I just finished watching the debate, and I do have some first impressions I want to get down.
First, I can't believe how angry Joe Lieberman looked the entire time. He seemed personally offended by the notion that he was being challenged. He seemed kind of whiny and petulant the entire time.
He was rude. He interrupted. He didn't respect the rules of the debate, and stepped on Lamont's time. He actually wagged his finger at Lamont a number of times. Poor Joanne Nesti looked like she had been hit by a bus a couple of times, and I noticed that she tried to give Lamont extra time near the end.
Attack of the Senate Candidates
Secondly, Lieberman's attacks didn't really hit home, except for the part about the tax returns, which Lamont sort of dodged. But they were numerous, and they were nasty. He kept saying "There you go again," or "There he goes again." Who are you, Ronald Reagan? Painting Lamont as a conservative Republican in a liberal Democrat's clothing just didn't seem to be working, and Lamont shrugged it off.
Lamont's attacks, on the other hand, at least had a foot in reality, although they were just as numerous. The Bush-Cheney-Lieberman energy bill was a good one. Also, Lamont's last question to Lieberman, when he asked if, like Lieberman had said in 1988, that he still thought it was time for a change after 18 years. Lieberman handled it well, but it was a nice touch.
Lieberman saved the sub base? Huh. I thought Rob Simmons saved that thing. And good luck getting rid of earmarks. Wow.
This is where Lieberman seemed close to losing it, and where I think Lamont did best. Lamont's position on Iraq, despite what Lieberman said, seemed pretty clear to me. On the other hand, I'm not exactly sure what Lieberman wants to do there. Lieberman did make good points about regional instability, but trying to scare voters with terrorists seems rather more like the party opposite.
In order to win tonight, Joe Lieberman had to convince Democrats that he was, in fact, one of them. He failed. His attacks will remind voters of Bush's attacks on John Kerry in 2004, and he wasn't very reassuring on Iraq, which is the central issue of the campaign, if not our times. This debate often seemed to me like a debate between a Republican and a Democrat, not two Democrats.
For Ned Lamont to win, he had to keep up with the more experienced Lieberman, keep his cool, and lay out his positions without succumbing to Lieberman's attacks. He did this. He looked cooler and calmer on camera (despite that thing he does where he pops his eyes out of his head) than Lieberman, who just looked angry and self-important.
On the issues, Lamont managed to state his positions more clearly than Lieberman, who unfortunately has to stand on his record. Lieberman got plenty of statesman points (when he was calm), but I'm not sure that's what voters are after. I actually expected Lieberman to be a policy encyclopedia in this debate, and he wasn't. There were a couple of places where Lamont's policy knowledge was obviously less than Lieberman's, but Lamont kept up well.
In the end, Lamont exceeded expectations. Policy-wise, they were about even. Lamont won hands down on style. Lieberman, on the other hand, looked like he didn't want to be there--like NBC30 is beneath him.
Victory to Mr. Lamont.