New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his challenger State Senator Barbara Buono had their first televised debate on Tuesday, October 8, 2013. A debate that was poorly narrated, logistically challenged and did not allow for a good exchange of ideas or debate.
Each candidate was allowed one minute to answer each question and 30 seconds for a rebuttal. It covered a wide range of topics that are hotbed issues in the Garden State but were turned into nothing more than sound bites with little exchange of ideas or substance by either candidate. This was not at the fault of either Buono or Christie but by the very nature and design of the debate. At times both candidates look frustrated that they could not complete their answer or elaborate. As I have written all along the campaign season, Buono’s campaign has had a hard time getting noticed and being taken seriously, she has even lost the endorsement of 49 elected democrats to Christie as pointed out by Narrator Kristine Johnson who challenged Buono on that very point,.
Buono stated “this is a blue state and people are just beginning to focus on the race and I will tell you this I’ve had a lot of opportunity in this state. I grew up and was on my own since I was 19, my dad was an immigrant from Italy and that opportunity wasn’t republican or democrat, the people who are really going to go to the polls and vote aren’t politicians that have their back room politics and deals behind closed doors Buono was then cut off and asked if she would like more help from Washington democrats and President Obama himself, which Buono answered but did not directly answer if she would want Obama to come campaign for her.
Johnson then set her sights on Christie, which sounded more like a cross examination than it did a spirited debate as she asked him about his straight talk and name calling which is a subject that seems to divide voters who find it either unbecoming or refreshing. Johnson asked Christie if this was setting a good example for children.
Christie responded “what the people of N.J. want is someone who is real and will tell them the truth as he sees it and that’s what I’ve done for four years. I’ve looked people in the eye and told them the truth, sometimes truth that they are uncomfortable with, sometimes truth that they didn’t necessarily want to hear, but that is what leadership is about. It’s about telling people the truth as you see it and you know at the end of the day from my perspective, I think if people had the choice between pre-packaged blow dried politicians or people who say it exactly the way it is I think they would pick the latter and I think that’s why we have had the success we’ve had. People have to know if they act a certain way, they are going to be called out on it and using direct and blunt language is something I’ve done my whole life, I am who I am and I’m not going to change.”
For the rest of the debate, the exchanges were sharp and both Christie and Buono took shots at one another but Christie did not let it get under his skin and was on his best behavior. There was one particular question that Buono made a blunder on and that was when each candidate was asked to say something nice about the other. Buono stated "He's good on late-night television, but bad for New Jersey." Christie seized the moment and took the high road and stated that Buono “is clearly a good and caring mother and credited her for serving the state for 20 years in the Legislature.
Buono needed a knockout blow, this was her final chance to grab the momentum from Christie and put some life into a campaign that is crashing and burning only weeks away from Election Day, she fell far short of that goal. All Christie had to do was hold his own and he did. Neither Christie nor Buono won or lost this debate, the real loser were the voters of New Jersey that were cheated by a debate that was short on substance and one that did not allow for a sincere and meaningful debate on the meat and potatoes of the issues.