John DeStefano needed a win tonight. He didn't need just to place, or to keep with his opponent. He needed to win in order to gain ground on Jodi Rell.
He did it.
My first impression of the debate is that Rell ducked too many questions, and was far too careful, while DeStefano was a lot more direct. Rell scored some points on taxation, but she was forced to defend herself a lot, while avoiding much in the way of attacks on DeStefano.
Both candidates seemed awkward, at first. DeStefano's voice was hoarse. Rell seemed to stumble and forgot the name of an agency. But both seemed to hit their stride mid-debate. Rell focused on her acheivements while in office, which is an impressive list to be sure. But DeStefano, who as I have said is at his best when talking about ideas, talked a lot about his ideas. He was a lot clearer and more focused than in his debate with Dan Malloy in July, and his message came through better.
And when Rell ducked two questions, one about the Senate race and another about the biggest mistake each candidate had made, DeStefano was honest and direct. That, more than anything else, turned this debate around for him.
If it was his intention to draw Jodi Rell out and force her to engage on the issues, he may not have been entirely successful. But he did force her to dither and remain noncomittal. This could hurt her, and force her to engage more forcefully in the future.
One debate to go. We'll see if they have any effect. But this time, I think DeStefano was clearly the winner.
That's what I think. What do you think?