Dear Dr. Bosworth and Messrs. Nelson, Ravnsborg, and Rhoden,
Let me begin with a side note, I really hate the let's-line-up-every-candidate-on-the-stage-and-have-a-reporter-ask-audience-submitted-questions format. It's not really a debate.
On to the matter at hand, allow me to state the obvious; you really are not going to beat Mike Rounds in June if you don't engage him in the debates and chip away at that smiling facade.
First, even last night's event had debate expectations. In debate, there's an element called clash. It means that all sides are discussing and hopefully disagreeing about the same topics at the same time in the discussion. Clash can't happen if you agree with the opponent or repeat his "common sense" talking point nearly as often as he uses it. (Mr. Rhoden, that last sentence applies to you.)
In last night's line-up that was called a debate, you were all given rebuttal time. A rebuttal should involve not only "I'm correct": it should involve a strong "You're wrong and here's why" component. Most of you did well on the state budget issue, but too many of the rebuttals were speeches that repeated your talking points. You need to tell viewers why Rounds or your other opponents are wrong.
Second, you can't claim you want the debate to be about issues not personalities if you spend most of the time restating your bio or some sort of life experience. Granted, some experiences may be relevant. For example. Mr. Rhoden, you can use your experience as rancher to deal with the farm bill question. Dr. Bosworth, I'm not sure the Republican electorate is going to respond favorably to your experiences with food stamps. Mr. Nelson, you should be honored for your career in the Marine Corps, but that experience cannot be the answer for nearly every question you're asked. By the way, Dr. Bosworth, if you're going to offer an analogy, it should be analogous to the topic being discussed.
Third, none of you seemed to have anticipated any of these questions. I'll grant the climate change question was an odd choice to lead off the debate, but many of the rest seemed rather standard. Further, you didn't seem to anticipate what your opponents were going to say. Heck, I had people on Twitter telling me that Mr. Ravnsborg was going to bring up CARE before he mentioned it. By now, you should all know Rounds is going to use the line "South Dakota Common Sense," you aren't' going to beat him repeating the line. You're going to have to show he doesn't have common sense, South Dakota or otherwise.
Remember preparation and clash are the only way you're going become the 2014 Republican nominee. Rounds has an overwhelming lead. If you can't force Rounds into making an error, he's not making one.