Well, if you wanted fireworks, you didn’t get ‘em. Both candidates at last night’s debate, aired live on Vermont PBS, seemed so focused on getting out their talking points that they barely interacted — even though one-third of the debate was dedicated to candidates asking questions of each other.
So, how’d they do, topline?
Grading on something of a curve here. Phil Scott significantly outperformed my expectations, which had been diminished by his subpar outings in pre-primary debates. There was a lot less word salad, a lot more sticking to his core talking points.
Minter did well. She was forthright in her presentation; she stood her ground on potentially controversial subjects like wind power. But she missed some opportunities. She could have confronted Scott on his bland boilerplate and pressed him to offer specifics. She completely whiffed on Scott’s change in position on climate change. I saw a candidate who was more interested in her own talking points, and in not making a mistake, than in directly confronting her opponent.
And, given the fact that Scott is the presumed front-runner and she didn’t lay a glove on him, he gets the decision on points. If he can rope-a-dope the entire campaign like this, his chances of winning increase.
At the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign last night, Phil Scott pulled a Dunne.
That is, he significantly changed a policy stance while passing it off as no big deal.
The subject was climate change. On many occasions, Scott has acknowledged climate change is real but declined to admit that human activity is responsible. Here he is, at a late-July forum on the Vermont economy in a time of climate change.
Yes, I do believe that climate change is real and it could be for many different reasons. …There are many who think it’s caused by human behavior. There are some who believe it’s due to climate change, uh, changing on a worldwide basis.
Maybe it’s because he’s gotten some pushback for taking a stance to the right of Bruce Lisman and Jim Douglas, who both acknowledge human impact. Maybe he’s repositioning himself for the general election. But he changed his tune substantially at last night’s forum.
Sue Minter asked him why he was out of step with 97 percent of the scientific community in refusing to acknowledge human impact. He began his answer by saying “You’re getting confused.” He then clearly stated that “climate change is real and man-made,” and then added “I was acknowledging that there are many who don’t believe that.”
His approach is to evade areas of controversy and “focus on areas we can agree on.”
So, he believes that climate change is human-caused — but he doesn’t want to challenge those who don’t?