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June 08, 2016 12:19 PM UTC

Debate Diary: Grading the GOP U.S. Senate Debate (June 7)

  • 5 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

DebateDiaryThe five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate took part in a debate at 9News in Denver on Tuesday. We watched the entire debate and graded the candidates on stage, as we have done for previous debates.

The Republican Senate candidates are spending quite a bit of time together lately, and will debate again on Wednesday in Colorado Springs. But first things first: On the stage Tuesday in Denver, from left to right: Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, Darryl Glenn, Jack Graham, and Jon Keyser.

Candidate responses from the 9News debate didn’t present voters with a whole lot of new information, but it was clear that the field is starting to separate a bit. Jon Keyser was almost an afterthought for most of the night; if you watched the first 20 minutes, you might not even have known Keyser was there. Robert Blaha continues to try to present himself as the most Donald Trump-like candidate in the field, while Jack Graham is still straddling the middle and still fuming about being fired as Athletic Director at CSU. Ryan Frazier had a decent night — he is clearly comfortable in the 9News studios, where he had previously spent time as a “political analyst” — and Darryl Glenn almost looked like a frontrunner for awhile.

9News reporters Brandon Rittiman and Kyle Clark both had a strong night as moderators and did a good job of trying to keep the candidates on-topic.

And now, the debate grades…

Colorado Pols Debate Diary
Grading the June 7 Republican Senate Debate Sponsored by 9News

Ryan Frazier
Grade: B

Ryan FrazierFrazier has not been very strong in prior debates, though his stage presence has always bailed him out. Frazier didn’t say anything particularly memorable or noteworthy on Tuesday, but again he was polished and comfortable on stage and looked the part of a U.S. Senate candidate much more than anyone else.

Frazier didn’t escape the debate entirely unscathed, however. In response to a question about getting blown out in his last two campaigns, Frazier tried to brush it off by saying that he has “won more than he has lost” while pointing to his successful campaigns for Aurora City Council. To anyone who is at all familiar with Frazier’s political history, the answer just made him look silly.

—–

Robert Blaha
Grade: B-

Robert Blaha
Robert Blaha

Blaha has done a solid job in just about every debate thus far, demonstrating a knack for holding the spotlight and dominating the conversation. Blaha was somewhat different on Tuesday in his efforts to tie his campaign to Donald Trump, which is clearly his strategy heading into the final weeks of the GOP Primary.

On the downside, Blaha again came off strange in discussing the Hispanic community in Colorado, returning to a line he often uses about how he has “Hispanics in his family” and is thus particularly attuned to issues of their concern.

To the average voter watching the debate, Blaha certainly would have appeared to be one of the frontrunners because of his ability to keep control of the microphone. He doesn’t score better on our report card, however, because while he talks a lot, Blaha doesn’t really say anything either.

—–

Jack Graham
Grade: C

Jack GrahamLittle has changed from what we wrote about Graham in our last debate diary:

If you want to rile up Jack Graham, just ask him about his performance reviews from two years ago when he was fired as Athletic Director at Colorado State University.

Graham was a tad better in answering questions about his tenure at CSU, but too often he descended into conspiracy theory territory in claiming that negative performance reviews were some sort of coordinated attack by everyone in Ft. Collins. You don’t even need to know about Graham’s performance reviews to know that this is a bad story for him — Graham can’t hide his anger and irritation as soon as the question comes up.

When he isn’t lost on some crazy rant about CSU, Graham once again tried to position himself as the more moderate of the candidates; we still don’t see how that helps him in a Republican Primary, but that’s his plan. Graham was stronger than the other candidates in saying that Donald Trump needed to earn back his support after his recent racist comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

—–

Darryl Glenn
Grade: C

Darryl Glenn
Darryl Glenn

An odd thing has happened to Glenn since he has moved closer to frontrunner status in the GOP Primary: He keeps getting worse in debate settings. Glenn was once one of the more endearing personalities in the Republican field, but he has traded his enthusiasm for a dour expression.

Glenn was treated as a potential frontrunner by the debate moderators, and in response he was churlish and angry. On multiple occasions Glenn challenged the “premise” of the moderator’s question, which served only to make him look petty and standoffish.

Glenn also had a weird moment in response to a question about his weak fundraising performance. He insisted that his fundraising has been strong since the last reporting period showed him with a couple of nickels and some pocket lint in his bank account. It seemed like Glenn was trying to bluff the moderators, and the audience, into thinking that he had become a much better fundraiser…though he clearly avoided any specifics about his campaign finances.

—– 

Jon Keyser
Grade: F-

Jon Keyser
Jon Keyser

Keyser has been consistently terrible in the Republican Senate debates, but he set a new standard for awfulness on Tuesday. Keyser could have literally tried to stab someone on stage and still might not have come across any worse than he did on Tuesday.

Keyser was visibly nervous and sweaty on stage, and it didn’t help his appearance that he had too much makeup on his face; Keyser had a bit of an orange Donald Trump glow to his skin. We didn’t hear much from Keyser during the first 20 minutes of the debate — he was virtually invisible off to the right of the screen — and he had little opportunity to engage in longer discussions. The other Republican candidates didn’t even bother trying to attack Keyser, which was telling in itself.

When Keyser did finally speak up, it was in response to some some tough, though certainly not unexpected, questions from the moderators. He was asked about his demonstrably-untrue TV commercial about Michael Bennet and Iran, as well as his month-long scandal over petition fraud; Keyser should have been well-prepared to answer both questions, but instead he mumbled nonsense accusations that the moderators were just repeating “Democratic press releases.”

Keyser fumbled most of his answers, droned on for long periods telling meandering and pointless stories, and generally looked like he was considering bolting for the doors at any moment. If Keyser’s candidacy wasn’t already deader than dead, Tuesday’s debate could have been a game-changer. Keyser didn’t just look like an awful candidate on Tuesday — he looked completely out of place altogether.

 

Comments

5 thoughts on “Debate Diary: Grading the GOP U.S. Senate Debate (June 7)

  1. The meme that Glenn was "one of the most endearing personalities in the Republican field" has always been perplexing to me after years of watching him on the El Paso County Commission. "Dour," "churlish and angry" has always been his demeanor from the dais, especially when confronted by any citizen who offered criticism or even disagreement with him. You are just finally seeing him for who he is.

  2. Well, my F- grade goes to TV 9 News – if you don't live in the Denver Metro area, you can't necessarily see the debate. Worse, 9News put out only a teeny,tiny clip of Glenn v. Keyser which was not complete or informative and made you wonder, and what is the TV station's bias here?! No links to be able to see the debate after the fact. Candidates faired well I guess, my THUMBS DOWN and failing mark goes to 9News — PS your website is terrible! 

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