|I have said in the past the McAuliffe makes a strong positive impression when people first encounter him, if they come with open minds. The question would be how well he wears. He has a tendency to be a bit more self-referential than the other two, which can have a negative impact on some. He was able to display a grasp of details that to some degree undercut attacks on him for not knowing Virginia. There were a few times where he reacted defensively, and when that happens it somewhat undercuts the image he is trying to portray that he is going to be all positive. In that regard, it was interesting to watch Moran try to attack him for the 3 O'Clock ad Clinton ran against Obama. While that might seem like a clever attack and a way of undercutting support among Obama voters (who according to the SUSA poll break in McAuliffe's favor), I wonder if that becomes too much inside baseball for most people. It might have some effect upon those most active in party affairs, but I do not know how that plays to the more casual primary participant, who may not care about such things. Further, given that Clinton herself is now in a key position in the administration, subordinate to Obama, it might well fall into the category of "so what" in the minds of most people. McAuliffe's response - that he didn't decide on the ads - while technically true, in a sense worked against him, because he argues from the basis of having led things which implies responsibility for the bad as well as the good.
In that regard, I think Creigh's attack on McAuliffe for not given money and the Dems in Virginia losing seats might actually carry more weight, even though later McAuliffe talked about directing money to the relevant national committee.
On the other hand, the position Creigh took in raising that issue potential provides a weakness in comparison with Brian. Creigh was caucus chair and the Dems lost seats. Brian was caucus chair and the Dems won seats. It seems to me that Creigh's raising that issue as an attack line on Terry opens him to attacks from supporters of Brian.
In general, I think Creigh still had the strongest overall performance. He was able to make the point about running statewide, and losing narrowly because of being heavily outspent. For that line to work, he will have to demonstrate - convince people - that he will not have trouble raising funds for the general election. The reason I say I think he had the strongest overall performance was his ability to demonstrate that he is capable of (a) initiating an appropriate attack, and (b) successfully counterpunching, as he did towards Moran on a couple of situations.
Last night I wrote that the moment that meant the most to me worked in Creigh's favor, which was his ability to recognize that having access to arts and the like is not merely a matter of rounding out the person nor of the economic benefit it brings. I suspect that not that many people grasped the difference in responses among the 3 on that issue, and thus my reaction is probably highly idiosyncratic.
Overall? I saw nothing that leads to a major change in the dynamics of the race. There are, however, several things worth noting.
1. the back and forth between Moran and McAuliffe, especially with Deeds between them, quite possibly benefited Creigh, since the general impression for the casual viewer would probably be that he was less involved in the negativity, even though he offered attack lines against both opponents. The back and forth he had with Moran pales in comparison to the back and forth between Brian and Terry. If Virginia continues its tradition of rejecting negative campaigning, Deeds might benefit some.
2. It was my impression that Moran very much wanted to discredit the SUSA poll, citing instead the Dkos poll taken somewhat earlier. His action seemed to imply a need not to let the meme be that Terry is perceived as ahead and that he is playing catchup - perhaps because in that framing attacks on Terry might be perceived as acts of desperation.
3. All three candidates tried to avoid answering difficult questions, changing the subject to areas where they were more comfortable.
4. My distinct impression was that the one most consistently on the topic of the questions was Deeds, although I noted more than a few times when he also somewhat changed the topic.
5. Let me note a key point: I do not think there is any such thing as clean coal. Nevertheless, there is a substantial economic interest in the use of Virginia coal. In the context of coal, I am bothered that while the Surry plant was raised, there was no discussion of Wise. Nor was there any discussion of mountaintop removal, which even beyond the issue of the dirtiness of coal is an important issue. I was sorry that there were no questions connecting these various issues, and that none of the candidates took the opportunity to make the connections.
I was originally somewhat negative on the idea of Ben Tribbett running the debate. I hereby acknowledge that he did a superb job, especially in determining when to interject a brief followup from the Twitter feed. The quality of the questions were better than some of what we saw in the presidential debates, especially during the primary season.
Were I to give overall grades, Ben would get an A- and the panelists would be between B and B+. As for the candidates?
Deeds B++ - Creigh still is not the most effective of public speakers, yet his passion for Virginia, his willingness to commit to things that might not be to his benefit, and his willingness to admit that on some issues he is a work in progress I think came across as almost endearing. I think his style in this context made people want him to be successful.
Moran - probably a B - there were some very strong moments, but sometimes his most impassioned statements were immediately followed by a smile that seemed out of context, almost disconcerting. It seems as if he is still trying to find where to draw the line when he initiates an attack. He was somewhat better in counter-punching exchanges than he has been in the past.
McAuliffe B- possibly as low as a C+ - less on content than on other issues: his interrupting of the others came across as a bit rude. He was the only one whom Ben had to tell to be quiet because the time belonged to another. At times he came across as a bit defensive. I thought he was not properly prepared for the Global Crossing issue - his response, while technically accurate, did not really answer the line of attack offered by Moran.
Still, other than possibly boosting the chances of Deeds somewhat, I saw nothing that fundamentally changed the dynamics of the race. It is still a question of size and geographic distribution and nature of the primary turnout. Those factors tend to disfavor Deeds, and favor the other two. On the question of size, the larger the turnout, the more likely to be including people who are not as attuned to normal Democratic politics, which increases the chances of McAuliffe being successful.
For myself, I have not yet made up my mind. There is, after all, a debate as late as May 19. I would certainly like to see further polling data - we still have additional people who can register, so we do not even know the size of the possible universe of voters.
I have in my mind begun to order the three candidates, but that order is not yet fixed. When I decide, I will post my decision and my reasons. Until then, I will - as I did today - from time to time offer my perspective as one as yet undecided voter.