Of course, some of Esch's commendable boldness on the campaign trail has something to do with the odds that he faces and the liberating aspect of low expectations. Esch's oft-mentioned refusal of PAC contributions certainly became a whole lot easier when the usual players showed little interest in taking a chance and making an investment in his bid for Congress.
Still, on issues ranging from the Iraq war and Donald Rumsfeld's job performance to energy policy and fiscal discipline by the federal government, Esch has been speaking with a refreshing forthrightness and fervor driven by more than just the desire for traction against Terry. He's been speaking the truth, holding nothing back and saying what needs to be said in a manner somewhat similar to Gubernatorial candidate David Hahn. From me, that's high praise, indeed...even if voters have not yet recognized the stakes and the opportunities they would be passing-up by sticking with the Republican status quo in either race.
Today, Esch met Terry in what was likely the only debate of the campaign. Readers may enjoy the comments shared at DailyKos by a pair of Esch supporters who attended the debate (1, 2) and declared it an absolute victory for Esch. Most people will never see the debate, though, and rely instead on reports like this one from the Associated Press, which paints the event as a much more balanced affair.
***4 am Update
Having viewed what's available of the debate online, I must concur that Esch was quite dominant in his performance. He's bright, well-spoken, articulate, and much more at ease than Terry.
I've been impressed by Esch's commitment since the start of the campaign, but this is by far the best demonstration I've seen of his political skill, which I know I'm not alone in having underestimated.