I pose this question because I didn't watch the entire second debate, although I am skimming through it right now on CSPAN. The first debate I assessed as a weak performance by Feingold, who made his points articulately but didn't speak with the emotion and tenacity of a successful U.S. Senate candidate. In particular, I thought some of his jabs at Johnson came off as condescending to undecided voters. It look like Emily agrees with me.
For instance, he repeatedly mocked Johnson for not understanding the constitution, which he said he had "studied quite a bit." Nobody wants to hear about Feingold being a constitutional scholar they want to hear about him "defending freedom," "standing up for our rights." In short, he needs to aim for the heart, not the head.
Similarly, it might be good strategy for Feingold to insinuate that Johnson is an out-of-touch millionaire, but when he took that opportunity, he phrased it terribly. "A little economic diversity," was the term he used to describe another reason why voters should re-elect the poorest senator. People aren't looking for "economic diversity" in the Senate. Rather, they want a guy "who doesn't have millions of his own to buy an election, but is coming with nothing but a wish to represent the people of Wisconsin against the powerful Wall St. interests who are trying to steal this election from you."
This focus group research done by James Carville and Stan Greenberg makes a similar case for all Democrats. Run against the fat cats and the big corporations, but don't give voters some mumbo-jumbo about "moving forward" gradually, or ask them to be patient and wait for a stronger economy.
Where are the anecdotes? Where's my Oprah moment that Obama learned to perfect?
From what I've seen so far, the second debate was a different affair for the incumbent. Namely, he sounded more like Ol' Russ and not "career politician" Sen. Feingold. He was more folksy, and did a better job at communicating the sense of compassion and populist advocacy that has propelled him to victory in the past.
As for Johnson, I think he's done pretty well. He has stuck to his message and put his platform in terms that are easy for people to understand. He speaks pretty well for a political novice. He does not appear to suffer from Palin syndrome.
What do you think?