Swing voters analyze debates for Senate and governorby Andrew Haeg, Minnesota Public Radio
Several people in our Swing Voters group listened to debates for U.S. Senate and governor and shared their insights about the issues the candidates discussed, the tone of the debates, what resonated with them and what did not.
The gubernatorial debate featured Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, DFLer Mike Hatch, Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel. The debate was held at FarmFest in Redwood Falls on Aug. 2.
The Senate debate took place at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 1, and featured Republican Mark Kennedy, DFLerAmy Klobuchar and Independence Party candidate Robert Fitzgerald.
Kelly Johnson of Apple Valley, 29
The candidates I was most impressed with were the current Gov. Pawlenty and the Independence Party candidate Hutchinson.
Oddly enough, of all the debate questions I found the simplest to be the elucidating: Why should I vote for you? I think both Pawlenty and Hutchinson did an excellent job of addressing this question.
Hutchinson's answer especially resonated with me. (He talked about taking on the job with a team who wanted to get things done). What most often frustrates me about government is how little consensus and compromise-building goes on, because politicians are too concerned about re-election and political posturing to become serious about making difficult decisions to get things moving forward.
Although the tone of this debate was much more civil than that of the Senate race, I think that several candidates, especially Hatch, spent too much time attacking each other and thus ignored or were very vague on the questions they were asked. Senate:
Overall if the election were held tomorrow I would be most likely vote for Klobuchar or Fitzgerald.
I was impressed with Klobuchar's cool under constant attack from Kennedy. I also was impressed with her detailed information, plans she outlined and her concise direct answers to the questions posed to her.
This was in stark contrast to Kennedy, whose comments were very vague and rambling -- often not sticking to the question he was asked, to go back to attack Klobuchar regarding a previous question.
To me, how a candidate behaves and presents their opinion is almost as important as their position on the issues. Government is about building consensus and compromise, not destruction and posturing. Klobuchar and Fitzgerald both seemed much more able to work to this end than Kennedy.
As an aside: Although I appreciate the need for public debate, I think the live audience perhaps adversely affected the debate by causing additional polarization. And sometimes made it difficult to hear and sort out what the candidates were proposing.
Randall Romsdahl, Minnetonka, 51
Tim Pawlenty repeatedly asserts that he fixed the budget crisis in Minnesota. I don't believe him.
The governor has very little to do with the economy. Whatever happens in the national economy happens in Minnesota. National economic recovery brought Minnesota along with it.
Hatch made strong arguments for his advocacy for the people of Minnesota and sounded more practical. Pentel was very appealing regarding both the environment and single-payer health insurance, but has no chance of being elected. If he had a chance to win, he would be very appealing.
Hutchinson was inconsistent and incoherent.
Mark Kennedy's assertion that he is an agent for change is astounding. His dear old Mom must have forgotten to teach him the values of honesty, conviction and courage.
Amy Klobuchar's ambiguous position on America's war against Iraq is disappointing.
All of the candidates failed to mention or support energy conservation as an energy policy tool, and failed to mention or support reductions in military spending as a means to reduce the deficit.
Both [Kennedy and Klobuchar] are more interested in getting elected than doing the right thing, but neither can do anything as a senator unless they are elected. So either the voters are voting against their interests, or the candidates have failed to understand the voters.
I have more trust in Klobuchar to be a change agent than Kennedy. The independent candidate was most appealing on the issues, but perhaps because he isn't burdened with the possibility of being elected.
Satoru (San) Asato, Edina, 48
The debate was civil and well-moderated. Candidates operated within the debate rules, and the audience was well behaved. But because the venue was FarmFest, the target audience and issues were clearly rural and agricultural. As a resident of the Twin Cities, I felt that the bulk of the debate was not relevant to me personally.
Furthermore, I have had multiple occasions to listen to the top three candidates. Listening to the debate, I felt that candidates were on auto-pilot -- pretty much regurgitating what they have scripted and practiced. Perhaps I'm cynical, but candidate responses sounded very much canned, focusing on sound bites and tag lines.
The audience was unruly. Their partisan heckling detracted from the debate. MPR should have done a better job of controlling the crowd as it did during the gubernatorial debate.
As for the debate itself, candidates were combative but entertaining. Amy Klobuchar sounded self-assured to the point of being cocky. Mark Kennedy sounded unwilling to honor his own congressional record. Robert Fitzgerald sounded marginal.
My single biggest interest issue for the Senate race is Iraq. To my surprise, Amy Klobuchar appealed to me the most -- a moderate position of taking responsibility as a nation for invading Iraq, but establishing a workable and realistic timetable for withdrawal.
But nothing Klobuchar said was original. She echoes positions taken by moderates from both parties.
Fernando Nacionales, Saint Paul, 38
I was surprised to hear that Hutchinson seemed to be the candidate that mirrored my own views the most. I've never really followed him before.
I liked the idea of less central control, and letting local municipalities have more control. His views on health care also struck the right cord with me.
Senate: I thought Amy Klobuchar was aggressive and witty. Kennedy seemed to be on the defensive most of the debate. Fitzgerald sounded very even-keeled.
The substance of the debate centered on too much dependence on government solutions to just about every issue raised. Klobuchar, in particular, seemed to have the Democratic talking points down pat.