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Few viewers for MacArthur vs. Kim live debate

Asbury Park Press debate faced technical issues and lack of interest

By Nikita Biryukov, October 11 2018 1:05 pm

If a candidate makes a gaffe and less than 150 people are there to see it, does it really matter?

The answer to that question likely won’t come from a live-streamed Asbury Park Press editorial board interview featuring Rep. Tom MacArthur and former Obama staffer Andy Kim, as those candidates largely avoided making any earth-shattering mistakes in the 48-minute sit-down, though it’s possible viewers missed such a mistake in the panel’s first five minutes, which were aired without audio.

That’s might prove surprising to some given that about half of the interview’s run-time was devoted to having candidates respond to attacks leveled by the opposing camp, but gaffes were few and far between, and any mistakes the candidates made were largely minor ones.

The most notable gaffe came when Kim admitted to knowing that MacArthur had left the York Risk Services, an insurance claims management group, two years prior to the company refusing to pay claims to victims of hurricane Sandy.

“That’s right,” Kim said when asked if he knew MacArthur had departed the company two years before the storm wrecked large swathes of New Jersey’s coast. “I think for me, this has always been about, we’ve been focusing this campaign on is our representative someone who’s looking out for us. And whether it’s on that issue or healthcare or taxes, our campaign is saying no.”

MacArthur then said Kim admitted he lied. Kim denied that charge, and the panel moved on without litigating the exchange.

The congressman did face some tough moments early on when he was asked about his votes on the Republican tax plan passed last year and the amendment he penned to the since-doomed American Health Care Act.

MacArthur was the only member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation to vote for the tax bill and was one of only two to vote in favor of the AHCA.

“On what we did with the affordable care act, we actually kept the framework of it intact, we tried to give the states more flexibility so costs could come down,” MacArthur said. “Costs are increasing by 20% or more a year, and it’s like no insurance at all for people, and millions of people have lost their coverage because they can’t afford it.”

MacArthur also repeated a claim that his amendment would have safeguarded protections for preexisting conditions. The bill would have allowed states to request waivers for ACA health plan standards like preexisting condition protections and for the ACA’s prohibition on charging higher premiums based on medical history.

While the candidates made few – if any – serious mistakes, the same can’t be said of the Asbury Park Press.

The interview began roughly 20-minutes behind schedule and was marred with technical issues throughout. Technical issues persisted even after sound was restored five minutes after the live-stream began.

Kim’s microphone echoed intermittently throughout the event, and volume levels for both candidates fluctuated for the entirety of the same.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was that The Asbury Park Press incorrectly marked the district the candidates were running in, having headed billed the Facebook live-stream as an interview of the fourth congressional district’s candidates. They’re running in the third.

The mistake was called to the newspaper’s attention by Theresa Winegar, the executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

That header has since been corrected, and the video is now titled “3th Congressional District Candidates.”  The Asbury Park Press later tweeted that it was typo.

That said, the event’s format does deserve some praise, as a lightning round in which candidates were allowed to give only a yes or no answer with a small amount of elaboration succeeded in getting the candidates to clearly state positions on a number of points.

It’s not clear how much any of this will matter, as it’s unlikely the race for the third district’s seat will be decided by the events viewers, which peaked below 150.

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