by John Dankosky - Ned Lamont’s decision not to engage in any more televised debates leading up to the August 10 primary has made the media part of the story, in a way that I’m torn over. On one hand, debates can be fairly staged affairs – long on talking points and short on real substance.
But there’s a time when they actually really do matter. When you have a close race, important issues, narrow differences between candidates, and especially when one candidate’s refusal to take part becomes campaign fuel for his opponent, and raises questions about political strategy.
At last night’s taping of “Face The State” – which you can watch Sunday on Channel 3 – Dennis House asked Lamont, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate, if he would accept our offer to debate Malloy one week before the primary. The forum would be moderated by Dennis and me, and broadcast at various times over WFSB, CPTV and WNPR. It’s the biggest media footprint of any debate so far.
As you’ll read in his column, Ned said “maybe” – but his campaign said “no.” The “no” is very consistent with what I’ve been hearing for the last few weeks as we tried to cajole them to take part.
Maybe, as Mark Pazniokas writes in The Connecticut Mirror today, some candidates really see these debates as “as another futile exercise, illuminating little about the abilities of the candidates to lead Connecticut.”
We, of course, see them in a different light – a chance to go on a job interview with thousands of people whose state you’re trying to lead.
Tom Foley, whose enormous poll lead gives him no incentive to debate the other Republicans in the race, has agreed to this WNPR/WFSB debate. When he was leaving our studio yesterday after an appearance on Where We Live - an appearance, mind you, in which he probably said some things he wished he hadn’t - Foley told me that he’s happy to debate “anytime” and that pre-primary debates are “good practice” for the general election.
If Ned Lamont makes it through his battle with Dan Malloy, he’ll be faced with months worth of stories and questions about whether he’ll take on Foley in the fall. And, I don’t mean with TV ads…