CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Chet Culver lacked poise or Terry Branstad seemed uninterested during the second Iowa gubernatorial debate Thursday, depending on who you ask.
Both candidates met at Coe College to answer questions about their platforms, and opinions vary on which candidate benefitted more from the debate.
Democratic nominee Culver presented a clearer vision for the future of Iowa, according to Bruce Gronbeck, a University of Iowa political communication professor. “He projected a good optimistic image about where he has come from and where the state is going,” Gronbeck said. “Culver certainly needs this to get out of his 20-point hole in the polls.”
Gronbeck also felt Republican nominee and former governor Branstad wasn’t forceful enough during the debate.
“He seemed to be lacking energy and enthusiasm, and I’m not sure why,” Gronbeck said.
The governor’s physical appearance weakened his presentation, according to Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University.
“(He) looked sweaty and he was constantly touching his nose,” Schmidt said. “If you watched the debate, it was pretty clear Branstad was the winner.”
Schmidt felt Culver’s poor performance came down to a comment he made about Branstad during his closing remarks. Culver said that Branstad’s policies were a return to the 1920s. Branstad was first elected governor in 1983.
“Either (Culver) was disoriented or he was deliberately trying to say that Branstad was too old,” Schmidt said. “Either way, it
Opinion among debate attendees was split along party lines, with Culver supporters, such as Cedar Rapids native Joe Michalec, 57, saying that the Democratic incumbent demonstrated superior poise and knowledge during the proceeding.
“Branstad seemed like he wasn’t really interested,” Michalec said. “I was confused why he rejected a few of his rebuttals.”
Branstad supporter and Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Armstrong, 62, felt the debate showed Branstad was the more pro-business candidate.
“I think he gave the clearer vision,” Armstrong said. “I really do think Iowa needs the economy as the No. 1 priority.”
Although he supports Culver, Sam Bergus, 26, said he was unsure which candidate performed better during the debate. The Cedar Rapids engineer was disappointed that neither Culver nor Branstad reached any new ground in their talking points.
“They both avoided saying anything useful, they just went back to their stump speeches,” he said. “Neither covered anything in depth, they just kept saying statistics without providing sources.”