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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fleming is sour, squinty in debate with Broun

The conventional wisdom is that 10th District Congressional candidate Barry Fleming of Harlem has truckloads more campaign funding than GOP incumbent Paul Broun of Athens, he has the support of all the heavy-hitting Republicans in the state House and his views on, well, most issues are more in line with conservative primary voters.

But judging simply from the pair's performance in last night's Webcast debate, Fleming looks like a man in trouble. After less than one term in Washington, Broun is still not the most practiced speaker, but Fleming, sporting heavy bags under his eyes, consistently looked and sounded tired, sullen and shifty.

By all accounts, Fleming has waged a particularly nasty, mean-spirited campaign, dredging up a 25-year-old contempt of court charge against Broun for falling behind in his alimony. Fleming tried to defend his approach by saying the way Broun handled his personal affairs back then somehow reflects on how he deals with legislation now, but that explanation didn't sound any more convincing than it reads.

Fleming accused Broun of supporting child Internet pornography, marijuana use and other vices because he broke with the GOP pack in voting against some nanny-state legislation. But Broun seemed to deflect the criticism effectively by claiming he was standing up for personal privacy, states' rights and other conservative ideals – all without mentioning that he is a screaming libertarian.

Finally, Fleming, who's served as majority whip in the Georgia House for the past two years, tried to argue that his record as a legislative leader qualifies him for Congress – that is, until the AP's Shannon McCaffrey pointed out that the most recent General Assembly was a "dismal failure." Doh!

I'd never seen Broun in action before and while I wouldn't want him as my congressman, I'd certainly say he came across better in all respects than the sourpussed Fleming. But please let us know if you had a different take on the debate or the race.

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