Miller versus Webb debate

I expect that this debate may be the first and only time that many people in Hampton Roads will have the opportunity to hear the candidates speak. It was the first time that I have heard Webb speak and only the second time that I have heard Miller. Based on what others have said about hearing Webb speak, I was expected to be blown away. Well, I wasn’t.

The debate started with the opportunity for each candidate to say why we should vote for him. Miller went first and listed some of his priorities. Webb chose to talk about his endorsements. (Remember, I did ask in an earlier post whether endorsements affected your choice?) If all it took to win was endorsements, Webb would walk away with this. But candidates need to sell themselves every hour of every day in order to win votes. Miller did a better job at this than Webb did.

The first question dealt with Iraq. Webb did a good job on this. Miller, less so. The second question related to the insurgency in Iraq. Again, the Iraq situation is Webb’s forte, but it didn’t help things that Miller was cut off in his response after only about 22 seconds.

The third question – related to a possible Democratic majority in the Senate – was when the debate really broke out. Serious charges flew fast and furious, with neither candidate answering the questions posed by the other. Miller had no real response to the question of his contributions to Republicans and Webb had no real response to his support of the values of Bush and Allen and why he called the Clinton administration corrupt. There was nothing of value in this segment, other than a bit of mudslinging, which I had hoped the candidates would not resort to. (Most of these questions were answered in a press conference afterwards, which was not a part of the debate.)

After a break, the candidates were asked about jobs. The answers from both were reasonable. The next question was about gas prices and our dependence on foreign oil. Miller gave some interesting statistics on our increasing dependence, especially as compared to Brazil, who has seen their dependence reduce dramatically. Again, he was interrupted in his answer – after about 34 seconds – and the question was posed to Webb. Webb was then allowed to speak about a minute and a half.

I mention the issue of the length of answers for just one reason: it appeared to me that the moderator was a bit biased in favor of Webb. Perhaps it is because I have moderated a number of events that I am more aware of this. I actually watched the debate a second time to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things. The body language of the moderator seemed to cut off Miller from the conversation. And he never interrupted Webb at all.

My overall assessment of the debate is that both candidates need to tone down the rhetoric and attempt to convince the voters that they have what it takes to be a fine Democratic senator from Virginia. That’s really all I want to hear about.

Disclaimer: Harris Miller will be attending the party I’m throwing next week for Southside Hampton Roads Democrats. Jim Webb was also invited but declined.

The debate between Harris Miller and Jim Webb was taped today in Norfolk and will air Sunday on Joel Rubin’s “On the Record” but is viewable now here. The AP story about the debate can be found here.

Around the ‘net, Webb supporters all think he won the debate. Check out Raising Kaine, The Richmond Democrat, and The Virginia Progressive. To hear a Republican’s take on the debate, have a look at Shaun For a little less hyperbole, take a look at the Washington Post, The Daily Press or the Richmond Times Dispatch. And, appropriately, each campaign has its own take on how well they performed. The Webb press release can be found here. Miller sent his out by email.

UPDATE: The Pilot has a story on the debate as well.


13 thoughts on “Miller versus Webb debate

  1. I watched the debate, and maybe I’m just less sensitive, I didn’t see either candidate looking too bad.

    Webb certainly shouldn’t have used the term “anti-christ” to label his Jewish opponent — but it was a quote from someone else (however he CHOSE to bring it into the debate, and he said it with relish — when Salazar used the term he apologized quickly, let’s see what Webb does).

    But Webb is fundamentally wrong regarding outsourcing — you can’t control it without doing major damage to our economy and global trade. If you force american companies to only hire americans, the companies will simply move overseas entirely – we can’t stop them – and then they will import goods, hurting our trade deficit.

    We need to find a way to raise the standard of living of our trading partners to raise wages which will make outsourcing less useful.

    But at one level, outsourcing sends jobs done better or cheaper by others elsewhere so we can employ our workers in more effective tasks.

  2. Personally, I think the moderator did a poor job handling the debate. He should have been in control from the get-go and never should have let Miller go completely off topic to question Webb directly. Things went sour from then on and you could easily tell from Miller and Webb’s body language. I wish it hadn’t turned personal but it did. It wasn’t the best debate but not quite as good as I had expected. And it also was too short for my liking.

    On a scale of 1-10, both candidates get a 5 for style, and a 6 for subtance. This being the first debate, I’m expecting a more polished second debate.

  3. Anon: I disagree strongly with your comments about offshore outsourcing AND the “anti-christ” term used in the debate. Leaving aside offshore outsourcing for now, I’ll comment on the “anti-christ” term as it has been used in reference to Miller.

    American information technology workers and anti-outsourcing activists occassionally use this term in reference to Miller. It has nothing to do with the fact that Miller is Jewish — a fact which is completely irrelevant to the IT workers complaint.

    It has to do with the view that Miller’s actions are evil and he is viewed as evil. This term has long been used in reference to Miller before people ever learned that he was Jewish; it has to do with his being a long time pro-outsourcing and worker replacement lobbyist.

    Now, Miller’s desperate supporters appear to have latched onto this comments as evidence of “anti-semitism”. How pathetic. I view this is yet another slimey attempt at character assassination.

    If people don’t like the term, “anti-christ”, that’s fine but at least let’s understand where it’s coming from and not ascribe it to anti-semitism or tolerate people who cry “wolf” and cheapen the meaning of racism. The recent revelations about Allen give us an example of real “racism”; phony accusations debase the meaning of the word.

    Here’s an example of Miller being described as the “anti-christ” (i.e., evil or the devil) in “Information Week”, a widely read IT magazine: “Harris Miller, aka the Antichrist if you’re an unemployed IT worker, is gearing up for a Senate run as–a Democrat? ( So far as I can determine, the author of this piece wasn’t attacked as a racist/anti-semite… Miller and his people don’t have anything online attacking this article or the author and this was part of an interview in which Miller willingly participated.

  4. Webb was attacked and defended himself. Not the best arena for hearing him speak the first time.
    Miller looked and acted like a snake IMHO.

  5. The blogsphere is a little like a private club in that information flows within it but not necessarily outside of it. If you knew nothing about either one of these guys, other than what the MSM has reported, you would have little knowledge of Miller’s background on outsourcing or Webb’s endorsement of Allen last term, because the local MSM has not referenced this.

    For me, the bottom line is getting to the potential voters in the primary. It seems that Webb has decided that his endorsements are enough to get him over the hump while Miller feels attacking Allen & Bush will do it.

    No doubt, June 13 will be an interesting day.

  6. As much as the Virginia blogosphere has been hyping Mr. Webb, I was not impressed. I was certainly not impressed with his list of endorsements. I don’t care who endorsed him, i’d rather hear what democratic ideals he stands for. For that matter, neither of the candidates spent enough time talking about themselves. This video was my first encounter with the candidates other than reading about them on blogs. As I suspect most viewers did, I came away less informed than I had hoped to be.

    I agree with Ms. Paige’s assessment of the segmentation of the interview. Prior to the break there was very little useful information given to the viewer. Unfortunately when the candidates finally settled down and started actually answering questions, the show was over.

    I’d give a slight edge to Mr. Miller, as I found the endorsements speech of Mr. Webb a turn-off.

  7. Miller isnt ‘one of the bad guys’ of outsourcing

    He’s THE bad guy, in a class by himself

    The Prince of Darkness on this issue

    just google harris miller H-1b

    read anything you like

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