# Debates



Eight revealing exchanges from the Reynolds/DeJear debate

You have to hand it to Deidre DeJear.

Governor Kim Reynolds has all the advantages of incumbency. She has spent most of the year avoiding unscripted questions and taking credit for projects that President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress made possible. While the challenger has struggled to get her message in front of voters, Reynolds enjoys free media coverage almost daily and has blanketed the state with (sometimes racist) television commercials for the past six weeks.

The day before the only scheduled debate between the candidates for governor—Reynolds would not agree to the traditional three—the Des Moines Register published a new Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co showing the incumbent ahead by 52 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

In other words, the odds facing DeJear could hardly be longer.

Nevertheless, the challenger spoke with clarity and confidence throughout the hour-long “Iowa Press” appearance, using facts and personal stories to great effect. She refused to take the bait when Reynolds fell back on divisive talking points about what “they” (Democrats) supposedly want to do.

I hope voters will take the time to watch the whole program, or read the transcript on the Iowa PBS site. Eight exchanges struck me as particularly revealing.

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Iowa Republicans call Democrats extreme on abortion. Will voters buy it?

Republicans seeking Iowa’s federal offices take some important advantages into the November election. Most are incumbents with more money to spend than their challengers. Recent history suggests midterms favor the party out of power in Washington, and President Joe Biden has low approval numbers in Iowa.

One wild card complicates the equation for GOP candidates here, as in many other states. Republicans are on record supporting near-total abortion bans, while a majority of voters favor keeping abortion mostly legal.

Republican campaign messaging has emphasized other topics, such as inflation, taxes, or unpopular Washington politicians. When they can’t avoid talking about abortion, Republicans have claimed their Democratic opponents are the real extremists on the issue.

Several races may hinge on whether moderate voters buy into that distortion of the facts.

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IA-04: Why won't Randy Feenstra debate Ryan Melton?

Every Iowa candidate seeking a statewide or federal office has agreed to at least one televised debate, with one exception: U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra. The Republican running for a second term in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district rejected an invitation from Iowa PBS without explanation. As a result, “Iowa Press” will interview Feenstra’s Democratic challenger Ryan Melton during the September 23 program, which had been set aside for the IA-04 debate.

Feenstra already backed out of a joint forum planned for the Clay County fair. According to Melton, the only joint appearance the incumbent agreed to was an event the Iowa Corn Growers Association hosted last week, which was not a debate and not open to the public.

In 2020, Feenstra debated his GOP primary opponents and Democrat J.D. Scholten during the general election campaign. What’s he worried about now?

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Donald Trump's last, best hope?

Dan Guild: Contrary to the usual dynamic of a debate between an incumbent and challenger, Donald Trump now looks like the risky alternative. -promoted by Laura Belin

To candidates who are behind, debates are “the thing with feathers.”

They offer one last chance to change the trajectory of a race. Historically they have mattered on occasion. In an unusual year, how they might matter is very, very, strange.

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Top Iowa Republicans dare not distance themselves from Trump

President Donald Trump’s unhinged and at times frightening behavior during his first televised debate “worried” and “alarmed” some of his most influential allies. The next day, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Washington Republicans criticized the president’s failure to condemn white supremacists. Former Republican National Committee chair Marc Racicot even revealed that he had decided to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, after concluding Trump is “dangerous to the existence of the republic as we know it.”

True to form, Iowa Republicans offered no hint of dissent from the president this week. They either said nothing about Trump’s debate performance or put a positive spin on it.

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The most important exchange from the first Trump-Biden debate

The first clash between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was indisputably a low point in the history of presidential debates. There were plenty of discouraging moments, when Trump’s incessant bullying left moderator Chris Wallace pleading with the leader of the free world to stop interrupting. More frightening, a sitting president refused to condemn white supremacy and encouraged his far-right militant supporters to “stand back and stand by.”

But near the end, Biden delivered one of the best answers I’ve ever seen him give in a debate.

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