Who watched the Beebe - Hutchinson debate last night? It was a little hard for most people to catch, but it was shown live, online which might be a first for an Arkansas debate. I was fortunate, and got to watch it on a huge flat screen plasma monitor at one of my favorite haunts, the Mallard at the Peabody. It was interesting to watch the debate with such a colorful group of insiders including lobbyists, developers, public relations types, campaign aids, and to make it more interesting I got to meet Dustin McDaniel there as well. He is taller than I expected.
The debate was a bit dry with most of the humidity being absorbed by Hutchinson. I've heard him speak before and he is just not dynamic. His tone is flat, he needs speech lessons in a bad way. Simply put, he lacks passion. Beebe is comfortable in front of any audience and it shows. He used great vocal variety and he knows how to summarize the points he wants to make so they are easier to remember.
Of course, this was not a debate in the classic sense. Instead it was just a series of softball question that each candidate has a stock answer for already. I think it was Prof. Jay Barth who last week predicted that Hutchinson, because he is trailing in the polls, would be the first to go negative and attack Beebe. His prognostication was correct. Hutchinson took every shot he could at Beebe using carefully chosen buzz words and catchy phrases. Hutchinson attacked him using misleading assumptions and other unhelpful rhetoric. Moreover, he did it badly, without style and with a flat presentation.
Beebe was right – voting records should be examined in context of what was happening during each session. If the state was in risk of running a deficit – raising taxes sometimes was necessary. Hutchinson’s viewpoint was too simplistic. How important is it in the end whether someone sponsored a certain piece of legislation? Not very. Simply because Beebe may have voted to raise one tax didn’t mean he didn’t vote elsewhere to lower taxes. I have no idea about his overall tax votes – but I feel fairly certain the story Hutchinson is telling does not reflect how the legislature really works.
Beebe is right about one thing – Hutchinson is a Washington D.C. outsider and after being away has lost touch with the state.