The picture above was taken just before the first debate of the biggest Senate race in the country. DVT live-blogged the debate, and also offered some post-debate analysis. Sibby has some great pictures of the debate, and also has some pictures of the startling meanness of some Daschle supporters.
I'm not sure how the debate sounded on the radio, but being there in person, Thune owned the stage. It was a raucous crowd, and I noted with interest that the Daschle campaign's huge number of staffers (all in their red shirts) were used to fill the seats, giving an artificial total to the amount of crowd noise for Daschle. The Thune campaign, on the other hand, made little concerted effort to fill the seats with its supporters, but the roar for Thune when he walked on the stage was definitely louder than the roar for Daschle when he walked on. The Daschle people were also more effective at getting their people to shout "We want Tom" than were the Thune people. There was a marked contrast to the organization of both campaigns regarding getting their supporters into the stands and shouting slogans.
Daschle was on his heels through most of the debate, only scoring some points on the issue of drought relief back in 2002. Thune spoke passionately and effectively on a series of issues, particularly ethanol, describing the failure of the energy bill last fall as one of many examples of the failure of the Senate to do anything productive, due solely to Daschle's partisan determination to obey the dictates of the Democratic caucus to make the Senate a graveyard for a host of issues like judicial nominations, tort reform and the federal marriage amendment. The one time Daschle scored points (on the issue of drought relief), he did so in a sarcastic, sneering tone that is unlikely to sit well with voters.
Thune, probably because of his days as an athlete, is apt to use sports metaphors, and today he used one of these metaphors very effectively. DVT live-blogged the moment:
Thune: "We had the ball on the one yard line" and it had passed the House and President wanted to sign the bill and it failed by 2 votes in the Senate. "Tom walked off the field and was signing autographs." The night before the crucial vote Daschle "was out signing books."
Daschle responded that he shouldn't be to blame since Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. I think that response weakens Daschle's claim to having "clout."
Thune also had a good comeback for Daschle's recent proposal to add a Small Farm Administration to the Department of Agriculture to "give a voice to the small farmers and ranchers in South Dakota." Thune responded (I'm paraphrasing): "That's what you and Senator Johnson are supposed to be there for, Tom." Thune said the last thing farmers need is more bureacracy in Washington.
I thought it was bit strange that Daschle pronounced the entire word "methyl tertiary butyl ether" (MTBE) multiple times when he responded with the excuse that the energy bill died because the House Republicans refused to negotiate on lawsuit immunity for MTBE manufacturers. Why didn't Daschle just say "MTBE" like everybody else?