According to a report from the Guardian, Republican candidates are finding multiple reasons to avoid appearing at debates before the midterm elections out of fears of being put on the spot -- choosing instead to stick to conservative outlets where they hope to rally their base.
As the Guardian's David Smith wrote, far-right Republicans see no reason to appear at debates and have come up with a wide array of excuses, including taking a tip from Donald Trump and stating they won't get a fair hearing because "the media" opposes them.
Case in point, Smith notes, is Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano who is running for governor, with his report stating he "has rejected a televised debate with an independent moderator. Instead, he has reserved a hotel ballroom on 22 October and selected a partisan to referee: Mercedes Schlapp, who was strategic communications director in the Trump White House. Democratic rival Josh Shapiro has little incentive to accept."
In North Carolina, Trump endorsed Ted Budd refused to participate in four debates with his fellow Republicans who also sought the U.S. Senate seat and now is balking at one debate with his Democratic opponent Cheri Beasley.
On the other hand, in Arizona, Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs is refusing to debate Republican Kari Lake, saying she wants no part in sharing the stage with an election denier.
According to noted political scientists Larry Sabato, in many cases there is no upside for some candidates to appear with their opponents, explaining, "In the era of 400 channels, when polarization is so intense that the vast majority of voters already know for whom they’re voting, it doesn’t matter what happens in a debate or if there is a debate. The costs of not debating are very small.”
Brookings Institute fellow Elaine Karmarck had a slightly different take.
“It’s dangerous because these televised debates at all levels have been one of the few good things about democracy in the modern era. People had to stand up there and defend themselves and say what they believed and let the voters take a good look at them," she explained.
She also suggested, "What you see here is a Republican party that’s gone off the rails led by Donald Trump. It is this year’s crop of candidates who are not very serious people and can’t debate but I do think debates will return when the Republican party starts nominating normally qualified people to run.”
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