GOP Frontrunners Blow Off Debates

Steve Benen reports that all four of the top contenders for the Republican nomination were no-shows at the “Values Voter Debate” sponsored by WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah and attended by several top Christian Conservative luminaries. The most interesting comment of the night (or, at least the most interesting in Steve’s post about the night):

Religious right leader Janet Folger was unrestrained in threatening those who neglected to participate in the debate. To those who “had something more important to do than talk to those of us who represent God’s principles,” Folger had a prediction: “Those who snubbed us, they will not win…. They will regret the decision.”

What that says about the power of the social conservative leadership and the calculations of the candidates is open to interpretation. While Steve’s suggestion that this is evidence of the decline of the movement, I’d note this comes right on the heels of the same candidates blowing off Tavis Smiley’s PBS forum directed at black voters.

Maybe the real lesson is that the top tier Republicans are incredibly risk averse? They may well have calculated that going to any debate that’s hosted by or aimed at a particular niche demographic is dangerous. Or, perhaps they’ve just decided that debating, period, is a poor use of their time at this stage of the campaign.

Conversely, the Democrats same to be game for debating anywhere at any time, having shown up for debates for gays, blacks, and others. [Commenter Wayne observes, “Except for Fox News.” True that.] The extent to which this means they’re more confident or simply reflects the nature of their coalition is hard to say.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Is anyone else bothered by Folger’s assertion that anybody _not_ associated with that debate does _not_ represent God’s principles? There’s being risk averse, and then there’s not walking through a minefield without a damned good reason.

    The best thing that could possibly have come out of that debate for those attending were sound bites for the Democratic campaigns to use against those who attended. The worst would be sound bites that other GOP campaigns could use against those who attend. Either way, it was going to be a loss.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    Personally, I think there are different primary reasons for the Republicans’ aversion to these debates.

    They blew off the WorldNetDaily debate mainly because it was small time – no TV.

    They blew off the PBS Smiley debate because they’ve all written off the black vote (and the interests of the majority of blacks).

    And they blew off the the hispanic debate mostly because they didn’t want to be asked about immigration after all of the demagoguing the Republican base has done on the subject.

  3. Wayne says:

    “the Democrats same to be game for debating anywhere at any time”
    Except for Fox News.

  4. legion says:

    Maybe the real lesson is that the top tier Republicans are incredibly risk averse?

    Ummm… no. I realize the folly of making broad generalizations, but in this case it is demonstrably true. They really just don’t care about black people – as Laurence notes, they’re not going to get that vote, and they’re not willing to make the changes they would have to to get it. The really don’t care about hispanics either, except as a chip in the immigration debate. And the Larry Craig fiasco shows that they really don’t care about gays either, not that anyone with a pair of eyes couldn’t have told you that long ago.

    In short, the GOP is embracing its image as the party of rich, white, straight folk – the rest of you can FOAD.

  5. brainy435 says:

    Of couse you could make the argument that the democrats will pander to ANYONE who they think they can bribe or confuse enough to vote for them while the republicans are for what they are for and do not care for the hyper-PC, self labeling bullcrap so prevalent in our society.

    In other words, a democratic administration will give lip service to having minorities in high office while a republican administration will give you a Dr. Rice or Sam Alito… as long as they are the best candidates for their respective jobs. The dems will crow about the former case to anyone who will listen about how “progressive” they are and the republicans will just see the latter case as common sense.

  6. cian says:

    According to Hannity, if the dems can’t face Fox how are they going to face down the terrorists. And I say, if the republicans can’t face African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Gay Americans….

    We’ve got nothin’!

  7. Tlaloc says:

    To those who “had something more important to do than talk to those of us who represent God’s principles,” Folger had a prediction: “Those who snubbed us, they will not win…. They will regret the decision.”

    Does she even own a bible? Why is it the people that are the most fanatical about a given religion are ALWAYS the ones who are the least well read in it’s principles?

  8. Barry says:

    James: “the Democrats same to be game for debating anywhere at any time”

    Wayne: “Except for Fox News.”

    Why the h*ll would Democrats go on Fox? It’s the GOP Channel.

  9. legion says:

    brainy,
    So, both parties are scumbags who’ll shaft everyone they can, but Dems are lying scum, while the GOP is at least honest scum? I don’t think even I’m that cynical.

    And as for GOP appointee qualifications, you’ve clearly taken leave of your senses. I’ll leave the “good job, Brownie” rips to someone else… Alito at least had experience, but Rice, history will show, was the wrong choice for this period. Her entire professional and academic background was Soviet bloc-Eastern European region; specifically military issues. She’d have been perfect 20 years ago, but not now, dealing with multi-partite diplomacy in the Middle East, NK, China, and most everywhere but the former USSR. And her tenure as Nat Sec Advisor was not what anyone would describe as “stellar” (unless your name is bin Laden).

  10. Michael says:

    It was “Heckuva job, Brownie”.

  11. yetanotherjohn says:

    Democrats pick Kos and pass on DLC. Republicans pass on Value Voters.

    Makes sense to me. Democrats are ignoring the center and going for the fringe. Republicans are ignoring their fringe. Makes you wonder how that will play out in the general election.

  12. Michael says:

    yetanotherjohn,
    Kos is in the center of the Democratic voter opinion, the DLC is on the fringe.

    * By Kos I mean Markos himself and his front-page contributors, not everyone who posts comments or diaries on dailykos.com

  13. Steve Plunk says:

    Am I the only person who sees these debates as a waste of time? Nobody watches and nobody answers the darn debate questions straight up. Why bother?

  14. C. Lee says:

    I am outraged that John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney declined Tavis Smiley’s invitation to the Morgan State debate. Republicans always ignore the African American community until they need us to die in their stupid war. My brothers and sisters of color, we’ve got to unite and stop the Republican’s total disregard for us!

  15. The Dems have to stay busy pandering to the Moron.Org crowd or lose the Moron.Org support or worse yet have Moron.Org place ads against them.
    For the Dems it’s work the fringe or lose support.

    The RepubliKrats running… who cares?

    Until they can find a conservative who doesn’t have to perform a mid stream change to be conservative the ’08 cycle is over already.

  16. And one of the very few who fit that mould, Duncan Hunter, doesn’t appear to have a chance of any kind.

  17. NoZe says:

    So who appointed these people “those…who represent God’s principles”?

  18. Andy says:

    “the Democrats same to be game for debating anywhere at any time”
    Except for Fox News.

    The Democrats are proud to say they want nothing to do with Fox News.

    I suppose the equivalence that you are drawing means that the Republicans are proud to say they want nothing to do with black or hispanic voters, right?