Debate “Has little changed” Tudor Dixon’s chance for governor: Expert

Michigan’s first gubernatorial debate between Republican candidate Tudor Dixon and incumbent governor Gretchen Whitmer “probably did little to change the overall course” of November’s midterm race, according to the University of Michigan debate leader.

The debate, held Thursday night in Grand Rapids, began with questions about abortion and covered issues ranging from schools and gun safety to roads and infrastructure. Whitmer, who was elected governor in 2019, alluded heavily to her past bipartisan actions, while Dixon said the governor was full of “empty promises” and wanted voters “to forget how tough the last four years have been.”

According to FiveThirtyEight, just weeks before the election, Dixon currently trails the governor by 9.4 points.

gretchen whitmer debate tudor dixon
Tudor Dixon, left, during a Trump rally October 1, 2022 in Warren, Michigan; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, right, at a campaign event August 2, 2022 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dixon and Whitmer had their first televised debate Thursday, in which the gubernatorial candidates debated abortion rights, crime, inflation and state infrastructure ahead of the midterm elections.
Emily Elconin/Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Aaron Kall, director of the University of Michigan’s debate program, said news week in a statement Thursday night that while Dixon “did her best to hold her own” during a “high-profile debate,” she doesn’t expect the “tone and tenor of the race” to make a sharp change.

“Today’s debate was lively and hotly contested,” Kall said, “but it likely did little to change the general course of the gubernatorial race.”

“[Dixon] was a solid and quick-witted debater, but her tone throughout the hour-long debate was a little somber and menacing,” Kall wrote, adding that the candidate “avoided optimism.”

Repeated Attacks

Dixon echoed many of the attacks she had previously made on Whitmer’s policies, including on crime, noting that the governor said she supports the “spirit” of the phrase “defund the police.” Dixon also pressed Whitmer on issues of the economy and inflation, including the debate surrounding Line 5, an oil pipeline that Whitmer has been urging to shut down operations due to the environmental risk it poses to the Great Lakes region.

Dixon argued that shutting down the line would only further increase gas and heating bills for voters, but said Whitmer “appreciated the political benefit” of ordering the shutdown.

However, Whitmer called out Dixon several times for “divisive rhetoric,” and even once offered to give her Republican opponent her 30 seconds of allotted time to answer a question about gun reform laws, which the governor said her opponent failed to address .

“I think what you have heard from my opponent tonight is divisive rhetoric to pit us against each other for her own political gain,” Whitmer said in her closing statement. “I don’t have time for that. I don’t think you do either.”

“Zingers” with a “political touch”

Kall described the entire debate by noting that both candidates had many “memorable debate zingers, deployed with a deft political touch”.

Whitmer twice reiterated during the debate that as a mother, she was “angry” that guns were the number one child killer in the United States. She also reiterated while answering two separate questions about gun violence that she supports background checks and red flag legislation.

On the other hand, Dixon used her closing statement “to discuss hot social issues,” Kall said, such as the issue of transgender students in schools.

“[Whitmer] also said she cares about women, but would love to bring little boys into your daughter’s dressing room,” Dixon said during her closing argument. “She also said she cares about parents, but she hasn’t stood up for parents who have said, ‘Why do we have adults whispering sex and gender in our little kids’ ears?'”

Dixon’s statement was labeled “cruel” in a tweet by the Equality Michigan Action Network, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for the LGBTQ community. Former Michigan State Representative JonHoadleya Democrat, also echoed Dixon’s comment while citing Equality Michigan and writing that “we cannot let hate win.”

“Dixon has proven that she will not be a leader for everyone,” Hoadley added.

Dixon’s press team issued a press release news week Thursday night’s compilation of statements from politicians and local leaders who vowed the Republican nominee for “holding Whitmer to account.” Among the statements, Michigan Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno said that “there are more proactive solutions coming from Tudor Dixon tonight than we have seen from Whitmer in the past four years.”

“One thing was clear tonight, while Gretchen continues to deliver lip service and no real action, Tudor has shown true leadership and a willingness to put Michigan families first,” DePerno wrote.

The gubernatorial candidates will meet again on October 25 at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

news week reached out to the Whitmer press team for further comment on today’s debate. Debate “Has little changed” Tudor Dixon’s chance for governor: Expert

Rick Schindler

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