• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Do We Need More Debates?

It’s been nearly a month since the Republican candidates for President last met for a debate, that one was in Mesa, Arizona on the eve of the Michigan and Arizona primaries, which Mitt Romney went on to win. There was supposed to have one on March 5th, the eve of Super Tuesday, but it got cancelled when the candidates announced they would not show up. There’s also supposed to be a debate on Monday night in Oregon, an odd location given that the debate would take place on the eve of the Illinois Primary, but that too has been cancelled after Mitt Romney said he would not be participating. There are no more debates on the calendar, and none are likely to be scheduled. For those of us who have suffered through nearly a year of multi-candidate debates — the February 22nd debate was the 20th — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t we already know what these candidates are going to say? So what’s the reasons for holding more debates not withstanding the fact that the field is much smaller than it was only four months ago? It seems a near universal sentiment, but Dan Amira has a contrarian point of view:

Twenty debates is, actually, a sufficient number of debates. But it’s not the number of debates that’s the problem, it’s the pacing. There were six debates in January, but just one February, and now none in March or for the foreseeable future. Consequently, the candidates very thoroughly debated the issues that were popular in January and before, but not the ones that have arisen over the past six weeks.

For example, you may have noticed that there have been some major developments in Afghanistan since the last debate took place on February 22. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear the candidates discuss those events, and be pressed — by one another and by the moderators, before a national TV audience — on their plans for the future of the war? Could anyone in America describe what those plans are right now?

Plus, you know, rising gas prices, John McCain’s proposal to bomb Syria, heightening tensions with Iran, Vladimir Putin’s re-election, the improving economy, “using birth control makes you a slut,” the Kardashian-Hamm feud — all of that.

So, don’t cheer the death of the debates. Ideally, there’d be one every couple of weeks until the race is truly over.

Amira does have a point here about the pacing of the debates. Did we really need, for example, to have so many between September and January when many people hadn’t even started paying attention to the race and when the stage was filled with gadfly candidates like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann? I don’t really think we were particularly well served by having so many debates with eight or nine candidates on the stage. For one thing, there were simply too many candidates on the stage for the public to learn anything of substance about any one of them, which is why the focus of post-debate coverage was always about who made a gaffe or who get in the best zinger. For another, as I noted, many voters simply weren’t paying close attention to the election back then the way they are now. Wouldn’t it be better to have had more debates during the primary season, when the field had narrowed down to the real contender. I am reminded, for example, of the debates in 2008 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, including a memorable one in Philadelphia on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary. Given the course this race has taken, wouldn’t the voters benefit from a Romney-Santorum one-on-one at some point.

Amira is also correct that the issues have changed over the past three or four months, to the extent were issues other than the economy are arguably driving the narrative in the Republican race right now. However, the candidates will not be heard on those issues because there are no more debates.

When this election cycle is over, both political parties need to take a good long look at the whole debate issue, perhaps try to figure out a schedule that better serves the candidates, and the voters.

H/T Andrew Sullivan

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    It’s certainly wise on the part of the candidates… They (or more likely, their campaign managers) have realized that the more people see of them, the less they like any of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Moosebreath says:

    Not only is the pacing an issue, but the number of questions to each candidate was on a curve based upon their support at the time. Since Santorum (and for much of the time Gingrich) was well behind in the pack during most of the debates, he is far less tested than Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Kenny says:

    Amira’s point notwithstanding, I’m reminded of what my old policomm professor says, debates favor everyone but the favorite. Now that the initial stages of the campaign are out of the way and the favorites have separated themselves, Romney’s camp is probably wise to cancel, from his point of view.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Do we need more root canals? Do we need more colonoscopies??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Amira does have a point about the pacing of the debates.

    No he doesn’t.

    For example, you may have noticed that there have been some major developments in Afghanistan since the last debate took place on February 22. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear the candidates discuss those events, and be pressed — by one another and by the moderators, before a national TV audience — on their plans for the future of the war?

    OBAMA IS WEAK. More soldiers. More sailors. More Marines and Airmen. And what is more…..

    MORE MONEY WITH NO TIMELINE FOR withdrawal….

    Plus, you know, rising gas prices, John McCain’s proposal to bomb Syria, heightening tensions with Iran,

    INVADE IRAN!!!!

    Vladimir Putin’s re-election

    COVERT WAR WITH RUSSIA!!!!

    the improving economy,

    No, it is not.

    “using birth control makes you a slut,”

    Doug??? What is wrong with you? All women are sluts. Even when they don’t take it…..

    They want it.

    Pause…

    Doug, John Stewart could not do satire on you. Why? You take all the best lines. OK, sarcasm does not come across well on the internet. But really Doug,….

    You fell for this? Could he have not been more obvious?

    How can you be so blind?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Please, please just one more debate. Make this one armed. Four go in. One comes out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. legion says:

    @Dave Schuler: Do you really think any of these draft-dodging armchair hawks would have the slightest idea how to use a gun? The audience would be the only ones in danger…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Wayne says:

    Sorry for jumping subjects but where are the write-ups, outrage and people calling Obama an idiot for misquoting former President Rutherford B. Hayes and getting his history very wrong?

    http://now.msn.com/now/0315-obama-misquotes-rutherford-hayes.aspx

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/03/rutherford-b-hayes-obama-telephone.html

    Oh that’s right. That standard only applies to people like Palin who get slam even when she gets it right. Who should be held to a higher standard the President or a pundit\former Governor?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

  9. Dazedandconfused says:

    Those were debates?

    I thought they were “Obama 2012” ads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Oh that’s right. That standard only applies to people like Palin who get slam even when she gets it right.

    Nobody outside of the usual sniggering crowd gave a *** about the factual errors. The reason this stuff kept coming up was that every single time she made an error she doubled down and insisted that a) she was right and everyone else (inclusing the experts) didn’t ahve a clue or that b) she was right and everyone else was just to stupid to understand her clear and concise meanings.

    Nobody insists on the president being a walking history library. But most of insist on giving the job to someone who isn’t pathologically incapable of recognizing errors and correcting them.

    Doubling down as standard modus operandi might ne nice for debate pit bulls but is a dangerous liability in a leader.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Sorry for jumping subjects but where are the write-ups, outrage and people calling Obama an idiot for misquoting former President Rutherford B. Hayes and getting his history very wrong?

    Sorry for calling you an idiot, but that issue has already been covered…and the best line from that thread…

    Wasn’t there just a post on this blog last week about Romney not being held responsible because he didn’t know that Reagan had absolutely nothing to do with freeing the Iranian hostages???
    Double-standard much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. @Wayne:

    Rutherford B. Hayes does not have a posse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. WR says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Do we need more root canals? Do we need more colonoscopies?? ”

    Do we need more posts from Tsar Nicholas?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. I´m not a Republican. But If I were one I would be terrified about a presidential nominee that is afraid of debates and that´s afraid of David Gregory, George Stephanopoulos and Bob Schieffer. If Romney can´t go to debates or to the Sunday Morning Shows, how is he going to debate Obama in the fall?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. superdestroyer says:

    What should stop is anyone wasting time paying attention to the Republican primary. None of the Republican candidates stand a chance of beating President Obama and the only question is how badly they will lose.

    But I guess paying attention to irrelevant politicians competing in irrelevant elections means that wonk-wannabes do not have to think about policy or governance or even the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    “For one thing, there were simply too many candidates on the stage for the public to learn anything of substance about any one of them…”

    Um, that wasn’t a glitch, it was a feature, and it didn’t have anything to do with the number of candidates on the stage, either.

    But I really miss the debates. Hearing you and James talk in circles about your ideas in a free-flowing tautology spree was one of the great elements of comic relief in my rather boring intersession academic break. Now that the new semester has started where I live, I could really use a laugh now and then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Dunbar says:

    I would like to hear more in depth discussions among the “final four”, not a bunch of meaningless questions like we got from John King. Push Gingrich for details of his $2 a gallon gas. Don’t let them hide.
    While I am here, is anyone else picking up a lot of traffic about this Dec. 21, ’12 thing? I am not talking about some weird doomsday or UFO sites, but MIT, CAL Tech, Univ. of Chicago, NASA, NWS, and others. They are even saying that Obama and the British pm met with military, science, and emergency planners the other day. Is this connected to the wacky weather, the Venus – Jupiter alignment that has astronomers baffled? Is this why Obama is bringing all of the
    troops home? Let me know what you have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. WR says:

    @superdestroyer: Running around screaming “The darkies are coming! The darkies are coming!” is not actually “talking about policy.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Dunbar:

    the Venus – Jupiter alignment that has astronomers baffled

    Can we get some supporting links about the “baffled” part, please?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. @André Kenji de Sousa: Maybe Romney will decline debates with Obama too. I think in his pea brain he has no chance, but getting this far for him is a big deal. He will probably feel like a moron like the contestants of the Newlywed game felt when all is said and done. LOSERS all of them. Obama is the only candidate that can go on with his head held up.The others should be ashamed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. superdestroyer says:

    @WR:

    but discussing demographic changes is. That is why the media refuses to talk about demographics. They do not like the impacts of the changes so it must be ignored.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. An Interested Party says:

    They do not like the impacts of the changes…

    No, it is you and people like you who do not like the impacts of the changes…in your particular case, you fear those changes so much that this topic is almost entirely the only thing you talk about…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Dunbar says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: space.com/conjunctionconundrum

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Whites in NYC spend over $30K to avoid the impacts of demographic changes. Elizabeth Warren had documents how people have gone bankrupt trying to avoid the impacts of demographic changes. Detroit is a wasteland due to demographic change.s

    Yet, progressives refuse to even acknowledge that demographics exist, let alone discuss the impact. Demographic changes in the U.S. has eliminate the need for a conservative party. Demographics has made politics and governance a discussion of government goodies, who pays, and who receives. Yet, progressives keep talking as if politics is amount big changes in the U.S. and that all voters will think like elite white progressives from NYC if they just had enough education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0