Some years ago, I had an opponent in a primary who was a terrible speaker. Nice guy, capable, interesting, fine one-on-one, but put him in a debate in front of an audience and the guy just turned to Jello. Every question — it didn’t matter what you asked him — was met with the same response: “I’d get the community together and, together, we’d come up with a solution. That’s what I do. I bring people together.” By the second debate, it had become really awkward. The audience, which was mostly made up of people who’d been to the previous forum, stopped making eye contact with him, and he began shrugging and shaking his head a little before giving that stock answer. We treated him with kid gloves, because he was so clearly in over his head. On at least a few occasions, he busted out of his shell and managed to give really great answers. When he did so, I made sure to note it in conversation with him afterwards. I was genuinely happy for him, and it was all I could do to stop myself from calling attention to his great answers at the time.
That’s where Jerry Kilgore is at. In yesterday’s debate, Tim Kaine beat him like a rented mule. During the post-game, Larry Sabato said:
Kilgore was nervous and tense. He sounded bad. He argued badly. This was Kaine’s best performance ever.”
“[This] was one of the most one-sided debates I’ve ever seen. This audience turned on Kilgore” after Russert questioned him on abortion, Sabato said. “Jerry has a tendency to repeat the same lines over and over again and it doesn’t work with a live audience.”
Then, yesterday evening, I received this e-mail, quoted in part:
From: Ken Hutcheson, Kilgore for Governor
Date: September 13 2005, 6:44pm
Subject: Kilgore Wins Debate!
Dear Kilgore Supporter,
Today, Jerry debated Tim Kaine in front of the Fairfax Chamber. The debate was moderated by Tim Russert, who at every turn, disregarded the agreed upon rules and time limits. Despite Russert’s obvious favoritism of Tim Kaine (even noted by leading political scientist, Larry Sabato), Jerry went on the offensive immediately and portrayed Kaine as a classic tax and spend liberal….
P.S. Please look for news accounts tomorrow on the “Liberal Primary” that took place today between Russ Potts, the “Honest Liberal” and Tim Kaine, the “Dishonest Liberal.”
I find it hard to be angry at Kilgore for attacking Tim Russert. I find it hard to be angry at Kilgore for not just saying “hey, I fucked up — I got caught.” I find it hard to be angry at Kilgore for his refusal to debate the third candidate, Republican Russ Potts, for refusing to debate just three times (once in West Virginia), and only allowing this debate to be broadcast on some Northern Virginia cable station. He’s just so bad at this, he’s been so horrendously over-trained, he’s so totally out of his league that I get that little lift in my heart when he manages a good answer. Good for you, Jerry! Keep it up!
Yes, he is the political opponent of the my man in this race, Tim Kaine. But we’re both human, and I know a guy who’s down when I see it. I’m a Democrat — my sympathies naturally lie with the underdog. So better luck next time, Jerry. Ridiculously, I really mean that.