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Watching the Democratic debate was like going to the dog park.
 
Bill Faison was a pit bull: feisty, but you’re not sure if he’s going to bite another dog, a dog owner or maybe you.
 
Walter Dalton was an over-eager terrier, jumping up and down and barking, too eager to bring you all the bones he had stored away in debate prep.
 
Bob Etheridge was Ol’ Blue, the big, droopy-faced hound who knows his way around the pack and ambles amiably around.
 
Style, not substance, wins debate. The only exceptions are glaring errors (Dukakis ’88) or home runs (Bentsen ’88).
 
What matters: Who has “command presence?” Etheridge had it last night. It helped that he’s the tallest and sat in the center. He seemed to crowd Dalton and Faison off the stage.
 
But all three lacked one key thing. Yes, they cut up the Republicans. And they had specifics. But none of them communicated a big, positive message. Or that essential leadership quality for a candidate and a governor: optimism.
 
They get two more bites at it tonight and tomorrow.
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