Second Gubernatorial Debate Thoughts
Today’s debate was a lot chippier than the one that we saw last Tuesday.
The biggest theme I noticed was how much more aggressive Larry Hogan was in challenging the assertions made, especially those which were made by Anthony Brown. Especially impactful was Hogan’s point that “Boyd Rutherford is the most qualified man ever to run for Lt. Governor” was not just accurate, but also a direct shot at Anthony Brown’s qualifications to serve as Governor, something that many people on both sides of the aisle have openly questioned. This is exactly the kind of aggressive campaign that were looking forward to when we at Red Maryland enthusiastically endorsed Larry Hogan for Governor last fall.
Anthony Brown’s clung to his already discredited talking points on women’s health and guns, though he did try to turn a little more focus onto jobs, education spending, and taxes. The problem for Brown though is the fact that by doing so he exposed his weakness in these areas. Taking credit for Under Armour’s success was amusing. More amusing was Brown’s assertion about how he was going to balance the budget, during a time in which the O’Malley-Brown Administration oversaw a $10 billion increase in state spending, structural deficits waiting for the next Administration, and property tax increases baked into future budgets due to the spending hikes championed by O’Malley and Brown.
Brown’s continued attempts to tie Hogan to Bob Ehrlich’s record fall flat on a number of levels. One, Larry Hogan was a Cabinet Secretary and not the Lt. Governor as Brown is. Secondly, Anthony Brown is in the room now whereas the Ehrlich Administration ended over eight years ago. The “backroom deals” comment was amusing given the cronyism we have seen during the O’Malley-Brown years and the Land Deals that the O’Malley-Brown team were working out with their political allies at the beginning of their Administration. It’s enlightening that the Brown wants to blame the Ehrlich Administration for the last eight years of the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s shortcomings, and merely continues to feed the perception that Anthony Brown is an empty suit.
On the media end of it, this debate was much more focused and structured than the WJZ/Baltimore Sun debate. Unlike the first debate, where Vic Carter and Andy Green decide to not ask a question about such an important issue, the moderators did ask about Anthony Brown’s role in the failed health care exchange roll out. Two of the three moderators, Bruce DePoyt of NewsChannel8 and Shawn Anderson of WTOP radio were both on point and asked relevant questions. Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post on the other hand should never be allowed to moderate a debate ever again. She seemed to be aloof and more interested in carrying Anthony Brown’s water than in being a relevant contributor to the debate process. While that shouldn’t be a surprise by a Post reporter who has written pointless articles like this one about the Governor’s race, she brought absolutely nothing to the debate. Her question about school construction spending, well after both candidates had already addressed the issue, showed she was interested more in either talking about what she wanted to talk about or getting herself over as a journalist than she did in contributing to the public discourse. I hope future debates have serious journalists involved, and not Jenna Johnson.
The least surprising thing about the debate? Larry Hogan took questions from reporters again, while Anthony Brown ran away.
Hogan’s aggressive nature and Brown’s defensive responses tell us a lot about the state of play in this race and how the last three weeks are going to play out.