Debate Questions For Gilmore And Warner
When former governors Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner square off in the Virginia U.S. Senate debate at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning, the questions will undoubtedly focus on some obvious topics--the troubled economy, the war, the housing crunch, maybe even immigration.
And the candidates are likely to be asked about the presidential race in Virginia and its impact on their own efforts to succeed Sen. John Warner.
The debate, which will air live on News Channel 8, is the only face-to-face meeting of the campaign that we know will be televised in the Washington area. After much back-and-forth, Warner has now agreed to another debate, Oct. 3 in Roanoke, but it is not yet clear whether any Washington-area station will pick up that broadcast.
I had a list of questions I was going to ask Warner and Gilmore, but last week, three months after the Chamber asked me to be one of the panelists at the debate, I was disinvited, at the request of one of the candidates, according to a Chamber executive. The Chamber would not confirm which candidate objected to my presence, but other sources confirmed it was the Gilmore campaign. (Funny, when the Chamber executive asked me to guess which side had bounced me, I figured it would be Warner, who tends to be unusually cautious about contact with reporters.)
I'd like to see the candidates asked if they would kindly explain the current Wall Street crisis and its roots--not as a gotcha question, but as a way to see how they think about the economy and whether they can do what few journalists have accomplished this week: Lay out in clear, simple terms the relationships among all these moving and struggling parts of our economy. After all, if they can't explain the problem to their constituents, how can they begin to sell any solutions they might support?
Questions that seek to push the candidates away from the easy sloganeering of the campaign trail are usually the most fruitful. Warner delivers a detailed proposal for a new energy policy on his web site, but he offers just three sentences there on the Iraq war, saying only that he favors "a responsible plan - without artificial timelines."
Shockingly, Gilmore's issues page does not mention the war--not a word. The top five issues on Gilmore's site are "Protecting the Second Amendment" (guns), "Illegal Immigration," "Energy Independence," "Protecting the Taxpayers," and "Preserving Traditional Values" (abortion and marriage.)
By contrast, Warner's top five are "Energy Policy," "Health Care," "The War," "Being Competitive," and "Improving Our Nation's Infrastructure."
I'd like to hear the candidates on the topic of Virginia's demographic shift toward more Democratic voting and what it means for the state's politics and for basic attitudes toward state and federal spending and taxing.
Both of these guys, hard as it may be to believe at this point, were at one point candidates for president this year. At the Republican convention last month, when Gilmore was asked why he was there and not campaigning back home, said this: ""I have a national following. I'm a national leader. People expect me to be here." He really said that.
Warner, who delivered an underwhelming keynote address at the Democratic convention, is an Obama supporter, but he made some comments at the convention about the fact that he has to remain cognizant of the fact that lots of Virginians will be voting McCain-Warner in November. Is the Senate candidate moderating his positions in this campaign to appeal to those Republicans and independents? How?
And what does Gilmore really think of McCain, who during the 2000 Virginia Republican primary called McCain "angry and divisive," boasting that the candidate's Straight Talk Express "ran out of gas in Virginia"?
What questions would you pose to Gilmore and Warner if you were on Thursday's debate panel?
By Marc Fisher |
September 17, 2008; 4:07 PM ET
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