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So Gov. Chet Culver and Terry Branstad stood on the same stage one more time this afternoon. They met at Iowa Public Television in a debate sponsored by The Des Moines Register. You can watch it tonight at 8 p.m. on you local public television affiliate.
I watched the high-noon taping at IPTV. A few takes.
I thought both candidates did a good job using this final debate to hammer home the central themes of their candidacies. Neither one made any major mistakes, which I guess is bad news for Culver, who is still the underdog in this thing and may have needed a big win.
But you get the feeling the race is tightening some, Lord knows how much. And if people are now just tuning in, they got a good sense from this forum about their choice between the two leading candidates.
Culver did the best job of the three debates in actually outlining his accomplishments as governor. He talked about his renewable energy record, which even Branstad admits the Democrat deserves some credit for, and the business prospects he's attracted and all the magazines who think we're a swell place to do business. His previous performances were so heavy on attacks that his own record got lost.
Of course, he still hit Branstad, arguing that he has a long record of making promises he can't keep. In one good exchange, he pointed out that Branstad once promised as governor to increase the population of every Iowa county. That didn't happen.
"You can't go back to the future with Terry Branstad," Culver said after the debate. "Iowans want the real deal."
He really should have used those lines during the debate. Never leave your A game in the locker room.
Branstad summed up his approach in one line, which he directed at Culver at least three times, "I know you tried. But the results speak for themselves. I know we can do better."
The results, Branstad said, are 114,000 people out of work and a bad business climate, which TB said, repeatedly, he'd cut taxes and regulations to inspire businesses to expand and start.
"I feel really good about this," Branstad said afterward. "This debate was focused on the future."
Surprises -- I was somewhat surprised that Culver didn't hit Branstad more often on the Republicans' reluctance to clearly explain how he would reduce the cost and scope of government by 15 percent. He did accuse the former governor of hiding the details. We would all love to see the plan.
Lightning round -- Among a series of yes or no questions, Branstad refused to take a stand on judicial retention and the constitutional amendment establishing a natural resources fund. Culver said he supports both, arguing that a leader needs to take stands.
Each would ban smoking at casinos and neither favors medical marijuana.
Video Question -- Branstad got a YouTube video question from a married lesbian couple with their kids, asking him why he wants to ban their marriage. Branstad said he thinks the law he signed to ban marriage equity was appropriate and that Iowans should vote on the issue. Culver was asked why he backed away from his 2006 promise to "defend" traditional marriage. He said he will uphold the constitution and supports the Supreme Court ruling.
Line you'll soon see in a commercial -- "I've already reinvented myself several times," said Branstad, in response to a question about how leaders often need to reinvent themselves. Culver was already mocking it after the debate.
Laugh line -- Asked how they feel about public caricatures of their images, Branstad joked about how former Register cartoonist Brian Duffy always draws him "very, very short." TB drew laughs.
They're clearing this place out, and I've got a soccer game to catch back in CR.