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Time for the usual debate about debates

Of course Greg Abbott doesn’t want to have debates. There’s no value in them for him.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he has agreed to debate Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke on Sept. 30 in the Rio Grande Valley.

O’Rourke said he would debate Abbott in the Valley but did not commit to the Sept. 30 debate. Without ruling it out entirely, he also called for three “town hall-style debates.”

The perennial debate over debates kicked off Tuesday afternoon, when Abbott’s campaign announced he had accepted an invitation from Nexstar Media Group to debate O’Rourke on the evening of Sept. 30 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. Abbott’s campaign called it “the one and only gubernatorial debate of the 2022 election,” implying it is the only one he is willing to do.

O’Rourke’s campaign responded a little over an hour later.

“We looked forward to attending a forum hosted by Nexstar Media Group in the Rio Grande Valley at a mutually agreed upon date and time, but one debate in one community for the entire state of Texas is not nearly enough,” O’Rourke spokesperson Chris Evans said in a statement.

The O’Rourke campaign said it additionally wants Abbott to “participate in three town hall-style debates in every region of the state during weeknights this fall where they can take questions directly from their fellow Texans.”

Abbott’s choice of the evening of Sept. 30 — a Friday evening in the fall — is a timeworn tactic of incumbents looking to agree to a debate when not as many Texans are paying attention as they would on other nights of the week.

[…]

Abbott debated his last Democratic challenger, Lupe Valdez, once — also on a Friday evening in late September.

Honestly, I’m surprised he even agreed to one. I guess ducking them entirely would be a bad look, and maybe it would be enough of a story that this was the preferred alternative. But yeah, a Friday night in late September is par for the course. Beto will make as much noise as he can about this, and he can counter by setting up other debates that he’ll participate in whether Abbott does or not. He’s of enough interest that they may draw enough attention to make Abbott uncomfortable. I think in the end one will be all we get, but we’ll see.

(Standard disclaimer: I’m not really much of a debate watcher. I don’t think they have that much effect in a contest like this. They’re of greater value in situations where lots of people don’t know much about the candidates and are just trying to get a decent first impression. Primary debates, and forums for local candidates especially in non-partisan races are great. This, less so. But they can be good theater, and there’s always the risk of a disaster.)

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One Comment

  1. SocraticGadfly says:

    The real debate over debates, the same at the national level, is of course not mentioned here, and that’s the issue of including third-party candidates.