Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Highly Debatable

It seems that the two major party candidates for Governor have come up with a side deal to meet each other in three events that could be described as "candidate forums" rather than debates. There will be no rebuttals or counterpoints, the candidates will just take turns giving short- or in the case of the opening statements not so short- speeches. The agreement prevents either man from attending any other candidate forum, such as the AETN debate that will offer a chair to Green Party Candidate Jim Lendall or Independent Rod Bryan.

Many are wondering if team Beebe didn't out-negotiate team Hutchinson on this one. The answer is, shall we say, highly debatable. The low-risk format seems geared for mistake avoidance rather than testing each man's mettle. To me that is a sign that the handlers for each man trust themselves to shape message more than they trust their candidate in a real verbal joust. While some of that is natural- people in this business like control- you really ought to have confidence in your guy's ability to go head to head with the opposition.

(Continued- click WEDNESDAY below and scroll down for rest of article, or if sent straight here just scroll down)


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

First let's talk about the provision of the agreement that prevents either of them from participation in any other forum or debate. That means no AETN debate. Asa ran the risk of being the lone conservative against three liberals at that debate in that format. But is that really a risk, or to most people would Asa come off as the lone voice of sanity in an otherwise tiny bag of mixed nuts? My guess is the latter.

You see, Beebe could not afford to straight out disagree with the liberal positions of the other two. Every time he did he would lose a sliver of his coalition. I am here to tell you that Lendall would go after Beebe far more than Hutchinson. The reason is that his votes are to be found in Beebe's hide! It does him little good to make Hutchinson look bad, Hutchinson's people are not going to vote for Lendall anyway based on grooming alone! He has to get votes by making Beebe look bad to the far left.

My bet is Lendall would have made Beebe look bad to every body who had to sit through an hour of him giving mealy mouthed answers. Beebe would have had pressure from both sides.

I wish they had taken the AETN debate. That would have put pressure on Beebe to take it as well. As it is, their agreement prevents them from doing that.

The format is the other issue. It is going to be pretty much risk free with no chance for rebuttal. That favors the person willing to make the wildest claims in favor of themselvs or against the other person. So far, Beebe has shown a propensity for both, like claiming he is for tax cuts, and that he had a big role in increasing the minimum wage. He also claimed that the difference between him and Asa was that Asa did not believe every child should have a quality education! You see with some people, if you disagree with them on methods why then, your intentions must be bad.

Now if we had a media that was willing to call the Democrats to account for their wild claims, then it would be OK to let Beebe start claiming credit for inventing the internet and accusing Hutchinson of Crimes Against Humanity.

In a perfect world the media would call him on it and subject him to well earned ridicule. But brothers and sisters, we do not live in a perfect world. And if the media won't call them on it, you should not agree to a debate format where you can't call them on it either.

I am afraid this format favors those willing to make the most outrageous claims, and favors the status quo, which is as best as I can figure it a nine point Beebe lead at this time. A riskier format would have been, well, riskier, but I think Asa would have acquitted himself well. Sure Beebe is slippery, but Asa is a former prosecutor. He should know how to handle himself.

The risk/reward in a free-form debate is that one man or the other will make the "big mistake", the one statement that he will be beat over the head with until the election. But what is wrong with that? Don't we need to know how they will respond under pressure? I say mix it up and let the best man win.

Beebe may have had an advantage going into the negotiations, but he did not hold all the cards, not with Asa able to say, "Well, I will debate these other two guys then. I will help give these two guys who are on the left an hour of TV time."

I wish they had gotten a little more. With these debates, in this format, I expect little to no poll movement as a result.

12:47 PM, September 06, 2006  

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