DETROIT – Attorney General Bill Schuette held his front-runner status during Thursday's Republican gubernatorial debate, according to a University of Michigan expert.
Aaron Kall, director of debate at UM, said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley came out strong in the hour-long debate among four GOP candidates, but Schuette emerged the winner.
“I think the early rounds would go to Calley,” said Kall, during post-debate analysis with WDIV Local 4 anchor Kimberly Gill. “He started out strong tried to pre-empt some of the arguments that how he doesn’t have the ability to answer the questions fully. But by the end I think Schuette who came into the debate as the front runner exited in that same way. He did a really good job talking about his prosecutorial background, working with other people, and is in the same place as when he started the debate.”
Schuette and Calley, considered front-runners in the race, were joined in the debate by State Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines. Colbeck stood out over Hines, Kall said.
“I think Hines was very nervous and kind of paused for several seconds, and when you only have a minute or so, you don’t want to waste any time,” he said.
“I do think Colbeck was a little more free flowing,” Kall added. “He’s kind of more natural, and really tried to tout his outsider status, just like President Trump. He was outside then moved into politics and he was really attacking everybody. And so I do think he had a better candidate of the lower-tier candidates.”
Kall said he saw a few fireworks among the candidates, including their collective individual efforts to align themselves with Trump, whose supporters will likely determine the Republican primary winner. But another tense moment – Calley attacking Hines – may have been a mistake, he said.
“ Lt. Gov. Calley did criticize Dr. Hines for kind of misrepresenting his record. It was surprising given his main focus should be on Attorney General Schuette, and he’s spending his time worried on kind of a lower-tiered candidate,” Kall said.
Watch Gill and Kall’s full 16-minute conversation, including highlights from the debate, in the video player above.
Aaron Kall is the author of “Debating The Donald,” which examines the president’s debating style, and is director of UM’s debate program, which includes a high school summer program for more than 400 students from 25 states this year.