A Partisan View Of The Presidential Debate
While pundits will debate the question of who won the debate for days, two senators -- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California -- were quick to declare their winners. The two share their thoughts with Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Elizabeth. Watching the debate with us this evening have been two members of the U.S. Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, and Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California. Welcome both of you. Sen. Hutchison, do you think this debate has the ability or will change the momentum of this race, the dynamic of this race?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) Texas: I think the American people have been really slow to focus on this race, I think slower than I can remember in a long, long time, but I think because of that, they havent really gotten to know Bob Dole and also because he didnt have the money to advertise until after the Republican convention. I think they saw Bob Dole tonight, and I thought he was terrific. I think he was relaxed, he was funny, which so many people who know him know that he is. But he also spoke right to the American people. He was connecting with the average American. While President Clinton was clearly trying to say everything is great, he was saying, I am concerned and I think the American people are concerned about some of these issues.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Boxer, Im sure you saw it quite differently.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) California: (San Francisco) Yes. I have to say that the people did get to know Bob Dole better tonight, and thats good. I also think the issues that people care about really came out tonight. The main issues that I think we really focused on in this debate--education--we know that Bob Dole wants to do away with the Department of Education. We know that the budget that he supported would have cut it dramatically. Medicare, we know there will need to be even deeper cuts in Medicare if his tax plan does move forward. The environment, big differences, so I think the people did get to know Bob Doles policies better, and of course, as someone, as you know, who happens to believe that the policies of the President are the best of the two, I think President Clinton did very well by focusing on the record, focusing on the future, as opposed to the past and I think staying quite presidential, and he showed great leadership, I thought, tonight.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Hutchison, who do you think got the better of this policy debate they really had all evening about the role of government?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Yes. I think they did, and I think that Sen. Dole made it very clear he trusts the people, and President Clinton trusts government. And I think he drew those differences. You know, being for doing away with the Department of Education doesnt mean youre against education. It means that you believe that education is best done at the local level without federal bureaucrats in Washington having their hand in the local education systems. I think Sen. Dole said very clearly he wants people to keep more of the money they work so hard to earn, and he trusts the American people to do that.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you, Sen. Hutchison, and then well get back to Sen. Boxer on this, about something Bill Kristol just said, and this turns to the character issue. He said he thought it was the dog that didnt bark tonight. Do you think Sen. Dole was effective at all in raising doubts about Bill Clintons character?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I think that Sen. Dole was trying to show the American people who he is and I think he came off very well. I think he connected with the average American who said I really know what its like to have hard times, I want to be there for people who are having hard times, and I want America to have the opportunities that we have had when weve grown up, I want small business to grow and prosper. And I think he drew those differences very well.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Boxer.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Well, let me say, Sen. Dole said when he got the nomination that he was the most optimistic man in America. And I have to tell you that does not really come across. I mean, he had one line where he said something like, and Im quoting him, theres a lot wrong with America. And I think what the people love about this President and admire about this President, President Clinton, is his sense of optimism and his sense of looking at the future and making the future our friend. And I think all that really came out. And the President did what he needed to do tonight.
I think Sen. Dole tried to get under his skin in many, many ways, and this will all come out, Im sure, in the analysis, and the President just really stayed on the subject that he needed to stay on, which is what is his record, what is his vision, hes laid it out, and the fact is the President is the one President who has brought the size of government down. His record on job creation--10 million new jobs--the lowest deficit that weve had in many years, way down, cut more than in half--and he exceeded his promises on that. And yes, he did repeat that, but I think its important, as Sen. Dole kept attacking this President that the President just kept on showing what the facts were. And I think that was important.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Hutchison, how well do you think Sen. Dole did in painting his vision for the future?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I think Sen. Dole did. He said, I want to speak to the young people, I want to speak to people who may be worrying because 40 percent of their paychecks are going to taxes, and I think he did present what he wants to do for the future, and I think he said that he was going to build the bridge for the more secure future for our children and grandchildren. I think he was optimistic, he was relaxed. I thought that he really showed what he would do, and he showed who he is.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you both one very quick question. Do you think what happened tonight will help Bob Dole close this huge gap he has with women voters, Sen. Hutchison?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I think that Bob Dole was speaking to the concerns of women. When he talked about health care and what President Clintons health care system would have been to really obliterate the system as we know it today, he was speaking to womens concerns, job security, small business, doing away with the over-zealous regulation in this society. He was saying I want to help the women-owned businesses, which are the majority of small businesses in the country.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me let--excuse me. Sen. Boxer, a quick rejoinder.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER: I think the gender gap will grow for President Clinton. Women care so much about children and education, and no matter what Sen. Hutchison says, for the greatest nation in the world not to have a Department of Education, not to have one person looking out after our childrens education, I think its a big mistake. And they feel that way about Medicare. Theyre the ones who look after their parents when they get old, and they dont trust, frankly, the Republicans, because especially Bob Dole, who brags about voting against it, I think the gender gap will grow--
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you both. Thank you both very much.