Recapping a Senate debate that almost literally nobody watched

congressWhat if they had a Senate debate, and nobody was watching? Would it make a sound?

The Washington Post reported that fewer than 800 people tuned into the pbs live stream of the first and possibly only debate of the 2014 Senate campaign between Democratic incumbent Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis, also on the ballot, was not invited to participate in the debate, and none of the local TV outlets that broadcast in Virginia plan to broadcast the debate in its entirety, meaning that, answering the question above, no, it won’t make a sound.

Translating to Advantage: Warner, obviously, with Gillespie trailing in the polls by 25 points, with Warner’s approval rating near 60 percent, and with neither Gillespie nor Warner offering anything in the way of a compelling reason for voters to make a change in the Senate seat.

Gillespie tried in Saturday’s debate to do his best to tie Warner to President Obama, who as with previous second-term presidents is suffering the sixth-year itch with disastrous approval ratings, but Warner was able to deflect that line of attack by similarly tying Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair, to the equally voter-disapproved George W. Bush. Warner was also able to wrangle out of Gillespie an admission that he supports allowing women to be able to purchase birth control over-the-counter, skirting the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling, and the equally damning admission from Gillespie that he doesn’t expect to have to vote in the Senate to overturn Roe v. Wade.

(The sound you hear is the few social conservatives who cared in the slightest about this race turning off the lights on the way out of the building.)

The rest of the debate was a back-and-forth about Gillespie being an Enron lobbyist, Warner being more bipartisan in his press releases than he is on the Senate floor, and other minutiae that would have had voters turning off the livestream had they had it on in the first place.

They didn’t, though, and there’s a reason why Republicans have stayed away from this race. Nothing personal against Ed Gillespie, but this one is over before it had a chance to get started.

– Column by Chris Graham

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