Best Use of a Prop in Debate History

Best Use of a Prop in Debate History

Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) is no Tea Party Republican. But the Democrats and their nominee are treating him like one, convinced that voters will see him as an extremist despite his moderate record. It’s a strategy that failed in 2010, when Dold ran for the open seat; Democrats then re-drew the district and decided to try again. Dold was ready.

Watch the video below–from the candidates’ joint endorsement interview at the editorial offices of the Daily Herald, in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Dold’s opponent, Brad Schneider, puts the argument as best anyone could, claiming that Dold “voted with the Tea Party agenda” and citing the Washington Post as his reference.

After a verbal rebuttal, Dold, at the 2:33 mark, reaches inside his folder for a giant stack of paper, folded like an old dot-matrix printout. It’s a ranking of House members by the Post according to how often they voted with their party. Dold lays it out over the length of the table, forcing the camera to zoom out. 

“The ones that vote with the party the least,” he says, “are down here. This highlighted one is me,” he says, pointing to a line at the bottom. “So to say that we’re voting with the Tea Party is so disingenuous that it doesn’t even pass the laugh test.”

There’s more to enjoy in the video, including Dold’s smackdown of Schneider’s charge that he voted for something called the “Let Women Die Act.” It’s an attack that Democrats have used against Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, as well–and, as we have pointed out at Breitbart News, it is completely, 100% false.

There are plenty of conservatives in the 10th district who wish Dold would embrace the Tea Party and defend it. But his district is, overall, a moderate one, with plenty of Democrats, and elected the centrist Mark Kirk to Congress for a decade before he ran for Senate. It’s also a bellwether district for independent voters in the 2012 presidential race–and, as reported last week, the 10th has seen a massive collapse in support for Obama, from a 23-point lead in November 2008 to a statistical tie between Obama and Romney today.

As a lesson in debate strategy, Dold’s tactic is a reminder of when props are most effective: in defense. On the attack, they can seem clumsy and eccentric. Rep. Paul Ryan likes using charts and graphs when he debates–and none of them will be available to him this Thursday night when he faces off against Vice President Joe Biden in Danville, KY. 

But perhaps he ought to follow Dold’s example and keep something up his sleeve.


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