Last night, you got your only chance to see the two main candidates for governor, Roy Cooper and Dan Forest, in the same room answering questions and stuff.
I watched it with two political pro friends (who have no dog in the fight for governor). Here’s what they came away with:
- Forest helped himself. All of us agreed that Forest exuded a lot of confidence and cool. He made it clear he belonged up there on the stage with Cooper. Cooper was the opposite of calm and cool. He came out swinging right from the start of the debate. Cooper snarled at Forest like there was something really personal between the two. I agree with political scientist David McLennan, who offered post-debate analysis online for WRAL. The professor noted how calm and cool and confident Forest kept himself during the debate. He also noted that Cooper was not behaving like a candidate who is up by 13 points in the polls. (WRAL released a poll last night with just that margin.)
- “Money Quote?” Cooper had one (his closing argument). and Forest did not. My consultant comrades said events like this require a ready-made quote that is almost guaranteed to get major play in the post-debate media coverage. You lay this one at the feet of Lt. Dan’s. consultants and campaign management.
- Clothes make the man. My consultant friends told me clothing choices are crucial for events like this. They speak volumes about the candidate — whether you look senatorial or gubernatorial to the voters. Cooper got the memo on this and complied. Forest apparently did not. Again, this falls at the feet of whomever prepped Lt. Dan for the debate.
Cooper has been all over the TV and newspaper thanks to COVID. Dan Forest — thanks to the low key nature of his job — has had to work much harder to gain publicity.
Today, while out and about, I came across some moderate, basically apolitical friends. To my surprise, they had sued into the debate. Their take? They agreed that Forest actually came off as smarter than Cooper. They also noted that Cooper came off as mean — like an *a-hole* — with his snarling at Forest. My friends also recognized that Cooper is responsible for the COVID-related economic mess in the state.
Let’s hope plenty more open-minded folks like this were watching last night.