Yellow Stripes Special: Our Take on the Dem Debate

I just got done watching the statewide televised debate for the five leading Democratic candidates to take on Sen. Ron Johnson. Here’s my take.

First off, the format was a problem. The mics didn’t work whenever a candidate or moderator didn’t speak directly into them. Somebody finally noticed this 40 minutes in and fixed it. They couldn’t get this right from the start? Why did it take them more than half the debate to get it right? Tom Nelson was most badly served by this simply because he was the tallest person on stage and thus furthest away from the microphone.

Another problem was the one minute answer period. That’s just not enough time to give a well thought-out response to a complicated question.

But the moderators were really good. Charles Benson and Shannon Sims asked smart, informed questions and they had follow ups that kept the candidates’ feet to the fire when they didn’t give direct answers. I didn’t miss Chuck Todd.

Now for the performances.

Sarah Godlewski did the best job. She seemed the most comfortable in front of the camera and she had the tightest, most memorable answers. She was ready with a well-rehearsed answer when Tom Nelson attacked her for not voting in 2016. She turned the tables with an answer that highlighted the fact that she was the only woman on stage. She didn’t deal with the reality that she, in fact, failed to vote in an important election, but no matter. The comeback was effective. She also stuck to that theme of being the only woman in the race and connected it well to the abortion issue. She’s wrong about the filibuster (they all are) because even if lightning strikes and the Democrats get enough votes to eliminate it next year, the Republicans will definitely take back the House in November, so the question is moot. But overall, she was very good.

I think she won.

Mandela Barnes was okay. I thought he was a little off and not quite as sharp as I expected he’d be. He seemed nervous out of the gate and he rushed his delivery, especially in his closing — that one minute time limit worked against him whereas Godlewski seemed to have her timing down on most questions.

Tom Nelson won the closing statement contest. He hit on what he should have been hitting on the entire debate and in his entire campaign — he has demonstrated that he can win in red Wisconsin. His quip about growing up around kids with blue collar parents, but his was white collar — a Lutheran minister — was nice. Unfortunately, in the rest of the debate we either couldn’t hear him because of the unforgivably crummy sound or he seemed lost in policy wonk land. Not what he needed tonight. It was smart of him to buy air time for a commercial right after the debate, a good, quirky piece with a farm theme.

Alex Lasry was unimpressive. He clearly came in not wanting to make a mistake. He didn’t. He also didn’t make any points. Eh.

You know that kid in high school who goes to Badger State and wears a suit and tie to school all week when he gets back? Yeah that kid. Meet Steve Olikara.

So, that’s my take on it, folks. Feel free to chime in below.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “Yellow Stripes Special: Our Take on the Dem Debate

  1. Nelson just called for the nationalization of the oil industry on Twitter. I assume he’s gunning for the student seat Madison City Council next.


    1. Yes, she did. But she did it effectively. It’s just a reality that it’s an advantage to be a women in a Democratic primary and she’s using that to her full advantage. It’s good politics. The idea is to win an election.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Godlewski could have owned her 2016 mistake but chose not to. Not a good look. Olikara had the best answer for the Title 9 question whereas everyone else ignored it. My bet is whoever gets through to debate Johnson will steal it.

    Good thoughts on the technical problems …. especially pointing out the “short stature privilege” !


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