Updated 07/23/2012 06:04 PM
On the Agenda: GOP Senate primary runoff debate engaging and revealing
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One of the tragedies for professional political observers is that we have to watch vacuous candidate debates that have been designed so that front-runners avoid making news by actually having to say what they think.
The gold standard was Rick Perry simply ducking debates with Democratic challenger Bill White over unrevealed tax returns. Sound familiar?
As it turned out, Gov. Perry might have fared better in his presidential run with a little more debate practice.
Well, surprisingly, last week’s Republican Senate runoff debate between David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz may have been the most interesting candidate exchange I have seen in a long time. The format was stark—two journalists and two candidates facing each other eye to eye across a table. None of the phony rules that make these events so excruciatingly dull.
The journalists controlled the time and persisted in follow-up questions that routinely knocked both Dewhurst and Cruz off of their standard canned talking points.
Both candidates had their share of stumbles and tortured answers in an effort to get back on message. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst completely bobbled explaining why his speech that included support of a guest worker program was removed from his state website and Mr. Cruz spun off into some unsubstantiated claim that Dewhurst had invested in China.
But for all the awkward moments and tortured answers, the debate said more about the two candidates than anything so far promoted by their mutually truth challenged campaigns.
Polling for this election is difficult because it is impossible to predict who will turn out. But what polling there is suggests Mr. Cruz is breaking away. His supporters are certainly more enthusiastic.
I don’t know who is going to win this runoff. What I do know is that Rick Perry crushed Tony Sanchez in the 2002 gubernatorial election despite being outspent four to one. Mr. Cruz may do the same.
Money counts, but this is the most anti-incumbent Republican primary cycle in a generation and in this case, money seems to be playing defense.
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