Perhaps is because we live in a battleground state not only in terms of the presidential election, but also because there is a heated and very important senate race taking place which will help shape the control of Congress. Maybe it is due to the continual bombardment of campaign ads that dominate every hour of television in the state. Perhaps it is because everywhere there is a negative political tone and nasty rhetoric.
Maybe it is because like most Americans we are coming to the point of casting a ballot, knowing full well who we will support and why.
Because of all that has already happened I watched the debate from a different angle tonight.
As I sat watching the final Wisconsin senate debate I was entertained at moments by the candidates, and frustrated at other points. I laughed when there was a shared moment of agreement, and again when Republican Tommy Thompson mimicked playing a harp. I cheered when Democrat Tammy Baldwin gave a passionate response to the charges leveled against her regarding a vote on a 9/11 resolution.
But I must say from the start of the debate to the finish I was most pleased by the continual professionalism, calm and focused demeanor, and solid grasp that Mike Gousha displayed on television. It was like watching someone marshall a large unwieldly load on a flatbed truck traveling 50-miles-an hour on the interstate during high winds while watching out for all sorts of obstacles. But Mike Gousha knew where his destination lay. That was making sure the viewers of the debate were allowed as much access to the wide variety of topics and perspectives as could be crunched into an hour.
We all have witnessed how various moderators, both nationally and statewide, have tried to fulfill their role in what can only be described as a very tough job. Some did better than others. Too many times candidates tried to set new rules during the debates, or talk over and above someone else. At times this year, going all the way back to the Republican primary season, it seemed like a lion trainer might be better suited for the role of moderator than a seasoned journalist.
It is not easy to sit as a moderator when political passions from candidates run high.
That is why I am so pleased with what I saw tonight. No other moderator this year, in my estimation, rose to the level of Mike Gousha as he kept tonight’s debate focused, fair, and to this political watcher, fun.
The voters are deciding already with early balloting who the next senator from Wisconsin will be.
But there is no doubt who the winner is from the last debate in Wisconsin.
It is Mike Gousha.
( P.S. No, he is not a relative. He is just worthy of lots of praise tonight.)