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Friday politics: An upbeat Jay Inslee stumbles on the campaign trail

caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee appears on CNN answering audience and listener questions during a town-hall event.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee appears on CNN answering audience and listener questions during a town-hall event.
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CNN, CBS, MSNBC. New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

It’s a big week for Gov. Jay Inslee in his 2020 presidential campaign.

Q13 political analyst C.R. Douglas and Joni Balter, host of "Civic Cocktail" on TV’s The Seattle Channel, joined KUOW’s Angela King to talk about Inslee’s performance.

At a nationally televised town hall on CNN on Wednesday, Inslee tripped when asked about recycling, saying, “I thought I had the answers to every question, but I do not have an answer to that.”

Douglas said Inslee should have done better, given that he’s centered his campaign around climate change.

C.R. Douglas: It's odd that you don't have an answer to your most important notable campaign theme right now. He finally did talk a little bit about how companies shouldn't produce so much. But he shouldn't stumble at the beginning. If climate is your biggest theme, you ought to be able to take a recycling question and hit a home run with your answer. And he didn't.

Joni Balter: He is certainly beating expectations of people who have known him for a long time. I've noticed that his answers on his favorite topic of climate change and other issues, they're very crisp. I also notice that he has learned -- and this is what good politicians do – to have a snappy takeaway at the end of his answers. One of the answers which I thought he could have done a lot better on was on the Boeing bailout package of 2013 (which Inslee supported as governor). He did say that it was kind of extortion and he's really against the fact that companies are doing this to citizens and communities, pitting one against the other. But here's where I thought he fell short: He should have owned it a little more and then said that was a mistake.

Angela King: The governor is doing all these national TV spots, he's traveling a lot. But there's quite a bit of important business here at home with the Legislature, a new two-year state budget has yet to be passed. Is it fair criticism that the governor is traveling too much?

Balter: Probably. The real reason he's gone for a whole week this time is he needs to qualify for the debate stage. There are two ways to qualify. You can either get 1 percent in three qualifying polls or you can demonstrate that you have donations from 65,000 unique donors. He had this moment where he said can I talk about my campaign for a minute. He basically said help climate get on the stage at the debates. He meant him.

King: What do you think about his chances?

Douglas: It's still very uphill of course. But I do think he'll get on the debate stage in June and that'll help. There is an issue here with him, which is that he's gone positive on this message. I mean he wants to be the kind of forward looking, kind of moonshot guy who talks about the green economy and everything we can do. I don't know if that's actually going to ultimately work. He may have to kind of go Al Gore if you will on climate and go doomsday.

Balter: But he says he doesn't want to be negative. He's been very clear. One of the lines he used in the CNN town hall is, one of our most renewable fuels is perseverance. He said that with this big grin, meaning hi, I'm all about perseverance. And he drew a really sharp contrast between himself and President Donald Trump, saying hi I'm the optimist, he's the negative. I believe in technology saving us. And Donald Trump is living in darkness and climate denial.

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