The East Oregonian reviews last Tuesday night's Oregon Democratic Senate primary debate, and although they describe it as a "low key affair" with a lot of agreement between the candidates on policy, they give the edge to Steve Novick for style.
They describe Merkley as coming off "smug ... there was a definite lack of emotion in his responses." By contrast, they call Novick's answers "spontaneous and less stilted ... for those watching closely, it's apparent he analyzes and thinks quickly on his feet."
With so little difference in substance, style may influence some voters. And the edge from the first debate seemed - let's repeat that, seemed - to favor Novick.
That's because while Merkley seemed confident, he also came off as, well, a bit smug. He kept his focus just above the audience of potential voters. His answers seemed almost memorized from a script, a script closely resembling his thoughtful position statements on his campaign's Web site. He only glanced at Novick once throughout the debate. There was a definite lack of emotion in his responses, although there also was a momentary rise in feeling when he talked about health care and education.
By comparison, Novick noticeably turned and listened intently whenever one of the other three candidates were responding to the questions the East Oregonian news staff posed. While his answers weren't overflowing with emotion either, at least they seemed spontaneous and less stilted.
However, he did miss an opportunity to separate his candidacy from Merkley's. Novick didn't emphasize distinctions of different solutions to the problems facing Oregon and our great nation. But for those watching closely, it's apparent he analyzes and thinks quickly on his feet.
Maybe, in the end, the answer for the lack of verbal fisticuffs came from Novick.
"We're all good Democrats here," he said.