In the Lincoln-Douglas portion of the debate, Mike Pence chose to use his one-minute statement to look directly at John Gregg and attack Gregg on failing to balance Indiana's budget for five of the six years he was Indiana Speaker. That proved to be a mistake. By the Indiana Constitution, it's impossible for Indiana to run a deficit. At times, payments were delayed to local units of government, but that's nothing new. We've seen Mitch Daniels do the same thing in order to build a surplus. By attacking Gregg, Pence was attacking Daniels.
The attack by Pence was deftly put aside by Gregg, "Congressman if you had spent the last 12 years in Indiana, you would know that our budget has to be balanced in Indiana," said Gregg. Then Gregg launched into an attack in his two-minute rebuttal about how Pence has failed to be a good steward of tax dollars at the federal level getting in some really big zingers and body blows. Gregg said, "It's laughable a congressman would lecture anybody on fiscal responsibility." While Pence was a part of the Republican leadership in the U.S. House, the federal budget ballooned out of control.
Gregg, however, wasn't done attacking hitting the Congressman on his scant accomplishments in Congress. He noted that Pence had not passed one bill in 63 attempts saying that he didn't know if he had "drank the tea" there in Washington or came down with "Potomac Fever."
Pence kept trying to hit hard, but Gregg continued to turn every attack back on Pence and launch another one. After Pence tried to blunt the fiscal responsibility attack by Gregg by saying that he didn't support bailouts, Gregg was ready to pounce. "My career politician opponent drives around Indiana in a Red Silverado because he wants you to forget he voted against auto jobs," said Gregg, who was obviously thoroughly prepared.
While Pence's poor debate prep stood out yet again, the mere fact that Pence is now throwing political bombs towards Gregg means that he's either tired of being beaten up or that this race is getting a lot tighter than the 13-point margin Brian Howey's poll showed just last month. Gregg's own camp released a poll earlier today showing Pence ahead 46-40 over Gregg. In that same poll, that's a four point swing over one month.
While Pence and Gregg duked it out, Rupert Boneham had his strongest debate performance. For the first time, to me, he passed the gubernatorial muster test. His candidacy has been anything but a joke and he has brought some real issues to the table.
While Boneham has improved on the campaign, one wonders if Gregg had switched tactics from his folksy "two first names" strategy earlier to this on point and well-prepared candidate earlier. It might have helped. I still think Gregg is playing from behind, but, after three solid debate performances, there's no longer any doubt who I'm voting for, and, as you know, that hasn't always been the case. I'm casting my vote for John Gregg.
I'm interested to see what the final Howey/Battleground/Depauw poll says about this race. According to internet reports, it's coming out next week. As far as the Governor's Race, it's the quick sprint ahead to November 6!