Quick Impressions Of Last Night’s Debate

It’s Friday and I have a lot going on, and let’s face it – that debate last night wasn’t exactly Lincoln and Douglas, so we don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on it.

But given that, here are a few quick things we picked up on watching it last night.

First, the online poll the Nexstar TV stations across the state are running has Eddie Rispone as the winner, with a little more than 50 percent saying he outperformed Ralph Abraham and John Bel Edwards. Edwards is coming in third in that poll. Those results aren’t exactly what we thought, but the Edwards-in-last-place bit is probably right.

He definitely lost some ground last night with the people who were watching. How many people that is, we can’t say. We heard very little buzz about that debate before it happened last night.

Which is good for Edwards, and it’s also not. His performance was a lot like his governorship – terrible, but not in a catastrophic Kathleen Blanco-on-a-hot-mic kind of way. And while he did get hit a little, it could have been far, far worse.

That said, the fact most of the electorate wasn’t watching the debate live means clips from the debate are what most of them will see. And the video of Edwards stumbling around trying to defend himself on the Johnny Anderson thing was pure comedy gold – if Abraham or Rispone, or the state GOP or the RGA, or some other third party outfit, doesn’t grab that video and turn it into the mother of 30 second attack ads, then what we have here is a Louisiana Republican Party and conservative movement which simply doesn’t deserve to win this election.

Let’s remember what we have here. Johnny Anderson had been a deputy chief of staff for Blanco, and also chairman of the Southern University board. He was a lecherous hound the entire time, and he got Southern sued for his activities. Everybody knew about it. Everybody. There is a long judicial report issued by federal judge Ralph Tyson on the case which makes Johnny Anderson look like some sort of x-rated cartoon character. It’s public record, and everybody in Louisiana politics knew those stories.

John Bel Edwards hired Johnny Anderson for the same job he had with Blanco. Deputy chief of staff. After John Bel Edwards ran a campaign about hookers, he hired this guy.

What happened next wasn’t just predictable, it was obvious. Anderson proceeded to harass the living hell out of everybody he could in an effort to get laid as soon as he went to work for Edwards. The state has had to pay out 100K in a settlement to one of the victims. Johnny Anderson’s overactive libido was so pronounced that he even sexually harassed a (if we can get this right) trans man, named Dylan Waguespack, assumedly on the theory that he didn’t buy the idea that Waguespack was a dude and if he/she wasn’t a dude then it was appropriate to hit him/her up for a bit of copulation.

It’s so bad it’s actually funny. It’s like an old Saturday Night Live sketch. Garrett Morris would have done a great Johnny Anderson.

So last night Edwards gets asked about this and he actually says that Anderson had been exonerated in the Southern thing, and that Anderson was a great public servant.

If nothing else happened in that debate last night Edwards lost just on the Johnny Anderson thing. Assuming somebody takes that video and turns it into a TV spot, because it’s just laying there waiting to be exploited.

Edwards lost the debate. Did Rispone win it?

Maybe. Especially if you play the expectations game. Rispone went in as the underdog, and the one who wasn’t used to the debate stage. And yet he did OK. He repeated the line again and again that he’s the businessman in the race rather than the career politician, which he needed to, and that isn’t a terrible value proposition. It was pretty clear his people convinced him to go after Abraham more than Edwards, which he did, and if you’re a Republican you probably don’t like that a lot, but Rispone has made the determination that he’s in this for himself and not for the conservative movement or the party, so there’s no point in judging him by what he ought to be doing.

We thought he missed an awful lot of opportunities to hit Edwards on his record, probably too many. Abraham missed fewer of those, which is why we probably would have given him the nod over Rispone. Abraham landed several pretty good shots on Edwards’ record on jobs, and really got him a couple of times on taxes. On the other hand, there was an opportunity for a total knockout, when the question was going around on a poll question Nexstar had results for which indicated that a gas tax increase has public support and Edwards mumbled something about how he was using Garvey bonds to pay for the upgrade of the Loyola Drive exit to handle the new New Orleans airport traffic, and Abraham missed it. That was the time he could have blown Edwards up for sitting on his thumbs for THREE YEARS and not building flyover ramps connecting the new airport to I-10, and noting that Edwards’ dithering will turn I-10 in Jefferson Parish into an absolute parking lot until 2022, when those ramps are finally constructed based on the current timetable, and then asking Edwards what kind of deal he cut with LaToya Cantrell to delay the opening of that airport until after the election.

Had he done that he would have blown the doors off the race. Instead he answered the question with some talking point about how a gas tax increase needs to be offset by a tax cut somewhere else, which was fine, but when you’re down 15-20 points to the incumbent you need to be trashing the incumbent’s record every time you can and this was a golden opportunity missed.

This entire campaign feels like golden opportunities missed. The debate wasn’t anything different. Edwards is terrible, but he probably managed to skate anyway.

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