Tom Barrett Wins Second Debate With Scott Walker, Mike Gousha True Professional Broadcaster
What a difference a few days can make when it comes to debating your political opponent. While I was not impressed with the first performance from Tom Barrett last week, I was thrilled with his demeanor and framing of the questions that were asked Thursday night.
With conviction and well-crafted responses Tom Barrett projected strength and a no-nonsense manner that appeared to set Scott Walker back during the hour-long debate. One of my complaints from the first debate was that Walker never appeared to be knocked from his narrative. That was not the case Thursday.
Time after time Barrett made sharp comparisons with Walker, and used his time most effectively to underscore the reason this state is facing a recall election, and how he would work to fix the problems we face. Walker was forced to respond to the charges that were leveled against him.
While Walker was all sunshine and able to dance around the questions in last week’s debate, he had to adjust to a much more professional moderator who peppered the candidates with questions aimed at drawing out more thoughtful and comprehensive answers. Mike Gousha knows Wisconsin politics, and also is not one to allow for a non-answer to continue taking up valuable air time.
It was apparent that Walker had been coached on how to try to achieve this political skill of eating up time in a debate, but Gousha has dealt with the ‘Walkers’ of politics before, and pressed forward. It was one of the best debates I have watched in some time, in large measure due to how Gousha framed the questions, used time for the advantage of the audience, and focused on issues that mattered.
The punch line of the night concerned the John Doe probe. With almost an actors sense of timing Barrett delivered the line that will reverberate around the lunch counters and offices Friday. He stated ““I have a police department that arrests felons. He has a practice of hiring them.”
I also had to clap when Barrett noted he has been in public life for 28 years and no one from his staff has ever been charged with a crime, and he’s never had a criminal defense fund. (Walker is the only sitting governor in the nation with a criminal defense fund.)
The most telling response about the intentions of Walker was when pressed to answer if he would sign or veto a bill creating a right-to-work state, the only thing the governor could offer was that the legislation “would not get” to his desk, and as such would not specifically answer the question. Duck and run works best when no one is watching. In front of a live statewide audience it was a most revealing moment about Walker who has proved to be dishonest, and prone to radical lurches to the far-right.
The most emotional part of the debate concerned the attack ad from the Walker campaign showing a dead baby. It was clear Barrett was angry, and took time to call the governor out on it. Looking at Walker and pressing his point the mayor said ”that is Willie Horton stuff,” and ”you should be ashamed of that commercial, Scott Walker.”
Will the debate move people to change their minds? No. At this stage no one not in a coma (as noted in a funny way in a recent edition of the Isthmus) is truly undecided. For at least 15 months Wisconsin voters have known what they would do if a recall election took place.
What I think the debate might have achieved is building on the abundant energy to get Democrats to the polls in record numbers. Barrett delivered a dynamic debate performance that we can be proud of as the campaign enters the final weekend with a sharp contrast with Walker, whose only objective is ”divide and conquer.”
Tom Barrett showed during the debate Wisconsin has another path it can take come Tuesday.