If you missed the debate between Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan, you can watch the recording at NJN's website here.
My first impression of the debate was that it was a draw. However, after a second look, Christie was the clear victor, based on the standard that Lonegan set in his opening statement. If you are going to review the debate a second time, I suggest you listen to it rather than watch it.
Lonegan said in his opening that he would use the debate to offer a clear choice and convince Republican voters that he was clearly the candidate to lead the Republican Party and New Jersey. While Lonegan did fairly well in the debate, he failed to meet his own standard. He did not make a compelling case that he is the only conservative in the race nor did he make a compelling case that he was the best candidate to defeat Corzine in November.
On social issues, Christie surprisingly came off as the more conservative candidate. The only social issue raised was gay marriage. Lonegan said he favored making it a ballot question. Christie clearly stated that he believed that marriage was between one man and one woman. On rebuttal, Lonegan said, "I have nothing to rebut."
On style and zingers, Lonegan came off as personal and nasty. Christie actually landed many more punches, but did so on the issues and in a matter of fact, rather than nasty manner.
On economic and fiscal issues, Lonegan was confusing and did not offer a clear choice. On property tax rebates, Lonegan said that they are scam that have caused New Jersey's ballooning debt. Christie hit this out of the park, laying the cause of New Jersey's debt on Corzine, Codey and McGreevey.
Lonegan said he would cut the size of state government, eliminate 5 departments and layoff 15,000 state workers. That's all good, but why would it be necessary if property tax rebates are the cause of our ballooning debt? I realize that is not were Lonegan stands, but that is what he said.
Christie was clear. He would cut spending and cut taxes for everyone. He would keep property tax relief. He would institute zero based budgeting.
On health insurance, Lonegan really blew it. When asked by a viewer if he would increase funding for emergency hospital care for of the 15,000 state employees he would layoff, Lonegan said that would be Pennsylvania's problem because of all the state workers who live in Pennsylvania. He said that health care for laid off state workers is not an issue.
When asked about his health care plan, Christie rattled off his plan to make the system more competitive by allowing consumers to buy insurance out of state and allowing small businesses to band together in trade associations to buy insurance for their employees at lower rates. Lonegan said he agreed with Christie's proposals, but that Christie was weak on tort reform. Again, Christie hit it out of the park, revealing that he started his legal career as an attorney defending doctors from frivolous law suits and that "of course" we need tort reform.
Lonegan's revelation that his 23 year old daughter does not have health insurance, as if that was a good thing, was weird.
I could go on issue by issue, but there is no need. In the last half hour of the debate Lonegan repeatedly said he agreed with Christie. He said he was pleased the there are many issue they agree on. Christie spent the last half hour deflecting Lonegan's jabs as if they were a nuisance, landing counter punches and running against Corzine.
Based on the standard that Lonegan set for himself in his opening, Christie won the debate.
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Pallone's Town Hall Meeting, Red Bank, August 25, 2009