Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Debate Comments

As reported in most major media outlets, the debate last night between the Democratic candidates for governor of Florida was anything but exciting. Here's my impressions.

McBride had the most to gain. He's in second place (although still tens of points down), has endorsements out the wazoo (as noted here by Mark Lane), is the candidate of the party establishment, teachers' union, etc. I couldn't tell that there was anything leadership-like about him. He didn't make any compelling case that he should be governor, although he did do a pretty good job of reminding folks that Jeb! shouldn't be.

Daryl Jones, in third place in the polls, probably did actually gain the most. He was effective in presenting himself as someone who knew his way around Tallahassee, and he demostrated lots of energy. Maybe too much energy. Maybe to the point of crossing a threshold that says, "whoa there fella, slow down". He was just a bit over the top: from the Jerry Brown-esque "here's my 800 number" and "here's my website" to donning a hardhat during his closing statement (reflecting back to his comments about home building in his opening statement). Still, if he does get folks out on street corners -- wearing yellow hardhats and giving out Jones campaign material -- it'll likely be worth the momentary no-shame quality it had last night.

Reno was effective if boring. Unlike McBride, she didn't need to demonstrate leadership qualities because she's a known quantity. Too much so for some people. Still, everyone knows she's got cajones the size of avacadoes. She seemed to have learned a few things from sitting at the Cabinet table with Bill Clinton: how to slip in the anecdote, how to raise several issues in one answer. Still, except in stature, she was not head and shoulders above the other two candidates.

Overall ranking: A very close debate with only marginal differences between the candidates. I'd say Reno won, Jones came in second, and McBride third.

I also think that Reno is very likely to win the primary and to be much more effective against Jeb! than is currently presumed, especially by the Anyone-But-Reno crowd. She held her own against her own boss (Clinton) and the Republican leadership in Congress, so I figure she's likely to eviscerate Jeb! to a much better degree -- even if she does it in sly and subtle ways -- that many have realized. She may have strong negatives, but she can probably make clear those of the sitting governor better than the other two candiates.