Last night was the first debate I was able to attend, and it was well worth it for various reasons. The debate, like some of the others had numerous candidates and incumbents of various offices talking to average citizens. Like most debates and political on goings in the city, the audience was overwhelmingly already supportive of a candidate and did nothing more than cheer and jeer. To say there were very few undecideds last night, and probably at all of these events is probably an understatement.
Harrison performed well and he had to. Obviously there is bias in my reporting of this, but he won the debate. The problem is who really was effected by it in the end? Unless residents read about it in the paper, the audience it reached is limited. Fossella, who most probably have not seen around those parts except for a few publicity events (VA Hospital, Fort Hamilton) really did very little for his image by attending this debate, and that is probably the story across the board. He does better showing up and losing a debate few see than not showing up and losing edge when the papers report he refused to show. Also keep in mind this was a Brooklyn debate and Harrison will win here.
Fossella made it clear that he is not running on national issues, and that is smart of him. He spent as much time talking about the seawall as he did about Social Security. His talking point of 'fighting them there instead of here' referring to Al Queda or maybe Iraq (?) was well received. To counter this Harrison and Democrats need something that resonates. While Harrison's policy is probably favorable to most voters, the condensed talking point is hard to find. Although the approach of linking Energy Policy and Foreign Affairs, i.e. we are in Iraq because of our reliance on oil, does hit home the point in a nice rebuttal.
I wish I saw Barbaro and Fossella debate for comparison, but that never happened. Also one curious side note was the Community Council moderating. They limited the audience to four questions, while there were easily 15 more people waiting in line. Conversely, following this debate was the debate for the 60th Assembly seat, with Janele Hyer-Spencer, and while I did not catch the beginning I walked back in to hear the moderator deciding 'only 5 more questions'. For whatever reason they really botched the audience access during the Congressional debate, which left me with the feeling it was intentional. While the intimacy of the Community Board setting is desirable, there needs to be a more professional approach for a debate of this magnitude.