Senate debate was a blast

On the side

In the spotlight: The race for the 6th Congressional District is attracting a lot of attention.

There was a profile story Monday on the race on the website of The New York Times.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, the Democrat from St. Clairsville, said his campaign poll has him up by 10 percentage points over Republican Bill Johnson. Johnson of Poland said his campaign poll has him winning by 2 percentage points.

Also, Wilson has purchased a lot of network affiliate commercial time as have the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the incumbent, and the National Republican Congressional Committee for Johnson.

If Republicans continue to gain momentum nationally, this race will be a lot closer than most initially thought.

GOP dinner: The Mahoning County Republican Party is holding a pre-election dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Georgetown on South Avenue in Boardman. Tickets to the event, billed as an appreciation dinner for candidates and volunteers, are $25 each and can be obtained by contacting party Chairwoman Donna Bricker at 330-507-2046. Among the auction items is an autographed game vest from Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel.

I have to admit I initially didn’t want to be a panelist at Tuesday’s U.S. Senate debate between Democrat Lee Fisher and Republican Rob Portman.

This is an incredibly busy time of the year for me and the debate was in Columbus. That meant nearly six hours of driving round-trip to ask a few questions to two candidates who I’ve already asked plenty of questions.

However, now that it’s done, I have to admit it was a lot of fun.

I didn’t realize the amount of preparation that goes into a one-hour debate.

The three other panelists and I along with those who were producing the debate held three conference calls to go over the process and logistics, discuss questions and then fine-tune those questions.

Even if the debate would have been a complete bust, the food was really good.

I’m usually on the other side, covering a political event and going hungry while food sits around.

At one point, a reporter had to ask for food and was given a cookie.

After the meal, served nearly three hours before the debate, the panelists were given booklets with the questions we had carefully written, discussed and rewritten.

We read through them again and made additional adjustments to the questions.


We were given a warning: No matter what, don’t let those booklets out of your sight. Also, unless you are positive no one else is around, don’t discuss the questions in the booklets.

It was similar to the warnings you get at the airport about not leaving your bags unattended and don’t allow anyone to hold it for you. [Though as long as one of the other panelists kept an eye on your booklet, you didn’t need to bring it with you to the bathroom.]

Then came the makeup.

At first, I thought that was a joke, but it wasn’t. I was told I’d have a little powder to get the shine off our faces.

But the makeup woman — who also does dead people though she prefers the living ones — used quite a bit of foundation stick on my face and then applied powder. I have to admit she did a pretty good job.

This, of course, was captured by a member of Portman’s staff on her cell phone.

And that led to a near heart attack by the debate organizers concerned about the booklet of questions.

I didn’t tell the organizers that I had the booklet with me when I said hello to someone on Fisher’s campaign.

Fake questions

When we went to the studio for a practice run, we had to use fake questions in case anyone could hear us. I started the goofiness paraphrasing a line from “The Kentucky Fried Movie”: “If you were an alarm clock, how would you wake me up?” The others joined in the fun.

As for the actual debate, it went well though I was surprised that I was somewhat nervous.

Also, the lights were extremely bright in the studio, drying out my contact lenses. But I’m a trouper.

When it was over, I made the long drive home still caked in makeup. Hey, it looked pretty good.

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