My hero from the Senate debate

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2012

By Dennis Edwards
Guest Columnist

The hero of the debate between George Allen and Tim Kaine, the person who helped us get a clearer understanding of both candidates, was not on stage and not in the audience. He or she is the sound person who cut the microphones, so the candidates couldn’t interrupt each other.

This small public service forced the two candidates for U.S. Senate to focus on issues, instead of “gotcha points.”

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We were also able to see where original thought is absent from the process. Allen showed a dogged determination. He appeared more tied to the national Republican agenda. Kaine projected more likability, openness to compromise and some clear ideas on how to solve problems.

Only time will tell whether voters actually buy the need to scrap Obamacare. I’m not sure that ship hasn’t already sailed for folks whose relatives are benefiting from it. What could have been a better approach for each candidate was to talk about how Obamacare could be tweaked to make it all everyone wants it to be. I don’t get the feeling working men and women really want to do away with it.

Debate about oil and gas exploration seems to be a shadow solution. The Obama administration has allowed more domestic natural gas drilling than any other administration in recent memory. Natural gas prices have declined.

But the average consumer would not see any benefit from such oil exploration in the near future. It also remains to be seen whether Big Oil will allow their conservative allies to really support an idea that could cost them billions of dollars.

Allen’s answer on the Dream Act was an artful dodge. Kaine’s impatience with the rules contradicted his likable presentation.

However, the issue that could swing any voter watching Allen and Kaine duke it out statewide is gridlock in Congress. Voters whose lives are hanging in the balance, whose unemployment benefits are running out, who have no savings left, aren’t interested in who’s towing the party line.

Deep down, I sense a sincere desire across the racial and cultural divide for a Congress that will get along, compromise where practical. What’s needed is clear-thinking folks who will do what’s necessary to move the country further into the wind of a quickening national economy.

In this environment any candidate who tries to stick to the stereotypical liberal/conservative/Tea Party mindset commits political suicide.

Unfortunately, only one candidate on stage this night effectively addressed the need to break up congressional gridlock. The other appeared to confirm the need for sending the right kind of mindset to the U.S. Senate.

Fortunately, we have the sound person to thank for helping us see the differences more clearly. That person, whoever it was, did the Old Dominion a great favor by eliminating headline-getting antics, by forcing both candidates to follow the rules.

I wonder whether Virginia’s sound person is available for the next presidential debate?

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter and anchor, He is a 1974 graduate of Suffolk High School. Email him at