Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Debate Envy

I love a good argument.

Just ask my friends and family, and if they tell you I don't like one get back to me and I'll convince you they're wrong.

Some people have this crazy notion that arguing is a bad thing and it's best to keep things to yourself or just nod in tacit agreement.

Which brings me to the Florida primary.  No noddin' in agreement there.  Instead, the Republican wannabes have been flinging poop and hammers at each other since storming out of South Carolina a couple of weeks ago.

It sounds like the new slogan should be, "Come to Florida, and leave your TV at home" given the relentless attack ads from all sides.  And as is often the case, cash is king, with Romney about to be crowned after outspending Newt Gingrich by a large margin.

He who has the most dough has the most toys, and most votes.  Sad but true.

Except in debates, which are the great equalizer.

As a debate lover, this year is special.  In fact, it seems like the debate schedule is tracking the NBA's condensed lockout schedule (teams play every night this year, right?), sans the candidates riding charter planes together or getting busted in nightclubs.

I haven't watched all of them, but I've tuned in to plenty of spin doctors for a post debate house call,  "Sportscenter" like highlights for political junkies.

Some feel that the number of debates is hurting Republicans heading into the general election.  Instead of focusing on their common opponent, President Obama, they are using valuable resources taking live shots at each other on a regular basis.

Not sure I buy that.

For one thing, if there were, say, only four debates instead of the 16 we have had so far, it would force candidates to drum up votes solely through appearances, attack ads, PAC ads and online begging.

With fewer debates, who knows how quickly we would wither down to today's "Final Four."  I suspect the path of attrition would have been far different.

Regardless,  I'll take a live debate any day over the canned speeches and hand picked audiences of the campaign trail.

There is nothing like purely unscripted moments in debates.  Who could forget Richard Nixon sweating in the first televised debate, Ronald Reagan's "I'm paying for this microphone" moment, the Michael Dukakis rape question, George H.W. Bush staring at his watch or Lloyd Bensten's "You're no Jack Kennedy" swipe at Dan Quayle.

Interestingly, only Reagan ended up winning his election.

After Republican voters settle on a nominee, I hope there are just as many debates in the general election.

I also realize 16 plus debates in the fall is as likely as Barack Obama appearing on an episode of "Hillbilly Hand Fishin'."  As the incumbent, President Obama would have little to gain and plenty to lose by engaging in multiple debates, and I would expect him to employ the "Rose Garden" strategy with plenty of safe, staged, scripted moments for the press.

Boring, but effective.


  1. I seem to recall Hillary & Obama going at it pretty heavy in 2008... "palling around with terrorists..." is a quote that comes to mind. Obama doesn't want to debate Newt... he'd get eaten alive. I bet there will be 3 or 4 debates and Obama is gonna get some sugar coated questions... but I still think that Mitt is gonna dominate him in a heads up debate... and Mitt is gonna be sworn in next Jan. As always, we're voting for the lesser of 2 evils... and whoever runs against Obama is gonna be it, and it'll be Mitt. I'll bet ya a Coke.

  2. I agree that a long primary fight doesn't hamper the candidates, except financially, and with Newt's attacks Romney has a look inside the Dems playbook.

    Mitt finally had a strong performance the other night in answering the "tax" question which he'll need if he's guy. And I wouldn't bet against the Republicans this fall, though with the economy off life support it will be a challenge countering the Democratic message and money. "It's the economy stupid," as they say, always. Thanks for reading.