The Adler-Runyan Debate Recap

To start, I would just like to apologize for getting cut off last night. A fun fact that I learned was that Twitter has a “daily allotted tweet” amount per account. I, unfortunately, went over that artificial cap and was cut off about three quarters of the way through the debate. For those of you who were following, I hope it gave you a good (while paraphrased) idea of what was going on at the debate in real time. It was certainly fun while it lasted.

The debate last night was not as well organized as it could have been. The moderator made quite a few enemies in the audience by cutting off questioners for wasting time, only to give a monologue herself that wasted far more time. The questions were centered mostly around foreign policy, and specifically regarding Israel and Iran. While these are important issues, especially to the group who sponsored the event, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, there are pressing topics that should have been covered more heavily (its the economy, stupid!). The crowd did not seem particularly skewed toward either candidate. While Runyan did get a much louder applause during his introduction, both candidates had the room clapping and cheering at numerous points throughout the event. The biggest substantive cheers came when Runyan criticized the democrats for not fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the Financial Reform bill, while the biggest boos came when John Adler actually said that Thomas Jefferson, George Washingon, and John Adams were “career politicians” in defense of himself.

The debate was split into 3 formats: panel questioning, direct candidate to candidate questioning, and audience questions. The panel was fine (although too specifically focused on Israel, as I stated above). The candidate questions were interesting, but obviously worded to solicit a certain answer. For example, Adler asked Runyan where he differs from the GOP. Adler wanted Runyan to remind everyone that he was a pro-choice candidate, which is a fact that he does not shy away from. I thought that Runyan handled it well, telling the crowd that he refused to pander and be someone that he is not. Runyan asked Adler about the DeStefano scandal, and Adler denied knowing anything about it. There were reactionary grumbles in the crowd after this answer. Just as people don’t buy that Adler is a moderate, they don’t seem to believe that he knew nothing about this dirty campaign strategy constructed by the Democrats. Adler should stop pleading ignorance and just apologize already.

The meat of the debate was during the audience questioning. Many questions were asked, and almost all of them were answered. Some people were clearly more interested in making a speech than asking a question, and the crowd was more than happy to boo them away from the microphone as the sound technicians cut the power.

During the this round, Adler showed a strong command of the issues and of specific legislation in general. When questions on specific bills were asked, Adler always knew what was going on, while Runyan…eh not so much. While this would seem to be a big negative for Runyan, I think its important to remember that John Adler has been at this game for a very long time. For over two decades Adler has been a figure in government, and if he didn’t have a grasp on these issues, I’d be concerned. People understand that Runyan is trying to get into Congress to represent his district and do what he feels is right for his constituents and America. Whether he knows the details of Bill X or Y doesn’t matter to the average voter, its whether he understands the problems they face and can cope with making the tough decisions to find solutions. While Runyan was often short on specifics, he made up for it with sincerity that he would look at the issues and make those choices. By comparison, Adler cam across as calculating in his answers, while also offering no real specifics. Adler refused to take a firm stance on anything other than Obamacare (which he wants to “perfect” instead of “replace”) and Cap and Tax (which he supports unequivocally). Adler often slammed Runyan for seeking spending cuts, but also calling for cuts himself and giving no more examples of what could be cut. Adler may have been the more articulate speaker, but that doesn’t make him the better choice or the guy with better answers. Remember, Adler is still the career politician who voted over 90% of the time with Nancy Pelosi, no sweet talking can change that!

In my humble opinion, Save Jerseyans, the debate was a wash. No candidate really ran away with the show and I don’t think that anyone who came changed their mind or their vote before leaving the room. For the next event, Jon Runyan simply needs to relax. Runyan was at his best when he let loose and spoke about his past, growing up in a union family with a father who worked hard to provide for his wife and children. In those 30 seconds the crowd saw an unrehearsed, sincere, and confident Jon Runyan who was absent for some of the other question earlier in the evening. Runyan also did well when he went after Adler for his record in Congress. There is plenty to attack, and he should have done so more often. If he would have channeled that demeanor for more of the debate, this would have been his victory without a doubt.

If you were there or were following the live tweets, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the event.