A consensus appears to be emerging amongst the pundit class when it comes to Harry Reid’s performance in last night’s debate with Sharron Angle: He stank. Check out what the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sherman Frederick wrote.
Sharron Angle won The Big Debate.
Angle won because she looked relatively credible, appearing not to be the Wicked Witch of the West (Christine O’Donnell is the good witch of the Tea Party) and scoring many more rhetorical points. And she won because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked as if he could barely stay on a linear argument, abruptly switching gears and failing to effectively parry or thrust.
Whether the debate affects the outcome — I believe very few Nevadans are undecided — it also perfectly encapsulated the race: An aging senator who has mastered the inside political game but fundamentally does not seem to care about his public role (and is terrible at it) versus an ever-smiling political climber who can deliver message points but sometimes changes her message or denies a previous one even existed.
Look upon these works, ye mighty, and despair.
New Republic’s T.A. Frank whines:
I could go on with my laments about Reid’s performance—about how he fumbled an answer on Social Security, about how he picked Antonin Scalia and Byron “Whizzer” White as particular Supreme Court favorites, about how he couldn’t find his closing statement and wound up shuffling through his papers and then reading something that didn’t really work anyway. But we’re all busy people. No, let’s not dwell on the past, the 12-long-hours-ago past.
Anyway, the biggest problem wasn’t that Harry Reid is a bad debater, though that he clearly is. The trouble was that Reid faced an opponent of far stronger beliefs and far fewer scruples. In an appraisal of the rambling style of George Bush the Elder, Michael Kinsley once speculated on the relationship between convictions and manner of speaking. “A man anchored in true beliefs of some sort not only would be more articulate in expressing those beliefs,” wrote Kinsley. “He would make a better liar, too.” This was why “Ronald Reagan, a man of a few, clear, rock-hard beliefs, was a brilliant liar.” Harry Reid basically offered the truth, but with little conviction or coherence. Sharron Angle offered conviction and coherence, but with very little truth. You might prefer the former type of salesperson, but which one makes the sale?
He actually has it backwards on who was lying and who was telling the truth, but we’ll give him credit anyway for declaring the obvious truth about how Reid’s debate performance, well, sucked.
Throughout the Nevada Senate campaign, it was Republican Sharron Angle who looked unprepared for-prime-time. But after last night’s debate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked more like the gaffe-prone politician as he struggled to make headway in one of the closest and most consequential Senate contests.
Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to “man up” – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant.
“I’m not a career politician,” Angle said in her opening remarks. “I live in a middle class neighborhood in Reno; Senator Reid lives in the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.”
Reid, recognizing the importance of the economy in this election, said his top priority as a senator is to create jobs. Angle retorted: “Harry Reid, it’s not your job to create jobs. It’s your job to create confidence to get the private sector to create jobs.”
Reid didn’t help his own cause either, fumbling through his notes during his closing statement and misidentifying the “Department of Education” as the “Department of Energy” and failing to aggressively take advantage of Angle’s very conservative positions on whole host of issues. And he offered frequent praise for a host of Republicans, like Antonin Scalia and former President George W. Bush, hardly a way to energize the Democratic base that’s so crucial to his success.
By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.
And really – how hard could it be to best Angle in a debate, considering how Reid and his campaign have relentlessly tried to paint her as an extremist nut on every issue under the sun, from health care to social security to the war on terror? Before Angle became the nominee, it was widely known that – behind the scenes – ReidCo. were hoping they’d have to face her in the general election because they figured the embattled Senate Majority Leader would make political mincemeat out of her so-called “extreme positions.” That said, while it’s true Angle has made some serious mistakes since becoming the GOP nominee, she’s held her own and has kept the poll numbers close in Nevada, which some polls showing her ahead within the margin of error, some dead even, and some showing her behind within the margin of error. Angle’s campaign is a clear example of how you never, never, never give up – even when everyone, including some in your own party, are telling you you’ll never succeed.
As for Reid? Well, his debate performance last night pretty much mirrored his performance as Senate Majority Leader: He’s a partisan hack, a colossal embarassment, a consumate liar, motivated primarily by self-interests rather than the interests of the people who sent him to the Senate, who was and is a miserable failure at his job. In the final few weeks leading up to election day – and while early voting is now taking place in Nevada – let’s hope its residents don’t forget that when casting their ballots.