Here’s some assessments from local media:
John Mooney of NJ Spotlight considers the candidates’ responses to the one education question of the debate: ““If New Jersey were to allow parents to obtain vouchers to attend any public or private schools, would this undermine our system of public education or would it force needed improvements in under-performing districts?”
The governor continues to tout his education record in New Jersey as one of his prime accomplishments, and he didn’t lose any of his talking points last night. Education is not a bad issue for Buono to emphasize, given Christie’s reform agenda and his battle with teachers unions. But 30 seconds is not a lot of time, and she didn’t draw enough of a clear distinction on the issue beyond her opposition to vouchers.
Michael Symons of Gannett:
With exchanges that were often sharp — but only occasionally personal — Gov. Chris Christie and state Sen. Barbara Buono met in a wide-ranging debate that seemed unlikely to change the trajectory of the race.
Speeding through two dozen questions in less than a hour, Republican Christie and Democrat Buono drew contrasts on most issues during their first of two scheduled debates. Neither appeared to stumble during the exchange, even with the rapid-fire questions posed by the panel.
But the debate didn’t have the game-changing moment that most analysts agreed Buono needed to shake Christie’s lead.
The debate did show the stark differences between the candidates. Mr. Christie reiterated his support for school vouchers; Ms. Buono said they would undermine public schools. Mr. Christie, who vetoed a bill that would have allowed gay marriage and is challenging a trial court decision that says the state must allow it, reiterated his belief that the issue should be settled by the voters in a referendum. Ms. Buono, who supports gay marriage, accused him of “compromising the dignity of our gay brothers and sisters” to preserve his electability among conservative voters in a Republican presidential primary.
Charles Stile at The Record:
Sen. Barbara Buono tried to provoke Governor Christie on Tuesday night…The petite, 60-year-old even challenged his masculinity.
“You have to man up,” Buono said, calling out Christie, a Republican, for failing to take responsibility for the state’s slow economic recovery and choosing instead to blame it on his predecessor Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat. “You have to own up and defend your record.”
But Christie refused to take the bait in the first of their two debates at William Paterson University in Wayne
Mark Magyar at NJ Spotlight:
“Barbara Buono hit all the points we knew she would hit,” [pollster Patrick] Murray said. “But Chris Christie came across as solid, sober — he understood this was not a place for his Town Hall witticisms. He came across as a leader, and he looked like someone who deserved to have a 19-point lead. She did fine, but fine is not good enough. She was nervous and stumbled over a couple of her favorite attack lines. That is to be expected. It was her first big debate. Chris Christie did a lot better tonight than in his first debate four years ago.
Tom Moran at the Star-Ledger:
In the end, nothing changed. And that is a big win for Christie. His lead in the polls is stable at about 30 points. He has a bulging war chest that he will no doubt use to unleash a torrent of TV ads during the final four weeks that Buono has no money to answer.
Democrats are treating her like she has typhoid, like they might catch the losing virus if they get too close. Legislators are running advertisements underscoring their bipartisan alliances with Gov. Christie. President Obama won’t even stop at the airport in Newark to offer a pat on the back.
Given all this, Buono needed to score big. And at best, she held her ground.
So will any of it matter? Did Buono snag a YouTube movement?
“The answer to that is no,” Murray said. “Her performance was solid, but solid means status quo, which means a double digit win for Chris Christie.”