Corbett makes a showing – is it enough?

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    My scorecard in Pennsylvania’s first gubernatorial debate: Corbett wins on points, with no knockout.

    Corbett, the incumbent Republican governor, squared off with Democrat Tom Wolf for about 45 mintes before the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry in an event ably moderated by Dennis Owens of ABC27 in Harrisburg. By the way, I like the single-moderator format and the 45 minute length.

    There were no game-changing gaffes. Nobody unsheathed some unknown fact about the others’ past, or reeled off a cutting one liner, as you sometimes see in these things.  Both stuck to familiar lines of attack and policy points, though the stakes were much higher for Corbett, who trails badly in independent polls.

    Corbett made his points clearly and forcefully, walking comfortably around the stage like a veteran prosecutor in a courtroom. Wolf seemed friendly and professorial, certainly intelligent, but somehow had a little less gravitas, at least as I saw it.

    On substance, Governor Corbett had some basic points and he made them well  – that  he held the line on taxes and restrained spending because he’s the  steward of the taxpayers’ money. More important, he pointed out that on a number policy points, Wolf simply hasn’t been very specific about his proposals, such as how he would change the state income tax.

    In the audio above I have an sampling from each candidate.

    You can hear Wolf admitting to some uncertainty on policy points, and at times sounds equivocal. You can say he’s just being honest, that policy is complicated, but it stood in contrast to Corbett’s certainty. Wolf often returned in his answers to his experience running a business, asserting that you have to be flexible and pragmatic in tackling problems, and he’s shown he can make decisions.

    There were certainly plenty of “facts” tossed around that will come under scrutiny in coming days, and it’s fair to note there was at least one moment when Corbett sounded like he’d rather not answer directly, when he was asked about the minimum wage.

    But overall, it seemed Wolf was playing defense while Corbett took the initiative, and it worked to the governor’s advantage.

    The two debate next week in Philadelphia, and the following week in Pittsburgh.

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