There’s a story about the original Kennedy/Nixon debate in 1960. Polls showed that those who saw the debate on television thought that Kennedy had won. Those who heard it on radio thought Nixon had won. It was a matter of perspective. The television viewers could see Nixon sweaty and looking nervous compared to the handsome Kennedy. The radio listeners were more focused on the content of Nixon’s answers.
I was honored to be a panelist on the WYES debate Sunday night. After it was over I wondered who won and thought it to be a draw. Both men were strong and knowledgeable. They differ in style, Nagin has more hip talk in his delivery; Landrieu is more suave, But neither overwhelmed the other. That was from my perspective.
What ultimately matters most is how the debates are portrayed on the 10 PM news: Which segments were shown, who was seen saying what. Both Channels 4 and 6 covered the debates. In their coverage, both focused on an exchange between the two about political support. While some have tried to pin down Landrieu on his stealth support from former Mayor Marc Morial, what may have resonated the most was Landrieu reminding the audience that Nagin has the support of Baton Rouge State Senator Cleo Fields. Next to Edwin Edwards, Fields, who was pictured on a video tape pocketing cash from Edwards and never explained why, may the most unpopular politician in the state especially among white Conservatives.
As it happens, white Conservatives,, caught between Mr.”Chocoate City” and someone who they regard as a tax and spend Liberal, may be the swing vote in this election. The more they are reminded about Cleo Fields, the more they will swing to Landrieu. Who won the debate may ultimately be a question of who watched the 10 PM news. Usually chronic news watchers tend to be chronic voters and they tend to be more conservative. Nagin and Landrieu were on the debate set, but in the background, Cleo Fields may have had an impact.
Just thinking about New Orleans.