Livestream here. After the jump, you can see all of my liveblog comments. I thought Ross had the upper hand slightly — did pretty well zapping Hutchinson on flip-flops and was passionate on issues like the private option and the minimum wage while Hutchinson hedged. That said, Hutchinson is in triangulating mode and acting like the front-runner. The polls have him in the lead and Ross didn’t land any big knockout blows. Tie (or a close win for Ross) goes to the front-runner.
Thing is, the big picture almost doesn’t matter. I suspect almost all of the attention will be devoted to the most memorable zinger: Hutchinson saying that Ross’s “knees buckled” and he wasn’t sufficiently pro-gun after the Sandy Hook tragedy. That’s, well, kind of inflammatory, and I could imagine it backfiring with some swing voters. On the other hand, you can’t lose in Arkansas by being more in love with weaponry than the other guy, so maybe that was a winner for Asa. Who won the debate? Really depends on how you think that line — about to be replayed over and over — went over with swing voters.
The other observation I’d make: interesting that the Tea Party base seems cool with Hutchinson on the private option. He’s still hedging a bit, but he sounded an awful lot like a guy who has every intention of continuing the policy if he’s elected.
On gay marriage, the situation was depressing or hopeful depending on how you look at it. Both of them are still against gay marriage and gave what I view as cowardly answers (sorry, when you hang out with politicians enough as a reporter, you start concluding that most mainstream pols who say they have some deep and heartfelt opposition to gay marriage are simply lying). On the other hand, both had a hangdog resignation about the inevitable. There was no Huckabee-like talk of defying the courts. We’ll have to wait and see what the courts tell us, they said. White flag, y’all.
I wish Roby Brock was running for governor.
More tomorrow. After the jump, my liveblog notes:
Both Hutchinson and Ross open with platitudes and hokey family stories. Ross said he was so “fed up with Congress” that he didn’t run for re-election. Heh.
Roby Brock asks Hutchinson how he came to the conclusion that he supported the minimum wage ballot initiative, which he used to oppose. Hutchinson bobs and weaves and changes the subject. Talks Obamacare.
Ross says he’s been a consistent supporter of the minimum wage. He can’t decide whether Hutchinson sounds more like “a slicker lawyer or slick D.C. politician — he’s been both.” Ross tells Hutchinson he needs to “not make decisions from polling, you need to make decisions from the heart.”
Ross notes Hutchinson flip-flopped on pre-k too: “Asa says one thing in Arkansas and does another thing in Washington.” He says people keep their word on the deer stand.
Boy, the crowd is rowdy.
Ross: “I’ve never been accused of hollering before.” No one laughs. Ross is awkward sometimes.
Ross evokes Beebe on tax cuts: “we’re going to do it as we can afford it.”
Scanning Twitter, Republicans SHOCKINGLY say that Ross is angry, even though he seems bland.
Who won Round 1? I’d say Ross, who did a better job of making the flip-flop charge stick than previous attempts, though it was by no means a knockout punch. What say y’all?
“No one’s more pro-gun than I am,” Ross says, but has concerns about Open Carry.
Hutchinson: “After the Sandy Hook incident, Mr. Ross’s knees buckled.” Disgusting.
Question about what their wives will do as First Lady. I’m getting a beer.
Round 2 goes to…I dunno. Hutchinson had the zinger everyone will be repeating: that Ross was insufficiently pro-gun after the Sandy Hook tragedy — “knees buckled.” I actually lean somewhat libertarian on guns but find that statement so awful that it almost changes my mind. But I’m not the target audience. You can’t lose in Arkansas by being more gun-happy than the next guy.
Hutchinson says that the private option is “working.” (Where is the Tea Party and Conduit for Action howling? Crickets?) Says he’ll monitor costs, but is otherwise vague.
Ross gives impassioned defense of the private option and says Hutchinson isn’t giving clear answer on continuing the policy (though sure sounds like Hutchinson is bowing to the inevitable). Says that the big decrease in uninsurance rate should be a point of pride in Arkansas.
Roby Brock is a knockout panelist. Just great — clear, adversarial, thoughtful, fair.
Asa Hutchinson on same-sex marriage: “Difficult issue because people of Arkansas have spoken on it and the courts are now reviewing it.” He’s against same-sex marriage, but time to wait for the courts. Hedging for the haters but basically waving the white flag.
Ross, talking nonsense: “I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. But let me be clear, I will not tolerate discrimination of anyone in the state of Arkansas.”
Asa Hutchinson said his ads were all positive. Ross laughs.
Ross says Hutchinson and out-of-state interests spending millions to try to make people think Ross is something he’s not. “I’m a conservative, God-fearing, gun-owning, pro-business, conservative Arkansas Democrat,” Ross says.