SKIPPING DEBATES IS THE NEW BETTING EVERYTHING ON FLORIDA
Rick Perry is apparently serious about skipping some upcoming debates:
After a series of poor debate performances in the early months of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is backing off the upcoming GOP debate schedule, committing to just one of the next three events between now and Nov. 15....
Perry hinted at his frustration with the debates earlier this week when he told Fox News that participating in them was a "mistake."
"These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates," Perry said. "...All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates."
If so, then g'bye, Rick, and thanks for playing. Oh, sure, his people are trying to spin it as just what he did in Texas, and absolutely not being a yellow-bellied wussy:
But it's possible that Mr. Perry and his strategists could conclude that the risk is worth it.
When running for governor last year, Mr. Perry managed to avoid debating his Democratic rival, Bill White, by linking his participation to the issue of Mr. White's release of financial disclosure information. Mr. Perry refused to debate until Mr. White, the former mayor of Houston, released more information. Mr. White accused Mr. Perry of being afraid to debate.
"It’s not about this good ol' fighting Texas Aggie being afraid to [engage] that Harvard boy," Mr. Perry told The Dallas Morning News at the time. "That's not what it’s about at all. I've engaged in debate in all of my" statewide campaigns.
In the presidential campaign, Mr. Perry has already begun to lay the groundwork for what could be a similar argument. He has asked Mr. Romney to release his personal tax returns, something that Mr. Romney has not done.
Asked whether Mr. Perry might refuse to debate until Mr. Romney releases the returns, Mr. Miner declined to say.
"Debates our not the issue here," Mr. Miner said. "Mitt Romney should follow Governor Perry's lead and release his tax returns. What does he have to hide?"
That dog absolutely will not hunt. Peggy Noonan wrote on Friday, "I've never seen TV debates play such a prominent role in a nominating process," and I agree with her, even though she's Peggy Noonan. I think it's because, for Republicans, all political ideas are now filtered through Fox News -- if you didn't see it on Fox, it didn't happen; if people on Fox didn't weigh in on it, you don't know what to think about it. And now even the debates that aren't on Fox are seen as an extension of Fox -- they're on TV and they're wall-to-wall Republican. Also, I think, the GOP voter base is aging, and is just at home a lot watching TV as a result.
That's why, as I said in my last post, a virtual candidate like Herman Cain, who's barely doing any face-to-face campaigning (at least in the correct states) can be at or near the top in every poll.
So if Perry really does duck the debates, he's essentially declaring defeat, whether he knows it or not, just the way Giuliani effectively declared defeat four years ago when he said he was blowing off all the pre-Florida states. Voters want the candidates in the arena. Giuliani, though he was allegedly a tough guy, wimped out. Perry, though he's allegedly a tough guy, seems on the verge of doing the same.