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Published: Thursday, 9/16/2010

Knockout blow missing in gubernatorial debate

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - "I think I did OK. I think he did OK."

Gov. Ted Strickland's comment shortly after his first television debate Tuesday night with Republican challenger John Kasich seemed to sum up the general consensus of the candidates' performances.

John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said he doesn't believe either candidate's performance changed the dynamics of a race, which even Mr. Strickland concedes he is trailing.

"Both candidates performed well," Mr. Green said. "They got their points across quite effectively. Each had moments where they were less effective, but they pretty much tried to do what they needed to do politically. I didn't see any major gaffes either. There were sharp exchanges in which they do have different perspectives. I thought that would be helpful to voters."

Neither candidate shed any more light on the issues than they have on the campaign trail. Both refused to be nailed down by a panelist's question about how they would specifically deal with a potential budget deficit of $8 billion.

They exchanged jabs over Mr. Kasich's tenure with the failed Lehman Brothers investment firm on Wall Street and the nearly 400,000 Ohio jobs lost since Democratic Governor Strickland took office nearly four years ago.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, participated in a debate-watching party with about two dozen fellow Republicans. He said he believed Mr. Kasich won.

"John Kasich had to let voters know who he was," he said. "The major complaint from people around the state is that they haven't seen or met John Kasich, which is ludicrous since he's been everywhere. … All he had to do was hold his ground. If anything, he gained ground. He was calm, cool, confident, and composed."

GOP strategist Mark R. Weaver also said he believed both candidates effectively made their points and avoided blunders.

"Anyone who's been following the race the last few weeks didn't hear anything new," Mr. Weaver said. "As long as the race remains static and no one scores major points, Kasich stays in the lead. All polls show Kasich leading. The environment is strong in favor of change. Strickland had the burden of changing that dynamic, and he didn't."

Not everyone could find the debate on broadcast television.

WGTE, the Toledo PBS station, had planned to air a taped delay of the broadcast at 11 p.m. Tuesday but went with regular programming when it could not read the video feed sent by Ohio Government Television.

The problem prevented another planned broadcast at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"Whatever code they used, we couldn't grab it," said programming coordinator Cathy Kamenca. "There was no run through. They didn't test this out. Steps are being taken, so by Oct. 7 we should all be on board again."

The next and last debate is set for Oct. 7 at the University of Toledo.

Mr. Green also said he could not find a TV broadcast of the debate in northeast Ohio, the most voter-rich section of the state. The debate was shown on the ONN cable network.

"It's really unfortunate," he said. "You see a lot of TV ads, read the stories, and follow it on the Internet, but these debates really matter. It's one time when you can see the candidates side by side and try to evaluate their plans and character. It's unfortunate that this part of the state didn't see it."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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