Last night, the top five U.S. Senate candidates squared off on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. The debate showed why there has been little interest in the race so far, it was largely a low-key affair.
Immediately after the debate, both Charles Boustany and John Fleming declared victory. Meanwhile, a couple of candidates hurt themselves last night with their performances.
Here’s how each of the top five did.
Charles Boustany — Boustany was the only one on that stage to come off as a plausible U.S. Senator. He was at his finest when he was talking about his accomplishments in Washington D.C. as a Congressman and when he was defending the oil and gas industry. Boustany wasn’t too terribly exciting, but he didn’t have to be given the makeup of the stage. The only flaws Boustany had was when he came under constant attack by John Fleming on his record and he failed to respond to them, but we’re still not sure how effective those Fleming attacks are going to be. Grade B+
Foster Campbell — Campbell may have been the one guy last night who punched his ticket to the runoff. He was clearly the best Democrat on stage. He stuck to his populist message of attacking oil companies and big business which should resonate more with Democrats in this state. He also had the defining moment of the night when he, along with Charles Boustany, landed blows on John Kennedy on his “I would rather drink weed-killer” line claiming that Kennedy was trivializing suicide. Campbell’s problem is that he may have boxed himself in for the runoff and may have made it more difficult to reach out and broaden his base. Grade C
Caroline Fayard — Fayard came off as the dilettante that she is. She is an absolute mediocrity with no real base of support. She’s trying to be all things to all people. She answered the questions, but she was underwhelming, to say the least. She tried to attack John Kennedy by tying him to Bobby Jindal but he easily deflected it. It’s hard to see her making the runoff after last night. Grade D
John Fleming — Fleming at times makes Jeb Bush seem like a high energy guy, but when he gets going he isn’t too bad at this debating thing. He stuck on his message that he is the true conservative in the race and he had no real flaws on the night. Special shout out to Fleming Communications Director Matt Beynon who was the only doing rapid response during the debate. But Fleming still has a tough road to make it into the runoff because he’s getting squeezed by John Kennedy, Foster Campbell, Rob Maness, and even David Duke. Grade B
John Kennedy — Folksy John Kennedy is probably the most authentic John Kennedy. He was at his best when he was talking state finances and how he was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans. Though at times some of his ideas about Federal issues were unrealistic and lacked seriousness and the “weed killer” attack was devastating. Kennedy was dinged by Foster Campbell when Kennedy said he “voted on” tobacco trust fund related issues. Campbell pointed out that Kennedy was never in the Legislature. Kennedy was hurt but not knocked out. Grade C
This is the only televised debate before early voting begins on Monday.