problem is a few words into the line, Gregg had to look down and consult his notes.  Gregg then said Pence voted five times to raise the debt and that he was a lead warrior in the "War on Women."  He also worked in to his answer tea party extremists.  The answer was, once again, unfocused rambling that this time included tag lines Gregg appeared to be trying to get on the board before the time ran out on the debate.

Boneham talked about being tripartisan.  He talked about the state's misplaced tax dollars.  Boneham repeated the suggestion that local government take a greater role in collecting taxes rather than receive money from the state.

In his one minute rebuttal, a testy Pence talked about his having at least a 955 attendance record and that he was named one of the hardest-working representatives in Congress.  He then said that according to public records 5 of the 6 years that John Gregg was speaker, the state ran deficits.

Round Seven Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 8
Total After Round Seven: Pence 69, Boneham 66, Gregg 63

ROUND EIGHT (Question:  What is your position on the Affordable Care Act?)

The question asked by Michelle McGuire (sp?) an insurance act first went to John Gregg. Gregg complimented Governor Daniels by bringing him and his running mate, state senator Vi Simpson in for a discussion of the ACA.  According to Gregg, Daniels said the law wouldn't be repealed.   Gregg said he thought the state should take a hybrid approach to adopting. 

Boneham said his views has changed and that ACA is here to stay.  Can't plan on it being repealed.  He pointed viewers to his five page report on his website.

Pence said Obamacare needs to be repealed.  He said it raises taxes on Hoosiers and will increase health care insurance premiums.  Pence gave an example of the medical device tax costing an expansion of jobs.  The congressman said he was against the enactment of a state exchange for health care.

Round  Eight Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 10, Gregg 10
Total After Round Seven: Pence 79, Boneham 76, Gregg 73

ROUND NINE (Question: What is the role of unions in today's society.)

This question came from Michael Moody a pilot who lives in Georgetown, Indiana. Boneham used it to talk about his being a card-carrying union member (he didn't say which union), and his opposition to the right to work legislation. Pence recognized the important role unions have played in history, but said he believed in individual freedom and people shouldn't be forced to join a union as part of their employment. (Actually, I think technically they couldn't be forced to join a union prior to RTW, but they could be forced to pay fair share union dues.). Gregg talked in detail about the accomplishments of unions, such as the 8-10 hour work day and that RTW will lead to lower wage jobs. The 30 second rebuttals were basically worthless, though Gregg did claim Pence contradicted himself by saying Pence believed unions had done good things, but then supported RTW.

Round Nine Scoring, Gregg 10, Pence 10, Boneham 10
Total After Two Rounds:  Pence 89, Boneham, 86, Gregg 83

ROUND TEN (Closing Statements)

Pence talked about being a lifelong Hoosier, and building a business.  He talked about the uniqueness of the time and having the right leaders to lead.  He reemphasized his road map and the need for a fast growing economy.  It was a relative weak close to a strong debate performance.

Like Pence, Gregg, talked about his resume, creating jobs and his experience in state government, including his balancing of the budget.  He said the election depends on Lugar Republicans and talked about the tea party extremists.  Gregg then said extremists of both sides should look for another candidate.  It was a rambling, unfocused close to a rambling, unfocused debate performance.

Boneham like the others talked about his resume, though emphasizing he was not a career politicians.  He talked about getting government out of charities.  The Libertarian said if the people want change, they need to elect change.  He said it is not enough that Indiana is doing better than its neighbors.  Boneham's close wasn't particularly strong either.

Round Ten Scoring:  Pence 9, Boneham 9, Gregg 9
Total After Two Rounds: Pence 98, Boneham, 95, Gregg 92

BONUS ROUND (Overall, Including Visual)

Mike Pence was the best debater from a visual standpoint.  He seemed the least stiff and to have the most organized thoughts that were (usually) responsive to the question asked.  Pence could be a lot stronger though.  One thing Pence needs to do when he gets a question from the audience is, to thank that audience member for the question addressing him or her by name at the outset of the response. (People love being addressed by their name.)  However, all the candidates failed to do this, with the exception of one Rupert response.  Pence also needs to include more specifics in his answers.  For example, when he says "school choice," he needs to say "charter schools" and "vouchers."   He mentioned his income tax proposal only once.  He talked too much in generalities, but the format of the debate made that almost necessary.

Rupert Boneham was surprisingly good.  He did have moments where his comments were rambling and unresponsive, but those moments were much fewer than they were with seasoned politician John Gregg.  Boneham could have offered more specifics...but of course the limited time makes that difficult.  Boneham does overuse the word "empower."  His campaign team needs to limit him to 2-3 empowers per debate.  Boneham also does need to work on blinking more.  His unblinking manner is going to make certain people uncomfortable.  A smile every now and then wouldn't hurt.

Having not watched the debate until several days later, my expectations were mostly based on what I read on social networks sites like Facebook and various blogs.  Those expectations turned out to be totally off.  When I got around to watching the video, I frankly was shocked at how bad John Gregg was.  He was totally unfocused and rambling at times, moving nonsensically from one topic to another.  Then at other times he seemed desperate to try to stick in talking points into an answer, even if it didn't fit the topic being discussed.  He may not be aware of it, but there are a lot of conservative Democrats who identify with the Tea Party, which began as a populist revolt against corporate welfare.  Dissing Tea Party People and signing on to the "War on Women" nonsense isn't going to score points in conservative Indiana. 

Visually, Gregg was stiff and didn't come across as the affable, country lawyer people who know him say that he is.  There wasn't any warmth there at all.  While Pence and Boneham didn't score high on that point either, Gregg was worse.

Bonus Round Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 8
FINAL TOTAL: Pence 108, Boneham, 104, Gregg 100.

1 comment:

Nicolas Martin said...

In other words, Boneham avoided saying anything even vaguely libertarian. With genuine libertarians having basically abandoned the LP in favor of not-voting or Republican marginalism, this is a party without value.