Mixed reviews for Pence, Gregg after 1st gubernatorial debate

Experts say Gregg made some points, but not enough

INDIANAPOLIS - Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate earned a combined rating of 16.8, which was higher than any prime time show, including Modern Family and CSI.

So the potential was there for candidates to change a lot of minds, but it's not clear if any of them did.

Democrat John Gregg went after Republican Mike Pence.

"And I've seen you as a good, good looking guy riding around in that red pickup," said Gregg. "I hope that you're putting in there that you didn't support the auto industry."

RTV6 Political Insider Lara Beck said Gregg won hands-down by effectively delivering a great message.

"Mike Pence, on the other hand, really was flat and very lethargic, which makes me wonder, is he so concerned about the Tea Party label and the ad that's out right now where he's saying, 'C'mon, let's go pick a fight,' that he's almost trying to mitigate that by being a little more lethargic," said Beck.

Some debate watchers believed Pence let himself get beaten up in an effort to avoid sounding too extreme or harsh.

But others said Pence effectively counter-punched and made enough points to maintain his advantage.

"Pretty straightforward. Pretty tame," said RTV6 Political Insider Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. "I don't think the needle moved anywhere for anybody. And I think that's good for Pence, because when you've got your double-digit lead, that's what you want to keep walking out."

Pence did elicit groans with his incessant mentions of his Road Map for Indiana, which some suggested should be the basis for a drinking game.

But IUPUI Political Communications Professor Kristina Sheeler doesn't think Pence overdid it.

"He may have gone too far," said Sheeler. "But at the same time, repetition is king. What are you going to remember after the debate? Pence's road map."

Sheeler thinks Gregg made some points, but ultimately failed to ruffle Pence's feathers.

There are two more debates to come.

But with Wednesday night's having failed to produce any fireworks, most experts believe that ratings for the last two encounters will drop sharply.

That means Wednesday might have been Gregg's big chance. 

The remaining two debates will take place in South Bend on Oct. 17 and in Fort Wayne on Oct. 25.


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