The gubernatorial debate


I got to Bloomington only to find out that there’s no wireless, at least no wireless compatible with my laptop. So back to the office to hear the scripted debate.

(12:47) Sucks. There’s a word you didn’t hear a few decades ago. But now, I guess, “suck” is acceptable lexicon.

Peter Hutchinson uses it to describe Minnesota’s roads in answer to a question about the referendum on transportation funding. The room, by the way,is loaded with folks in support of that referendum, especially since the chamber is for it. Hutchinson supports opposes it. So does Pawlenty supports it.

Mike Hatch, and I can’t tell this but it sure sounds like he’s reading a script (and he probably is since everyone got the questions in advance). Couldn’t tell what his opinion was of the transportation referendum.

Hutchinson puts Tim Pawlenty on his heels by criticizing the plan — and practice — to use bonding for road constructions. Pawlenty responds “you have to have a plan, you can’t just be a critic.” Hatch criticizes the bonding plan and suggests if it continues, there should be an “intergenerational impact statement” for such things. Can’t wait to hear how that proposal will fit in a 30-second commercial, which — since the two frontrunners here don’t want to debate — is how we’re going to hear these guys between now and November.

12:50 – Pawlenty answers a question about education and goes with the “need” strategy. I won’t repeat myself. Read my treatise on why candidates use the word here. Hatch responds by again reading something. And races through the answer. “I want tuition costs lower,” he says. Hutchinson invites people to the Deer Outpost Bar and Grille. Talks about a waitress there who worked hard in school, got a diploma, went to a community college and they told her to take remedial courses. Says that’s true with 36% of kids and calls for a doubling financial aid for need-based education.

Pawlenty takes on Hatch again — ignoring Hutchinson — and says Hatch is criticizing cuts Pawlenty made, that he now says he would’ve made too. Hatch, definitely not reading, raises his voice in response and says “I want to lower that tuition and by God I’m going to do it.” He sounded angry. I almost expected him to say “Pawlenty sucks.”

Given how much Pawlenty and Hatch hate each other, there’s hope for this debate yet. I’m ignoring the canned answers. The good stuff is in the rebuttals.

12:59 A right uppercut by Pawlenty gets Hatch to say “what I meant was….” Always a good day for a pol when you can get your opponent to start a sentence with that. Subject was cutting taxes. Pawlenty takes credit for getting Minnesota out of the top 10 in taxes. Brushes off Hutchinson by saying he’ll be happy to talk about Hutchinson’s running of the Minneapolis schools a few weeks ago. By the way, the Tax Foundation says we’re #4 in state/local tax burden…we’re 11th in federal taxes.

Hauser (Tom) says “didn’t get as many specifics as I wanted, but got some good one liners for television tonight.” Yeah. True.

1:08 Audience gets to ask questions now.

1:09 Is government role with business to be cooperative or a “watchdog.” “Both,” says Pawlenty. He pins the “we need” meter. Hatch talks about meeting with paper companies and railroad companies and how he got a letter saying he’s “anti business.” Major gaffe. You don’t raise your own negatives. Tries to explain. Runs out of time. Oy.

Hutchinson recounts his own business experience. “If you want to be pro business, you’ve got to focus on health care.” Suggest we’re on the precipice of extinction, business-wise, I presume.

Pawlenty rebuttal consists of “I think businesses are good.” Noted.

1:13 — Health care is topic. Hatch talks about his “going after” HMOs and how he heard he was anti-business because of it. Tries to explain. Runs out of time. Hey, is that a rabbit going down that hole?

1:14 Hauser changes format, apparently recognizing it’s been a deadly affair so far.

1:15 “50% of our youngsters when they get to kindergarten aren’t ready for school,” Hutchinson said. Calls for all-day, every-day kindergarten. But says “you won’t get there if you don’t invest in health care.”

Pawlenty says education spending has gone up, when measured by per pupil funding. “How do we get better results?” he says is the question. Talks about his initiative to get rid of seniority-based pay.

Hatch says “we’ve spent tens of million of dollars on a test to evaluate performance and it was supposed to be released at the State Fair. But something went wrong and we still don’t know what it was,” because it wasn’t released. Says the Department of Education decided to keep the results secret until after the election.

Pawlenty says there’s a delay because it’s a new test. “It’s not some conspiracy or black helicopter operation,” he says.

1:19 Question: Do you plan to raise taxes?

“I don’t plan on raising taxes, fees, or tuition,” Hatch says.

“Yes” Hutchinson says. That’s all he says

Pawlenty lauds Hutchinson for being honest about raising taxes. “Wait a minute,” Hutchinson says. “You don’t get to say what I said, I said ‘yes.'”

Polinaut has no clue what that exchange is all about. Pawlenty gets to his point, eventually, which is that Hatch will raise taxes.

Hutchinson, in rebuttal, says “I just want to be clear, my answer was ‘yes.'”

What’s the emoticon for “I have no clue where he’s going with this?” (The problem is not in your set. See comments section for clarification)

1:22 Closing statements. I don’t blog closing statements. Polinaut is glad we’re done and wonders if there’s any chance there’ll be more — hopefully better — debates and recommends the first question will be “why are you guys afraid to debate?”

1:26 OK, I changed my mind. Hey this isn’t scripted. Hutchinson, in his closing, says, “I have to tell you guys, your behavior the last two weeks has been unbelievably disrespectful,” he says regarding their refusal to agree to debates. “Minnesotans want you to have a job interview.”

Pawlenty (Hatch had already had his closing) didn’t touch it.

Audio of the debate will be posted soon. Here’s the audio of the debate. (RealAudio)

  • Mike

    When will the debate be posted on the web site?

    (Bob responds: As soon as I can get it encoded. Should be by 2:45 if not sooner)

  • If your goal was to make Hutchinson look like a doofus, you succeeded. If that wasn’t your goal, you succeeded anyway.

  • bsimon

    Hey, Polinaut, who else was covering the event? Any chance of the “You guys have been unbelievably disrespectful” will make it on the news?

  • Bob Collins

    Well, I don’t know, Jeff. There are winners and losers, I guess, in any debate. I don’t ever bother saying who won or who lost. I just write my impressions of what I’m hearing at a particular time and if someone looks like a doofus or like Einstein, I guess that’s the way it goes.

    It might well be ME who’s the doofus. The whole “you don’t get to say what I said” thing might be completely clear to someone else.

    But not me. I really don’t know what that was all about.

  • Bob Collins

    Polinaut, of course, doesn’t actually *cover* news, so your reference to who *else* covered it through me for a second. But all the usual suspects were covering it and since it can be fit into a small sound bite and doesn’t require a lot of work to explain it, Polinaut will guess that by 11 tonight you will be sick of the sentence.

    Were *I* covering it, yes, it would be in a story, but perhaps not *the* story as *my* story would be about how two candidates don’t want to debate and nobody — except the voters — seems too bothered by it.

  • bsimon

    I’m not sure that there are a significant number of voters bothered by the lack of substance and/or debates. Most probably already know they’re voting R or D and don’t much care about what any of the candidates say.

  • Jim

    The question was “Minnesotans will pay $32 billion in local and state state taxes in the next year Should this be enough and if its not enough, how much is enough?”

    Hutchinson replied “Yes”. Pawlenty “applauded” Hutchinson by claiming Hutchinson did not think there $32 billion was not enough. Hutchinson appropriately set Pawlenty straight: “I said $32 billion was enough. What’s your answer to the question?”

  • Karl

    Still lacking in anyone’s response to the question of whether they support the constitutional amendment on transportation funding is this: Where will you get the $300 million to replace that money that is lost from the general fund? Or if you plan to cut that much out of the state budget, who will take the hit? That question should be an automatic follow-up to any candidate who supports the amendment, which in this case would be Pawlenty and Hatch. That money won’t just magically appear because a constitutional amendment says it now goes to roads and transit.

  • Susan

    1:19 Question: Do you plan to raise taxes? The question was “Minnesotans will pay $32 billion in local and state state taxes in the next year Should this be enough and if its not enough, how much is enough?” Makes a huge difference in how the answers play out. When Hutchinson said “yes” he was saying 32 billion is enough. Pretty clear.

  • Bob Collins

    Pretty clear, as long as you’re listening after the fact and can replay the question. But when you’re listening live and can’t go back, it’s not.

    When you’re a candidate, you have to frame your answers by rewording the question sot aht when someone lifts the cut, it makes sense. So you say “no, I do not plan to raise taxes, XX billion is enough.” Period.

    Saying “yes” was a nice try, but a rhetorical gaffe, that left people puzzled.

    It also didn’t get on the news because the only way it could was to use the question as well. And there was no way tha was going to happen.

  • Todd in St Paul

    Shame on PoliNaut for shoddy reporting.

    At the live debate, the moderator asks: “Minnesotans will pay $32 billion in local and state state taxes in the next year. Should this be enough…?”

    Hutchinson answers “Yes.”

    Pawlenty characterizes Hutchinson’s answer as hinting at tax hikes; Hutchinson fires back.

    Now I’m reading this poor excuse for a blog. Here’s how PoliNaut reports it:

    Question: Do you plan to raise taxes? (NO THAT WASN’T THE QUESTION!)

    “Yes” Hutchinson says. That’s all he says

    Pawlenty lauds Hutchinson for being honest about raising taxes.

    So again, shame on PoliNaut for shoddy reporting. You can’t undersntad the answers if you didn’t understand the question.

  • Bob Collins

    Polinaut is not reporting anything, dear Todd. Polinaut is listening and pointing out what can happen when you one tries rhetorical flourishes. Listeners can’t go back and are only left with the impression of the moment.

    I’m guessing you had to go back and listen in order to write down the direct quote. People who are listening live don’t have that option.

    This was a live blogging, Todd.

    I’m also guessing you didn’t read the comments section attached to the particular entry since I’ve already made this point.

    “Poor excuse for a blog?” Ouch. A dagger through my heart. Fortunately, I’ll recover. Well, fortunately for me.

    PoliNaut? What hath CompuServe wrought?

  • Lily

    Actually, Bob, “sucks” in not acceptable lexicon, for those of us old enough to remember the man on the moon flight…….

    That is one (of many) reasons that Hutchinson will lose.