As I said during the analysis portion of today’s KCUR Up to Date show, I think if you’re trying to figure out who “won” the Todd Akin v. Claire McCaskill debate today in Columbia, you first have to consider what each of them wanted to do with their time in the debate.
For Akin, I have to think his goal was to energize his base — speak to the people that might already be voting for him. If that was his goal, he carried that through — he stuck to his message of fiscal responsibility, and when he started talking about “doing the right thing,” he even started getting a little passionate. He also had about 20 minutes of the hour-long debate to speak his piece, which presented an opportunity to get beyond the soundbites a bit and possibly give a little more insight into the reasons behind his platform. I think he took those opportunities. It’s also important to note, this really was his rookie debut. This was the first time he was on this stage in a statewide race — and it’s clear he’s not above making rookie mistakes. But there really weren’t any today, which is probably a relief to the campaign.
For McCaskill, it’s pretty clear her goal was to finally go on the offensive, something she hasn’t really done as of late, at least not in her advertisements. There were clear attacks on Akin’s voting record throughout the debate. Her other likely goal — as she’ll no doubt be pursuing throughout this campaign — was to snipe even more of the moderate voters away from Akin by painting him as “too far right,” and herself as “#50.” She did all of that in the debate today. Meanwhile, Akin opened by talking about the differences between their voting records. He only spent a fraction of his time actually talking about McCaskill’s record and usually only when put on the defensive after a barrage from McCaskill.
So, if your measure of who “won” is based on who landed the most punches, the answer is McCaskill. If your measure was “who achieved what they set out to do today?” it’s probably closer to a draw.
To listen to the entire debate, as well as the entire gubernatorial debate, follow this link.