Gingrich Sets The Terms Of Debates He’ll Never Participate In

Wrapping up a campaign in Florida that seems likely to end in a big defeat, Newt Gingrich went back to his old habit of attacking the media:

With his poll numbers lagging in Florida, Newt Gingrich returned Monday to his tried-and-true offensive against the media, declaring that if he’s the Republican nominee, he will not debate President Obama if a reporter serves as moderator.

“The reporters who run the debates have no interest in asking any question which will affect Obama,” Gingrich told a crowd gathered to see him at the Pensacola airport. “That’s why, as your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators because you don’t need to have a second Obama person on the debate.”

It is not the first time Gingrich has threatened such action during his week in Florida. At a tea party event in Coral Springs last Wednesday, he told the crowd that he would “tolerate” the media-hosted primary debates, but in the general election he would want to set the terms of the debate with the president himself.

“We should be able to talk to the American people without reporters playing gotcha, being clever or having 60-second rules like ‘What would you do about Nigeria in 60 seconds?’ or ‘What’s your answer to Social Security in 30 seconds?'” Gingrich told the enthusiastic crowd.

The former House speaker has said that as nominee he would challenge the president to seven, three-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debates, despite the fact that the debate schedule has already been set by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Of course, there will not be seven three hour “Lincoln-Douglas” style debates, nor will there be any significant changes to the debate format set down by the Commission on Presidential Debates which has been the bipartisan group in charge of setting Presidential debates since 1988. As Allahpundit notes, if Gingrich even tried to change the terms of the Commission’s debates, past precedent would provide the President’s campaign with more than enough political cover to rebuff his efforts and make it look like he was the one who didn’t want to participate in fair debates.  Of course, this isn’t really a serious proposal on Gingrich’s part it’s a continuation of the attack the media strategy that we saw examples of two weeks ago in South Carolina when Newt went after Juan Williams and John King in the debates. It’s red meat for the crowds, but it doesn’t actually mean anything:

He’s obliged to say stuff like this on the trail now. Media-bashing has become his calling card. A Newt rally without it would be like a Stones concert without “Satisfaction.” Do the lunar base/flat tax medley if you want, but at some point you’ve got to make the people happy and play your anthem.

Yep, pretty much.

Of course, the other part of this is that, after tonight, the odds that Newt Gingrich will every actually be debating Barack Obama will drop significantly. Oh, we can all humor him for another six weeks or so and he may actually win another primary or two, but the die has been cast in Florida and it’s clear that Mitt Romney is going to roll over Gingrich in the end no matter how long it takes. So continue making those speeches Newt, they’ll give you some good talking points when you’re back commenting on Fox News Channel.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DRS says:

    He should be grateful for a 60-second time limit on almost any subject; any longer would not enhance his answer.

  2. legion says:

    “Let me run things or I’ll take my ball and go home!” That’s been Newt’s MO since his college days; no need to change now, right?

  3. merl says:

    Alinksyite tactics. haha and if he can’t lie his ass off he will lose every debate every time

  4. A voice from another precinct says:

    ‘What’s your answer to Social Security in 30 seconds?’”

    We should finally acknowledge that it is the income transfer program that it is and tax the whole nut on the employee side.

    Was that longer than 30 seconds? You may not agree, but that one wasn’t hard at all.

    (On Nigeria, I don’t even know what is broken, so…)

  5. Lomax says:

    I am not a Gingrich fan, but I think he is right about these debate moderaters trying to control and program. Many of the questions are designed for a specific purpose and outcome. It is clearly apparent that the major networks are controlled and are going to be instrumental in selecting an “establishment” (international financial cartel, CFR, Trialateralist) candidate.
    Here are a few questions I would ask and that you will not see on these controlled, sanitized debates: What would you do about the high gasoline prices? What would you do in your first week in office? How will you handle Iran? How about the Federal Reserve? What agencies and departments do you think are doing a good job? Would you want to eliminate any?