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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

Dalton Comes Out Swinging; Obama Debate Performance Gets Thumbs Down

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It was a two-for debate night, with the candidates for chief executive of North Carolina and the nation having their first televised debates. Both debates were much more than the stereotyped “talking points” forums. They were both substantive, in general, and certainly set a tone for the final month of the general campaign.

In the lead-off NC gubernatorial debate, Walter Dalton certainly came out aggressive. He needed to; Dalton is down 10-13 percent to McCrory.

McCrory tried to take the high road early on, but responded to Dalton’s attackswith the “Perdue-Dalton administration/good-ole-boy and good-ole-girl” charges. 

Both men focused on a number of specific policy issues, but details seemed lacking on both sides, particularly in facing the realities confronting the state.  One of the clear winners tonight seemed to be rural voters, with both candidates actively courting that constituency. 

McCrory seemed to present a more coherent campaign message that stuck to common themes of his campaign, while Dalton seemed to be trying to find a general campaign theme throughout.

The debate’s hot moment certainly was over the charges of a racially tinged ad, but the tempers settled down quite quickly after that. 

Dalton certainly needed the level of aggressiveness that he came out with, while McCrory held to the general rule of “do no harm” for candidates in the lead.

In the presidential debate, the “expectations game” clearly indicated that Romney needed a great evening to regain some lost momentum over the past few weeks. 

Beginning with his opening remarks, Romney set a convincing and forceful tone against the president. 

Romney appeared to know he had a higher hurdle to overcome, and stepped up to it.  President Obama, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care if he was there or not —even looking like at one point he was in endanger of dozing off. 

Granted, it’s not an ideal way to spend one’s anniversary, but the lack of polish, the lack of a smooth delivery, a flat and unengaged nature, and — ultimately — the lack of any “fire in the belly” translated the president’s performance into a “I’m here and just playing along” mentality. 

So we’re in the fourth quarter, and Romney definitely got the reset his campaign has desperately needed. Now, Democrats have to wonder if their candidate needs a reset of his own — or if he even wants to be re-elected.  He sure didn’t look like he was in the game with that performance.