So who wins a debate when the candidates all pretty much say the same thing? That was my biggest question walking away from Thursday’s debate at the Indiana War Memorial of the five Republican candidates vying for the U.S. Senate.
On most matters, Dan Coats, Richard Behney, Don Bates, Jr., Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler were in 80% agreement; opposing illegal immigration, the stimulus package, etc. There were some nuance differences, for example both Coats and Stutzman thought the President’s health care plan should be replaced with a better proposal as opposed to a straight repeal as the others had advocated. On gays in the military, Behney stood out saying as long as individuals can do their job they should be allowed to serve. Bates was the most energetic candidate. I thought Stutzman used his time in the legislature as a good reference for his position. And I thought Hostettler showed his ideological consistency he is known for.
I was surprised that Stutzman, Bates, Hostettler and Behney did not do more to go after Dan Coats and his past life as a lobbyist. I understand wanting to be polite, but Coats is the defacto front runner in this race and if the other challengers in the race want to move ahead they’re going to have to take a few swings at the former Senator.
I was somewhat disappointed in the candidates responses when it came to the issue of tort reform as a way to contain the rising costs of health care. About 25 states have caps on damages, however health care costs increases continue to outpace wages by four to five times in some estimates.
When it was all said and done, I don’t think the race changed that much. There was no major screw up nor did anyone hit it out of the park. Therefore, the winner by default was former U.S. Senator Dan Coats. It’s not that his performance was that much better, although I will give him credit for his demeanor, deference to his fellow candidates and taking off his jacket when sitting down for a more informal presentation, but the race did not change.
Luckily for the candidates there are three other major debates between now and the May primary, so there’s still time to break out of the pack and in the alternative, make a major gaffe. But for now, the race stays the same with Coats the defacto front runner.