Monday, November 13, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part II

MPR Debate, Fitzgerald Theater

Peter Hutchinson, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Hatch at the MPR debate. (c) North Star Liberty.
Minnesota Public Radio sponsored two debates that night, one between the three candidates for U.S. Senate, and one between the three Minnesota gubernatorial candidates. The concession stands were open, including beer and wine service. People of all ages were present, from a middle schooler filling out a worksheet for his social studies class, to pierced twenty-somethings, to retirees. The seating was general admission, except for several rows in back that were reserved for guests of the candidates. The audience seemed to be a diverse mix of educated voters, although one Hispanic member of our group remarked at the relative lack of racial diversity.

Political reporter Kerri Miller moderated the Senate candidates debate, tenaciously asking follow-up questions, and allowing the debate rules against applause and other audience noise to go unenforced. Most of the cheering and jeering came from Amy Klobuchar's supporters. Klobuchar had a Cheshire cat-like grin during most of the debate, especially while her Republican opponent Mark Kennedy was speaking.

Veteran MPR host Gary Eichten moderated the gubernatorial debate, attempting to keep a lid on audience noise so we could "hear from the candidates." Unfortunately, some in the audience laughed at his requests for restraint. Miller's earlier wink-and-a-nod to the Dems didn't help them to take Eichten's admonishments seriously.

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