You’ve no doubt seen the video already on Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck comparing homosexuality to alcoholism in a debate with Sen. Michael Bennet yesterday on “Meet the Press.” That statement is getting a lot of negative press for Buck today, as it should (here, here, and here, for a few examples), but as we reflect on the national interview as a whole, we keep coming back to the same question:
How could Buck have been so bad?
With one exception (Presidential races), political debates are largely meaningless affairs so long as the candidates involved don’t do or say something stupid that will create headlines the next day. Buck made a tremendous mistake in answering the question about homosexuality in the manner he chose, but why would he even answer that question at all? Was he not properly prepared by his staff? Did he just panic? Or is Buck just really not ready for this kind of prime-time exposure?
Buck is running against an incumbent Senator, and by all accounts, the race is neck-and-neck. This is a great position for a challenger to find himself just a few weeks from Election Day, and it makes the strategy for Buck really simple: Run out the clock without screwing up. If you get asked a question like the one about homosexuality, all you have to do is duck and dodge in one answer, and perhaps one follow-up answer, and then you’re on to the next topic.
But it wasn’t just Buck’s answer on homosexuality that had us scratching our heads. In one question, moderator David Gregory asked each candidate about their biggest personal goal. Bennet did what he should do: He answered with something about raising his three daughters to be good citizens. But Buck, inexplicably, decided to say that his biggest personal goal was to play as much golf as possible and try to reduce his handicap.
This is politics 101, folks. When you get asked about your personal life, you talk about your family. This ain’t rocket surgery.
Again, was Buck not properly prepared by his staff? Did he panic and spurt out the first thing that came to mind? How do you completely whiff on such a massive softball of a question?
The U.S. Senate race in Colorado looks like it’s going to come down to the wire. If the race is decided by just a few thousand votes, it may very well be Buck’s own amateurish responses like these that ultimately make the difference.