Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A View on Debates that does have some merit

source: SeattleTimes (where you can find the article in its entirety)

ON DEADLINE: Debate on debates fueled by losing candidates

AP Special Correspondent

Debate challenges are a ploy, not an issue. They are in the playbook for the candidate trying to catch up, in this case Hillary Clinton.

Demanding that Barack Obama debate her is a guaranteed applause line at Clinton's campaign rallies. But the topic seldom makes much difference to voters, and it probably won't this time as Obama declines more debates, saying that there have been enough, meaning that he prefers to run his own campaign and go to Democratic voters on his own terms.

Candidates debate when it fits their strategies, or when they have no alternative. The latter was the situation early in this campaign, when there were a dozen faces in the candidate crowd and none of them dared risk staying away.

Now that it is Clinton versus Obama, debating fits her game plan but not his, so there will be none before the next set of primaries on May 6 in North Carolina and Indiana, and probably not afterward, either.

Debate challenges hinge on the campaign situation. When Vice President Al Gore thought he was on a glide path to the 2000 nomination, he didn't express much interest in debates. That changed when former Sen. Bill Bradley emerged as a formidable challenger. Then Gore challenged Bradley to virtually nonstop debates. He said they should scrap TV advertising and debate twice a week instead. While Bradley knew better than to accept that Gore maneuver, he lost in the end.

The Clinton campaign is hammering the topic, telling Democrats i