Alas, I was out of the state for the Texas gubernatorial debate on Friday evening, but having watched the replay, I can’t say that I missed much. As debates go, I found it relatively low-wattage. Both candidates were articulate and reasonably polite to their opponents, though I thought Davis came across as very stiff–think for a moment how energetically Ann Richards might have talked about her filibuster or the cuts to education in 2011. Davis did appear to be more on the attack than Abbott, whom she criticized for his earlier remark that the Rio Grande Valley was like a third-world country. Abbott appeared to be happy to focus on Obama whenever possible.
Abbott made much of his Catholic faith. “I’m pro-life and pro-Catholic,” he said. “I want to develop a culture of life.” Davis took Abbott to task for paying women in his office less than men, and for “campaigning with known sexual predators.” (Hello, Ted Nugent!) Abbott promised “more health care to more Texans,” adding, “Obamacare is a failure” (which, by the way, is a highly questionable assertion). Abbott seemed to raise the issue of corruption in the Rio Grande Valley: “We need to have a state that eliminates corruption,” he said, “whether it is in the Panhandle or the Rio Grande Valley.” He added, “The Rio Grande Valley is filled with hardworking people.” Too little, too late with that line.

Abbott said he wanted “to get beyond the school system of the past” and focus on “fundamental building blocks.” This could mean almost anything, but what it most likely means is less funding for public education in the future. This collection of Republicans leaders is something we haven’t seen before: Another thing Abbott likes to say is that he doesn’t believe in “throwing money at a problem.” Of course that didn’t stop Perry from spending huge sums of money to fund a surge on the border that accomplished essentially nothing except getting his mug on national television. Davis and Abbott also disagreed over increasing the minimum wage. She was for it; he was against it.

The low point of the debate, in my opinion, was Abbott’s “candidate to candidate question.” Abbott’s inquiry to Davis was, “Do you regret your vote for Barack Obama.” What kind of garbage is that? It was intrusive and infantile.

I don’t think there was a winner of the debate. Both candidates knew the issues very well. Neither caught the other in a “gotcha” moment. I’m going to call it a draw.