Skip to comments.Should more Republicans skip the debates?
Posted on 10/28/2011 7:55:31 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
When a credible candidate for significant political office makes a statement or adopts a strategy that seems obviously counterintuitive, criticism will shower down first, followed by a wave of wait-maybe-this-is-brilliant rebuttals. Byron York offers a bit of the latter (as well as some of the former) in a thoughtful piece that poses the question of whether Perry’s announcement that he might not attend future debates isn’t just self-serving, but actually a rational strategy that other Republicans should adopt:
Until a few weeks ago, there seemed to be lots of time for debating. The Iowa caucuses were set for Feb. 6, with the other contests after that. Then Florida upended the Republican schedule, setting its primary Jan. 31 and forcing the early contests to move to earlier dates. The Iowa caucuses will now be Jan. 3. More than a month of campaign time has been lost; debates that were in the planning stages have been squeezed into a smaller period of time.
The sheer number of debates raises the question of diminishing returns. The early debates helped introduce the candidates to the Republican primary electorate. Later debates will help voters in critical states make their final decisions. But the next few debates, while they might be the occasion for a major gaffe or gotcha, have little purpose.
What would the candidates do if they weren’t debating so much? They’d campaign more. That’s obviously what Perry wants to do. Compare his weak performance on the debate stage with his mastery of hands-on, one-on-one campaigning, and its easy to understand why.
But fewer debates would probably benefit the other candidates, too. Voters in the early states really do pay close personal attention to candidates, and word gets around if a candidate does well on the stump. Of course, for that to happen, the candidate has to actually be on the stump.
I’m not so sold on the idea that fewer debates would help the other candidates — save one. So far, the debates have been the springboard for the Not-Romney candidates to launch into contention to be Mitt Romney’s main challenger. We’ve seen Michele Bachmann’s polling spike because of her early debate performances, followed by Herman Cain, and now Newt Gingrich appears to be gaining some ground thanks to his consistently good debate performances (and the weaknesses of the other Not-Romneys). Assuming that there is still room for another candidate or two to quickly ascend — maybe Rick Santorum — the only platform available for that thunderbolt opportunity would be a nationally televised debate. Eliminating debates helps Romney by keeping any of his opponents from gaining momentum, especially in Iowa or South Carolina.
Besides, retail campaigning has not been overly interrupted by these debates. For the most part, they have taken place in early primary/caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida — places where candidates are already campaigning anyway. (Tellingly, a potential Minnesota debate got scotched, even though the RNC chair showed up for the Midwestern Leadership Conference and the leadership from five state parties attended it; Minnesota won’t caucus until February.) The debates allow for both retail, personal politicking as well as national exposure, which benefits the less-well-known candidates. If Cain hadn’t participated in his seventh debate, he never would have broken out of the second tier at the end of September. That built considerable credibility and excitement for Cain’s retail politicking, especially in Iowa.
The formats of the debates are terrible, of course, but they have always been terrible. Anyone expecting a coherent and nuanced policy explanation in 60 seconds, or in a 30-second rebuttal, is in for crushing disappointment. The problem for most sponsors is figuring out how to get seven, eight, or nine people on a stage in 90 minutes or two hours to discuss a wide range of topics. Instead, the early debates should put two candidates (chosen by lot) at a time for 30 minutes each to discuss a specific policy area, give each 10 minutes to speak and 5 minutes to rebut, while the moderator simply keeps track of the time. That would allow voters to see how candidates approach policy rather than who can best deliver a zinger.
In the end, though, the debates show who is most prepared to debate in the general election, a point made by both Gingrich and Santorum as they blast Perry:
In a question-and answer-session with reporters following an education forum, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both suggested it is a sign of weakness for Perry to take a pass on some future debates. At least 10 have been scheduled between now and the end of January.
Id never skip a debate. Id never skip the opportunity to let the American public know what I think about these issues, Santorum said. Im all about digging deeper and people getting to know the candidates.
Gingrich suggested that Perrys reluctance raises questions about his fitness for the fall campaign. I dont see how somebody can say that they cant debate Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, but theyll be ready to debate Barack Obama, he said. I think Governor Perry would find it an enormous mistake to not go to the debate and I think that frankly hed look pretty silly.
While it’s a good impulse to check one’s assumptions and carefully consider political strategy, Perry’s declaration on debates doesn’t pass the laugh test even on second thought. It’s equivalent to an admission that he’s simply not up to the task of engaging in an extemporaneous format, and that’s not a confidence builder regardless of what one thinks of the debates.
Attack the real enemy.
Gingrich nails it ---- again.
If Perry skips a debate, it will look very bad for him, given his poor performance in the past.
Just raising this is a negative for him.
If he actually skips, stick a fork in him -— he’s done.
No offense to Perry supporters, but this is not the way to rehabilitate your campaign.
“Should more Republicans skip the debates?”
Why? So they can make Perry not look so bad? When your opponent is drowning, throw him a rope.
Let the State-Run-Media try to attack those who aren't there. ONLY Leftists watch their crap regularly, anyway.
A debate should be a special event , not a (yawn) weekly TV show
I think they need to practice, practice, practice. I don’t care if not so many people watch, but being able to articulate your position and refute others’ is very powerful and I would think that ambitious candidates would want that power.
Mary Catharine Hamm was just on FOX saying that she can understand not wanting so many debates, but it is far better to be a person who has performed well in the debates to bring this up.
I agree. Otherwise......it looks like cowardice.
I stopped reading right there.
They are not debates
They are liberal MEdia sponsored dog-and-pony shows
Newt of course is a veteran at being a toad to the liberal MEdia, and an occasional uselful tool
Clearly, Perry is not ready for prime time.
Aside from that, the debates have been an orchestrated attempt by leftist media wonks to form a circular firing squad of the conservative Republican candidates to weaken them all in the event they run against Obama and to stregthen the hand of the one candidate who is least likely to beat Obama, yet least objectionable to them should he actually succeed in getting nominated - Mitt Romney.
When the main stream media, the conservative ENEMEY, is calling the debate shots,
well it is time
Make like Palin
around the country
to help keep it free.
Focus on Hussain
the source of our pain,
and his rich rich donors
and all the loaners
he gave to them
with a stroke of his pen
putting us in jepordy
so we are less-free.
Attack his record
turning us into world lepers
while he eats massaged beef
vacations on distant reefs.
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."
~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006
Between 4 and 6 million have watched the debates. And probably most of that 4 to 6 million are the same viewers from debate to debate.
Most average people are not even paying attention, and they won’t until it is time for their state primaries.
So far, the debates have covered basically the same information. The first major debate (MSNBC, IIRC) tried to get the candidates chewing on each other, but it failed. The next debate (CNN, IIRC) did get them going after each other, and the next major debate (FoxNews, IIRC) had them going for the throats.
It makes good TV — for the debate programs and networks, but the debate now have little in the way of ‘new’ information about the candidates.
IIRC, some 20 debates are scheduled. Unless the format changes [1 minute to answer; 30 second to respond] in such a was as to cause something new in the debates, they are trampling over the same old ground, same old accusations, same old baggage.
The biggest boon to the debates will be when the field in narrowed down to about 3 probable candidates. Maybe then, they are will provide more depth.
Rush made a great point. Roger Ailes is in entertainment and news. That is where the “gotcha” questions come from.
Gingrich nails it ---- again.
Agreed. Imho, the only reason that a candidate would skip the debates is because he or she is failing.
Any candidate that can't measure up to the challenge of debating other Republicans can't possibly measure up to the challenge of being Commander in Chief and President of this country.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.