Tuesday night’s debate between 5th District congressional candidates Democrat Elizabeth Esty and Republican Andrew Roraback was smartly cancelled by NBC Connecticut. News Director Mike St. Peter says there is no way they can reschedule it even though both candidates were willing. In Massachusetts, the debate the same night between Republican US Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren was similarly cancelled. Now, Warren is willing to debate Thursday. Brown is not. His campaign says a “bus tour” is more important that a major, final televised debate. He is wrong and it could hurt him.
The Brown campaign said, “It is unfortunate that nature intervened in a way we all agreed made it inappropriate to carry on with the scheduled debate. With only days remaining in the campaign, and with a long-planned bus tour kicking off Thursday through Election Day that will take Scott Brown to every corner of the Commonwealth, our calendar simply cannot accommodate a rescheduling of this fourth debate and the planning and preparation that would go into it…” Ugh. So lame.
The Boston Globe, which has a notoriously liberal bent, made sense in its editorial saying, “If anything….a post-Sandy debate could be more illuminating than some previous ones. The storm also raised issues that deserve the next senator’s attention but up to now haven’t figured prominently in the campaign — the proper balance between ¬local, state, and federal authorities in planning for, and cleaning up after, natural ¬disasters; the fitness of the state’s physical infrastructure in the face of such events; the possibility that this year’s late-October hurricane, like last year’s freak October snowstorm, is part of a pattern of increasingly extreme weather events related to global climate change. Voters deserve to hear the candidates on these and other issues. The last debate should go forward.”
Debates matter (just ask Mitt Romney) and in close races, those who refuse to make accommodations to get in the final debates do so at their own peril. Esty and Roraback isn’t going to happen for good reasons even though neither has been hesitant to take on the other. However, it’s fairly clear Brown wants no part of Warren in a forum in which she has done progressively better. It’s pathetic and voters should take note.
The last Brown-Warren debate was sponsored by a media consortium. There is no reason why it can’t happen and the fact that Brown is backing out is telling. Is he not ready to defend his record? Does he not think the voters—far more than would see him in a “bus tour”—not have a right to compare the two a final time?
At least Elizabeth Esty and Andrew Roraback were both willing to go at it one more time according to St. Peter. “It is not true that either of the candidates were not willing to debate. But this close to the election, their schedules were understandably tight, and we had limited on-air options too,” he said. That’s understandable given the amount of resources NBC Connecticut put into covering Sandy.