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SCOTUS Retirement Steals Debate Show

Between Abdul’s debate on Thursday at the War Memorial and the Hoosier Access debate on Saturday at IUPUI, you probably didn’t think much could happen to make the second debate all that interesting.  Well, Justice John Paul Stevens saw to it to make it interesting by announcing his retirement from the highest court in the land and presenting an opportunity for the Indiana GOP Senate candidates to distance themselves from each other.  But did it happen?

We covered a lot of topics on Saturday, from the economy to jobs, to health care.  But the one subject that got the most attention and the one that caused the debate to get a little heated was the retirement of Justice Stevens.  This seemed like an opportunity for John Hostettler, Marlin Stutzman, Don Bates, Jr. and Richard Behney to really distance themselves from Dan Coats and hit Coats on his record.  Since Coats got into the race, the other four candidates have been hitting him hard for his vote to confirm Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993.  While all the candidates agreed that they would only support strict constructionist pro-life nominees for the high court, the candidates pounced on the reports that Coats said that his vote to support Ginsburg was abiding by the “time honored tradition of the Senate to pay deference to the President in his choices for the Supreme Court.”  Coats, now on the defense, flatly denied saying such a thing.  He said that it was a strategy used by Senate Republican leadership and endorsed by outside groups to target President Clinton in his bid for re-election in 1996.  It was a strategy that failed and a vote that Coats insisted was a mistake.  If given the chance to do that vote over again Coats said he would not have voted for Ginsburg.

While other topics were covered, the issue of judicial nominees clearly stole the show.

So who won?  I wouldn’t say their was a clear cut winner, though after speaking with some of the attendees afterward, some minds were changed, some people were introduced to candidates they had never hear of and we all left knowing that Marlin Stutzman grew up on a farm.

Some people say that the candidates need to start separating themselves from each other.  While that notion is right to an extent, we’re dealing with Republican candidates.  They’re going to agree on most of the issues and even agree on how to handle them.  It’s a fact.  What they need to do is prove that their particular experience is the kind that can beat Brad Ellsworth in November.  Will a fresh face work?  Or will voters trust those with the institutional knowledge more?  In my opinion, institutional knowledge won the debate on specifics, but a fresh outlook carried the day on the need for change.

If you missed the debate on Saturday, don’t worry.  You can still see it.  Watch a replay of it here.

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