It's here, it's here, it's finally here. KNPB (Reno PBS) is hosting the first NV-Sen debate of 2012 tonight. And tonight, Nevada Progressive is hosting the "unofficial official snarky liveblog" of this debate. So let the fun begin!
8:07 PM: After opening statements, the first question was on reaching across the aisle. Shelley Berkley went first, and she began talking about the Nevada Congressional Delegation working together on Yucca Mountain issues, foreign policy (Israel), and tourism bills. Dean Heller, meanwhile, tried to backtrack his support for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan... And strangely brought up the "Balanced Budget" nonsense. Huh?!
8:12 PM: Heller keeps trying to laugh it off and run away from Romney, but Berkley keeps reminding the audience of his record showing otherwise. Heller is now talking about Berkley "raising more money from Wall Street". So who again is benefitting from all the Koch funded ads?
8:15 PM: Sigh, both candidates are getting super hawkish on Middle East affairs. Can we really afford another war there?
8:19 PM: Hmmm... The sage grouse. Both candidates are saying odd things about saving this threatened species. So it shouldn't be endangered... But it can be saved?
Oh gawd, and Heller is now bashing Obama and the EPA. Oh yes, who cares about that damned environment.
8:22 PM: And here it is... Kidney-gate! Shelley is now talking up the 99%. She's dismissing perhaps the most ridiculous "SCANDAL!!!" of this cycle by making a contrast between her support for the middle class versus Heller's fealty to the teabaggers. Meanwhile, Heller is... Making some silly rant about health care and Keystone Pipeline and regulations and stuff.
Seriously, folks, Shelley is showing how to handle this "SCANDAL!!!" of pure stupidity.
8:27 PM: Dean Heller probably just killed his last chance to make inroads with Latinos. He just said the DREAM Act is "going nowhere", then said some bullshit about "bringing people together to work on reform". Heh. All Shelley had to do was remind the audience of Heller's support for Arizona SB 1070 and Kris Kobach/Mitt Romney approved "self deportation" policies. Heller is babbling on about "jobs bills now". Latino voters are probably now tuning him out.
8:32 PM: This last question was on federal debt. Shelley Berkley smartly turned it around and made a very pro 99% platform of ending "billionaire bailouts" while protecting Medicare & Social Security. Shelley then demolished Heller's facade of a "balanced budget amendment" by pointing out exactly how it would force the end of Medicare & Social Security as we know it if enacted.
8:37 PM: Here it is! Dean Heller is scrambling to toss as many "Obamacare" and Harry Reid attacks on Shelley Berkley as possible, but Shelley again demolished him. And the reason why? Paul Ryan. Shelley must be thanking her lucky stars for Romney picking Ryan as his VP.
8:40 PM: Strange. Heller is now trying to run to the LEFT of Shelley on housing. He's bashing her for voting for financial deregulation in 1999... And yes, she screwed up there. However, Heller has been voting for deregulation ever since he got into Congress. So really, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?
8:44 PM: Lordy, help us all! Dean Heller keeps singing the praises of the horrific Keystone XL pipeline that experts keep saying will do nothing to help America achieve energy independence... Yet he's also trying to call himself a "renewable energy champion"? It didn't take too much for Shelley to point out Heller's record of voting to cut efforts to build a better energy future, though even she engaged in a bit of Keystone nonsense.
8:50 PM: Here's something to keep in mind: When Shelley Berkley talks military and veterans' issues, don't try to fuck with her. Dean Heller is trying to do this by bashing her over last year's debt debacle. But here's the problem: Because Heller dug in his heels on coddling the 1%, the debt agreement passed. And if Heller actually wants to save military spending like he claims to, something's got to give...
Oh wait, here he goes on the Department of Education. So he wants to cut school funding! He's going crazy now.
8:57 PM: Shelley rebutted Heller some more on education by explaining how she used Pell Grants to make her way through college, just like many more thousands of Nevadans. She then pointed out Heller's enduring support for the Paul Ryan plan to gut Pell Grants to death and kick Nevadans out of higher education.
And now, we're hearing the closing arguments. Heller is waxing poetic about Ronald Reagan and 1980 and some mystical mythical past that never really existed... While Shelley concluded with a blend of her personal story of rising from hardship to success with a strong case for standing up for Nevada's 99%. The contrast couldn't be clearer.
9:20 PM: Here are my first impressions from the whole debate-
- Both candidates tried hard to stick to talking points. And unfortunately, tonight's format made that incredibly easy.
- Dean Heller tried so hard to stay "above the fray" and "moderate", but that image showed serious cracks when he struggled to defend his votes for Paul Ryan's budget... And when he pretty much kissed the Nevada Latino vote goodbye with his condescending dismissal of the DREAM Act.
- Heller tried at first to push hard on "Kidney-gate", but even I was surprised by how quickly that fizzled.
- Two words we didn't hear from Dean Heller: MITT ROMNEY. Thankfully for the audience, Shelley Berkley regularly reminded everyone of who Heller has been endorsing for President.
- Oh, and both candidates are quite hawkish and potentially to the right of most Nevadans on foreign policy. Seriously, people here have "war fatigue" after two long and draining wars in the Middle East. Yet for some reason, both candidates kept yakking on who wants to saber rattle more on Iran.
- Also, it was weird seeing Heller trying to run to the LEFT of Berkley on financial regulation. Seriously, if Heller really wants Glass-Steagall reinstated, why hasn't he said so before tonight? And why hasn't he urged his fellow Republicans to stop fighting regulation?
- All in all, I honestly don't see tonight as a "game change". Heller kept playing by the Mike Slanker playbook in lobbing personal attacks at Shelley while puffing himself up with empty platitudes. And Shelley Berkley got to repeat her talking points in reminding everyone of Dean Heller's loyalty to the G-O-TEA. It was frustrating to watch at times, and perhaps Berkley was a bit uneven at times, but Heller in the end started to crack under pressure. And as long as Romney & Ryan hang around here, Heller will probably continue to show more cracks.