HomeNewsDebating over debates: Marketing campaign custom faces skepticism

Debating over debates: Marketing campaign custom faces skepticism



Beneath stress from his Republican rival, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman stated this week he would take part in a single debate earlier than the November election.

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker are nonetheless working by way of the main points of what a debate may seem like, although they look like inching nearer to a deal. And in Arizona, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs has declined a televised debate with Republican Kari Lake.

With the autumn marketing campaign quickly approaching, the time-honored custom of televised debates as a discussion board for voters to guage candidates often is the newest casualty of fixed media protection and highly effective digital platforms, in addition to the nation’s polarized political local weather. For some Republicans, eschewing debates is an opportunity to sidestep a media construction some within the get together deride as biased and align with Donald Trump, who has blasted presidential debates. Some Democrats, together with Hobbs, have pointed to raucous GOP debates from the first season as a cause to keep away from tangling with their opponents.

Regardless of such skepticism, veteran political marketing consultant Terry Sullivan defended debates as “the one discussion board the place candidates are pressured into answering questions that they don’t need to reply.”

“They’re not going to do it of their TV commercials,” added Sullivan, who managed GOP Sen. Jim DeMint’s 2004 bid in South Carolina and dealt with media for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential effort. “And in stump appearances, press conferences, they’ll evade, they’ll dodge.”

And generally, Sullivan added, it is the media protection of what occurs onstage, fairly than the back-and-forth itself, that may make an even bigger impression.

In what “ought to have been probably the most boring debate within the historical past of mankind,” Sullivan stated {that a} 2004 panelist questioning DeMint and Democrat Inez Tenenbaum requested DeMint if he agreed with a state GOP platform tenet in opposition of brazenly homosexual lecturers in South Carolina’s public faculties.

“That sort of turned the race on its head for the subsequent three months,” Sullivan stated, noting headlines he characterised as “DeMint needs to fireside homosexual lecturers.”

DeMint went on to win the open seat by almost 10 share factors, a margin typical in latest South Carolina statewide elections. However in additional aggressive states, Sullivan stated, a debate can function “a great way to seek out out the place candidates are on the problems.”

Along with successful candidates hundreds of impressions in earned media and repackaged video clips, debate footage can even propel candidates’ messages much more broadly — and cheaply — than might tv advert buys, stated Michael Wukela, a South Carolina Democratic media marketing consultant and veteran of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids.

“You are getting that in a single shot,” Wukela stated, of a debate look being price airtime that will in any other case value hundreds of thousands. “That is like a Tremendous Bowl advert.”

Refusal to take part can draw ire from rivals. The Republicans whom Walker refused to debate forward of Georgia’s major critiqued him as ill-prepared to tackle Warnock, a talented orator.

“If you happen to can’t get on the stage and debate fellow Republicans, how on earth are you going to debate with Raphael Warnock within the normal election?” Latham Saddler, a Navy veteran and former Trump administration official who was amongst 5 Republicans difficult Walker, requested. “Often should you’re hiding, you’re hiding for a cause.”

Walker repeatedly proclaimed his eagerness to face off with Warnock within the fall however, as an alternative of agreeing to Warnock’s problem to a few debates, accepted an invite to a unique one altogether. This week, Warnock stated he would take part in that debate, if Walker agreed to a different discussion board Warnock needs. That back-and-forth stays unresolved.

Different Senate contests are taking part in out equally.

In North Carolina, the place U.S. Rep. Ted Budd skipped 4 Republican major debates in his U.S. Senate bid, stated Friday he wouldn’t settle for an invite from the North Carolina Affiliation of Broadcasters to debate Democrat Cheri Beasley, as the 2 head for a presumably shut normal election. Budd stated he had accepted a cable debate invite, however there’s no settlement with Beasley on that look.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, mused to reporters this week about what would occur if voters elected a senator who by no means has ”answered a reputable query from a voter, from a newscaster in a non-taped setting, in a debate stage?” citing Fetterman’s campaign-trail absence as he recovers from a stroke.

Fetterman’s marketing campaign stated he’ll take part in a televised debate in October however gave no different particulars, together with why he would conform to only one debate. Oz’s marketing campaign instantly dubbed it a “secret debate,” with no particulars on when or the place.

In Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, the Republican nominee Doug Mastriano has rejected a media-moderated debate and as an alternative reserved a resort ballroom on Oct. 22 and picked a partisan moderator for himself: Mercedes Schlapp, who served as Trump’s White Home strategic communications director and is married to the chair of the American Conservative Union.

The marketing campaign of Democrat Josh Shapiro stated Mastriano’s refusal to simply accept an impartial moderator blew up a couple of dozen invites from information organizations and different teams.

Some incumbents with an edge on their rivals have rebuffed requests for a number of debates, tired of taking a threat on stage which may change the course of their marketing campaign.

South Carolina Democrat Joe Cunningham referred to as for 4 general-election debates with Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, whose marketing campaign dismissed the request as a “stunt” and finally agreed to 1 matchup. In Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has granted a single debate to Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke — on a Friday night time within the thick of highschool soccer season, which shall be broadcast as distracted voters are as an alternative at video games kicking off across the state.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis initially dedicated to a statewide televised debate together with his Democratic opponent earlier than U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist — who got here below fireplace for not agreeing to major debates — received his get together’s nomination. Now, the 2 are set to spar in a single debate, proven solely on a West Palm Seashore TV station.

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican nominee Tudor Dixon lastly agreed to a single October debate after a scheduling flap. Whitmer introduced final month she would take part in two statewide, televised debates, a call her marketing campaign stated was “per previous precedent.” Dixon, who criticized Whitmer for not debating earlier than voter are in a position to ship in absentee ballots, finally agreed to the solo assembly.

Noting that the uncertainty of debates will be “terrifying” for all concerned, Wukela acknowledged incumbents’ reticence to permitting their challengers distinguished alternatives to equate themselves with the workplace, or its current occupant.

“Strom Thurmond refused to debate any of his opponents,” Wukela stated of the longtime South Carolina Democrat-turned-Republican governor and senator. “If I’ve acquired a four-touchdown lead, why would I ever throw the ball?”


Related Press author Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.


Meg Kinnard will be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP


Observe AP for full protection of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics



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