I've been asked who I thought won the first Senate debate, held April 14. My answer is that all three candidates won the debate that night, depending on how you define “winning.”
Hatch won by standing his ground in a dignified manner and defending his record while literally being attacked on both sides. The most disappointing moment for me as a Republican and as a Utah voter was when Liljenquist supporters broke out in laughter as Hatch announced that this would end the last term of his nearly four decades of public service. It was a solemn statement offered with dignity, but the reaction of some of Dan’s supporters was beneath us as a state.
Dan Liljenquist carried the night if you judge the event like a high school debate between candidates for class president. He went on the attack, was strong and articulate, he told the crowd what they came to hear and delivered like a pro. He is a skilled orator and a he made some good arguments, but I think once again Dan missed the opportunity to broaden his appeal beyond Hatch-haters and already adoring fans. If you already knew about Dan’s pension reform bill, then you really didn’t learn much more about him that night.
If we judge the debate by its impact on this election, then I think the clear winner was Chris Herrod. He was able to make his case for the job without appearing arrogant or undignified and without relying too much on a single accomplishment in his legislative career. I think delegates not yet firmly connected to one candidate or the other would have been impressed with how well Chris articulated his values. My favorite moment of the night was when Chris said his greatest legislative accomplishment was a bill allowing residents to grow their own food. It was creative, thoughtful, and demonstrated a depth that I think most undecided voters would have found refreshing.
At the end of the day I think what we saw last night was a statesman in the twilight of his career, a leader coming into the spotlight, and a politician on the attack. All three candidates showed well, but the judgement of how well they did depends in large part on what you as a delegate thought it most important to display.
Republican | Precinct Chairman Cedar Hills 03 | Manager, Global Search Analytics, Office of Digital Strategy, Hewlett-Packard | Born Washington, D.C. | Hatch Supporter