Point/Counterpoint: Who won the second Senate debate?

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Ernst stuck to issues, not catch phrases

The Iowan Senate race has tightened. A new Iowa poll released this weekend shows that Ernst is only leading by 1 percentage point; the Real Clear Politics average shows Ernst leading Braley by only 0.8 percentage point. Both candidates realize that it will be the independent and undecided voters who will sway this election.

A science teacher at the beginning of the debate applauded both candidates for agreeing to debate, saying, “I think it is important that voters be allowed to choose their candidate based on direct information rather than advertising.” Unfortunately, as the night progressed, it started to seem as if Braley didn’t get the message.

Rather than trying to dive into the issues, Braley focused on using the same corny catch phrases and tactics that you would expect to see in a 30-second advertisement. His most popular one this night was “sound bites have consequences.” 

For example, in one instance he used this catch phrase to make it seem as if he had proved that Ernst is someone who doesn’t care about the environment. While it may be an easy way to attract listeners, it was far from what they were talking about. Immediately before his statement, Ernst had expressed her desire to make environmental protections a state duty. Instead of arguing on the merits of whether the state or federal government would provide the more effective regulations, Braley used the moment to take a cheap shot.

Later in the debate, he used the same catch phrase to paint Ernst as someone who will not keep her promises to seniors. This of course implies … that he will. However, when both of them explained their positions further, there wasn’t much of a difference in their stances. Both agree that Social Security is a problem. Braley considers raising revenue for Social Security through taxes and increasing the minimum wage. Ernst agrees that increasing taxes is an option and is also considering privatizing Social Security for younger people. In fact, the moment after he said that “there is a big difference between on us on this issue,” Ernst agreed that all options, including Braley’s, are on the table. In essence, Braley again overly dramatized the issue to garner attention.

Independent voters who may not have made up their minds yet need straight facts on the issues, not the catch phrases used in political advertisements. Braley wasn’t the only one trying to take cheap shots, but his constant repetition of “sound bites have consequences” certainly didn’t help spark an intellectual exchange of ideas.

— Michael Korobov

Braley showcased his ideals

The Oct. 11 Senate debate between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst was an opportunity for the two main political parties in the United States to display their platforms more than it was an opportunity for them to showcase their intentions for the coming term, or so it seemed.

While the focus of the debate was less on what each candidate would be willing and able to do should he or she win the election and more on addressing one of the most heated advertising battles in the recent U.S. election history, Braley better expressed his stance on the key issues.

While Braley had no choice but to address and include in his arguments the “sound bites” of Ernst’s that we’ve been hearing incessantly, he focused his attention on the needs of the citizens, both in Iowa and around the country.

Throughout the debate, Braley concentrated on the middle class, addressing his intentions to vote with increases in minimum wage and to do his best to revitalize the manufacturing base in the state and around the country.

When Obamacare became the topic of the debate, Ernst claimed “every Iowan and American has the right to affordable quality health care, but Obamacare is not the answer to that.” Ernst’s contradictory statement was worsened by the fact that when she continued with her argument, she failed to present an alternative to Obamacare, merely claiming that it wasn’t the answer.

The debate inevitably turned its attention to Super PACs and money coming from outside Iowa for the candidates when moderator Ron Steele brought up a recent commercial sponsored by the NRA Political Victory Fund that indicated Braley and Michael Bloomberg had become buddies and that Braley, subsequently, intends to limit the Second Amendment rights of Iowans. “I’ve never met Michael Bloomberg,” responded Braley to an uproar of laughter from the audience. Braley continued on to point out the flawed nature of the attack ads against him.

This is an aspect of the debate in which Braley excelled, when the topic was turned to attack ads, he turned back to the underlying issue, using the opportunity to address how his focus is on decreasing gun violence does not limit Second Amendment rights.

If for no other reason, Braley out-performed his opponent in the debate because he spent the majority of his speaking time on the people of Iowa, while Ernst seemed to spend the bulk of her time talking about national politics.

— Joe Lane

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