Kish and I watched the Strickland-Kasich Ohio gubernatorial debate tonight.  Here are some off-the-cuff reactions on various weighty debate-related topics:

Haircut and makeup:  Kasich’s cow-licked coiffure looks a bit like his wife used a home barber shop kit to give him his latest cut.  Strickland had a much more sprayed down look, but his makeup seemed too corpse-like.

Obligatory Ohio State football references:  Kasich managed to quote Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel in the first 10 minutes; Strickland suggested Kasich may have rooted for Miami in Saturday’s Buckeyes-Hurricanes game.  I think Strickland’s comment may have come across as below-the-belt to Buckeyes fans.  It’s one thing to accuse someone of being a greedy Wall Street geek, but quite another to unfairly tar an Ohio politician who actually worked for years at The Ohio State University with rooting against Ohio State.  Come on!  Governor, have you no decency?

Apparent themes:  Strickland — Wall Street, Wall Street, Lehman Brothers, Wall Street, Ohio is great.  Kasich — Jobs, Jobs, Business friendly, Jobs, Ohio can be great again.

Obvious focus group buzzwords:  Growth, small business, empowerment, cutting taxes, refining, Ohio values, responsible decision-making

Odd personal information about the candidate:  Kasich’s parents apparently began every statement to him by saying “Johnny, . . . .”; Strickland has paid for his own health insurance for 18 years.

Who won the debate?  Who knows?  Strickland seemed much more the overt aggressor, which seems odd given that he is the incumbent.  It leaves the impression that he thinks he is far behind and can prevail only by tearing Kasich down.  In any case, he repeatedly brought up Lehman Brothers, Wall Street, Kasich’s salary and bonus, and Kasich’s pay from Ohio State.  Kasich didn’t seemed bothered by such comments, calling them the politics of distraction, and I don’t feel like they had much impact.

Kasich’s statement that he liked being out of the public eye and that he decided to run for office because he and his wife decided Ohio needed him to fix its problems seemed pretty egotistical.  I also dislike it when politicians talk about how they can “create jobs” (as opposed to creating a climate where businesses can create jobs).  Strickland’s contention that Ohio has the sixth fastest growing economy may be true based on the results of one recent quarter, but it is going to be a hard sell in a state where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and everyone knows that unemployment is very high.

Kasich’s opening and closing seemed scattershot, but once he started responding to questions he was single-minded in beating the “jobs” drum — even managing to turn a question about the death penalty into a discussion about jobs.  Strickland had some odd pauses, apparently because he thought his time was running out, but made a nice move by shaking Kasich’s hand.  Kasich’s flat statement that he would quash the “white elephant” high-speed rail project came across as a decisive statement that buttressed his argument that he would make the tough choices to balance the budget.  Strickland’s closing about Ohio being a great state was lyrical, but could ring a bit hollow given the state of the economy and the amount of suffering in Ohio.  Kasich’s statement to Strickland that “you’re a good guy, but you just don’t get it” may end up being the statement people remember most — and whether they end up agreeing more with the first part of the sentence or the second part may decide who ultimately wins the election.

There will be another debate in  month — more than enough time for the pundits and spinmeisters to instruct us on who really won this first debate.

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