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Sending precisely the wrong signal

Sending precisely the wrong signal

Whether Rick Perry ends up showing up at the debates or not, this sends precisely the wrong signal.  This is not May or June.  If you want the nomination, you show up to debates in November and December, without hesitation:

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 campaign manager Ray Sullivan said Wednesday night that the debates keep
candidates from interacting more effectively with voters.

“When you’ve got eight or nine candidates and 30 seconds to a minute, it takes valuable time away from campaigning in Iowa as those elections approach,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN. “…There are, I think, 18 more in the planning phases. There’s no way that the candidates can do all those debates.”

Whoever decided to float this idea has botched it.

There are only a handful of currently scheduled debates, holding out the bogeyman of 18 more doesn’t help Perry at a critical moment when he is trying to recover.


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Respectfully disagree with you, sir. Ron Paul had the debates rightly pegged:
“Ron Paul: Tuesday’s GOP debate was ‘disgusting
By Jonathan Easley – 10/21/11 05:20 PM ET

Ron Paul said Tuesday’s acrimonious Republican presidential debate was “disgusting,” and that he considered walking off stage in the middle of it.

“I can tell you that after the first 45 minutes I was tempted to walk off that stage,” Paul told the Des Moines Register on Friday. “I thought it was disgusting.”

Speaking from a wind-turbine blade manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa, the Texas Representative expressed frustration with the number of debates and the spectacle they’ve become.

“These TV shows where they beat up on each other, I think that’s what the people like,” he said. “They enjoy this. They think it’s a game they’re playing.”…

Governor Perry is “his own man” and never has relented to the pressures of the lamestream media. Viewship of those debates are about 6 million, how many are actual voters and how many are political “junkies” who like a good fight? Those debates so far have been conducted by a hostile CNN with hostile Anderson Cooper and others whose slanted questions are obvious. Have you seen Governor Perry’s latest ad? Governor Perry knows how to effectively campaign, it has worked well for him x 3 and he knows well how to fundraise and get his message out. His economic plan is impressive and the flat tax would help us get out from under the trillions of dollars in debt and actually stimulate the economy. He knows well how to do that. I invite you to check out our state’s condition. I wasn’t born Texan but got here as soon as I could.

I’m anxious to see if any of the other candidates follow Perry’s lead here. So far the circus atmosphere of the debates hasn’t been particularly complimentary to any of the candidates. We’re all looking for some depth from these folks and that is just not going to happen in such a forum. Yes, we already know Perry doesn’t debate well. We also know Romney is impeccably slick. Newt is consistently Newt. They do their best to ignore Paul. Watching for a gotcha for Bachman has become part of the game. Giving them all 6+ more opportunities to look really good on camera while saying nothing of substance isn’t all that helpful to anybody but the network’s bottom line.

Too many voters adored the shiny veneer of Obama in ’08 and look where that got us. Let’s get past slick and demand a little substance. These debates aren’t providing it.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | October 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I’m not sure I agree with your assessment either. From what I can tell, with the exception of Newt, the debates have generally hurt candidates rather than help them. And while Newt has done very well in the debates, it has only resulted in a slow grind higher in the polls. Romney has probably been the second best debater (only because he has done himself little harm), yet he hasn’t budged in the polls.

Perry, on the other hand, knows debating is his weakest skill. From what I’ve read about him, one of his strengths is retail politicking — shaking hands, kissing babies and chatting in smaller intimate settings. And he needs to do that in Iowa to win. If he uses his time away from the debate(s) to concentrate on that in Iowa, it might be a better use of his time rather than participating in another debate in which he gets creamed by the chattering heads afterward.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to MaggotAtBroadAndWall. | October 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    “with the exception of Newt, the debates have generally hurt candidates rather than help” – whose fault is that? Romney and Perry took the bait offered up by the moderators, Newt did not.

Agree with the Prof. Bad, BAD idea by Perry…or his campaign manager.

““When you’ve got eight or nine candidates and 30 seconds to a minute, it takes valuable time away from campaigning in Iowa as those elections approach,” Sullivan said …

Seriously, Sullivan? You rather waste time and effort raising millions for useless 30 second – 1 minute TV spots rather than getting it for free at a televised debate + reaching more through post-debate coverage?

Doesn’t matter if its moderated by a Lib. A competent campaign manager can coach a candidate to pull a Sun-Tzu on the event.

Is it just me or are ‘campaign managers’ a general hazard to a campaign’s success?

    Owen J in reply to Aucturian. | October 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I think yoiu are largely right about campaign managers, but otherwise wrong.

    Look at this way: You can never win if you willingly enter into a situation where the enemy dominates the infomation space.

    The proper response (as Sun Tzu — who is generally overrated but right on this point — understood ) is to not go there and to flip the enemy’s tactics by exposing them: in this case, by denouncing the debates for what they are.

    In this regard, 1-minute TV spots are in fact far from useless as they reach an audience orders of magnitude larger than the debates, which are followed mainly by political junkies.

Have to disagree and I continue to be surprised you can attach any positve spin to the debates. The debates as they are now conducted are merely an extension of the Lady Gaga phenomenon. They only further debase the political process. This needs to be said and Perry is absolutely correct to do so.

The signal this sends is that we need to serious about vetting our candidates and the debates impede that.

Further, you are wrong about Newt being “above the fray” and not “taking the bait” — Newt does not have enough support to be involved the fray. No “bait” is offered him because he is not yet worth baiting.

This obssession people have with 30-sec sound-bite gotcha politics must end if we are to have any chance of fixing this country.

Start doing your part.

By a quick count, you have written at least 20 posts on the debates.

I have yet to read on post on Perry’s fiscal proposals or a comparision of Perry’s proposals compared to Cain’s proposals (or anyone else’s).

Newt has advanced proposals as well — on these there is also silence.

If you are truly concerned with the Republican primaries, where are the posts on the candidate’s actual records and substantive positions?

What is your Intention? To advance substantive debate on the candidates merits or to pimp TV shows?

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I think Gov. Perry has a point…There are too many debates.
Candidates need to have time to meet voters too and lay out their case for nomination, do Townhalls to answer questions and meet with local press. Having this many debates is a time waster in terms of preparation and travel. Good for Perry for stating the obvious. He’s been in 5 debates in a little over 8 weeks since entering the race on Aug. 13. It’s debate saturation. I don’t blame him for wanting to be more selective of which to attend in the future. They aren’t even watched by many people but edited clips are played endlessly on cable news. A Total of 5 would have been enough for the entire season and these should have been spaced out.

“That said, Perry has a point when he suggests there are just too many debates scheduled in the rapidly dwindling number of days before voters go to the polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other key primary states.

There are at least a dozen GOP debates scheduled between Nov. 9 and the Florida primary on Jan. 31. A few more are in the works but not yet confirmed. Given that there will be breaks in the debating for Thanksgiving and Christmas — nobody expects voters to pay attention then — that’s a lot of debates in very little time.

For example, there will be three debates in the six-day period between Nov. 9 and 15. The first will be a CNBC debate focused on the economy at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. Then there will be a CBS News debate at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., followed by a foreign policy debate put on by the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Without wishing to offend any of the sponsors, it’s reasonable to ask whether all those debates, especially the ones in Michigan and Washington, are absolutely essential.

After the Thanksgiving break, there’s a CNN debate in Phoenix on Dec. 1. Is that essential? And then there are three debates in Iowa between Dec. 10 and 19…
What would the candidates do if they weren’t debating so much? They’d campaign more. That’s obviously what Perry wants to do. Compare his weak performance on the debate stage with his mastery of hands-on, one-on-one campaigning, and its easy to understand why.

But fewer debates would probably benefit the other candidates, too. Voters in the early states really do pay close personal attention to candidates, and word gets around if a candidate does well on the stump. Of course, for that to happen, the candidate has to actually be on the stump…”

BurkeanBadger | October 27, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I agree with much of the comments already posted. I don’t know if Perry’s move is wise or not from a strategic standpoint, but if retail politicking is his strength, he should go with it. There are more ways to win votes then appearing in a plethora of political beauty pageants, all to anxiously wait and see if the Perez Hilton’s of the political circuit will snark on you the next day.

Honestly, these “debates” are ridiculous and tedious. Most of them have the atmosphere of a circus sideshow. Furthermore, I completely agree: they mostly feed the insatiable desires of pundits, talking heads and politics junkies. The same can be said for the eight trillion polls we are inundated with on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

I don’t think most journalists/pundits see the forest the trees. Or, perhaps they do but just don’t care. The endless debates and non stop polls(Gallup, Rasmussen, Harris, Ipsos, Zogby, Quinnipaic, Marist, etc. ad nauseum) nationally and from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida provide good copy, good talking points, and not much else. “Oh my God, Perry is slipping! Cain is rising!” Except that two months ago it was “Bachmann is slipping, Perry is rising”. And two months from now it could easily be “Gingrich is rising, Cain is ‘done’”. I’m sick to death of premature op-eds declaring the ‘collapse’ of this or that candidate.

We’re still over two months from the Iowa Caucuses!

There has been one, and only one, constant in this already agonizingly long campaign: Mitt Romney will either win the nomination or come in a close second. Who the principal ‘not Romney’ opponent will be very much remains to be seen. And regardless of the earth shaking gaffe of Candidate X of the day, or the excellent performance of Candidate Y in the Nth debate, this unknown is going to be with us at least until a bunch of weary, snow bound Iowans (myself included) trudge to their caucus locations in January. Indeed, it may remain unclear until likewise snow bound New Hampshireites cast their ballots.

Perry might still surprise, if he sticks to his strengths (FYI: I am a Romney guy, so I am not just trying to give a plug for Perry). If he comes out the winner (or a strong second) in Iowa, I’m sure the chattering classes, in their erudite ignorance, will be dumbstruck. “How? Oh how? He sooooo failed to impress US!!”

Does anyone recall just a scant eight years ago, when Howard Dean was a “lock” for the Democratic nomination? It only took a bunch of Iowans, plus a crazy scream to deflate that. Instead, John Kerry (who was I believe fourth in most national polls behind Dean, Clark and Edwards) surged within the last 48 hours before the caucuses, blew away New Hampshire and never looked back.

Does anyone remember even four years ago? The chattering classes had for months declared that Hillary and Rudy WERE the nominees…end of story! Yeah… Then they latched on to Obama and after he won Iowa the again declared it to be “all over”. Until Hillary shocked everyone in New Hampshire and made for the most protracted, contentious fight for a nomination in recent history.

It’s not over until it’s over.

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Agree. There are some blogs who have discussed the records and policy proposals of each candidate although many don’t provide links for voters to read them.

Link to Perry’s Tax/Spending Cut Plan

Link to Perry’s Jobs Plan

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm


Retail politics has always been Perry’s strength. He usually avoids cowtowing to the big media machines in Texas while campaigning and reaches out to local media which love the attention while he’s on the stump. He gives a short stump speech usually topic driven and then spends hours chatting with voters and answering their questions. He’s also good in Townhalls. Perry likes people and he likes meeting them.

He always looks bad in polls until election day and then all the pundits are shocked when he wins but voters know better and they appreciate it when candidates take the time to meet them & listen to them.
When he ran against Kaye Bailout Hutchinson he went to every county in the state of Texas to campaign.

Gov.Perry will run his own campaign his own way and he just might surprise all the professional pundits…He’s go more people rooting for him then show up in the polls. I’d bet money on that.

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm


Romney and Perry will duke it out into the spring. This is a “democrat style” primary for delegate counts.

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm


In the interest of fairness I’m linking to Newt’s plans so voters can bump his and Perry’s. (Although Newt’s seem to be kinda slim in comparison?)

Have to say that although I like Gingrich his plans as outlined on his site are wholly dependent on Newt video as opposed to voter reading & footnotes (Which Perry has on his site)

The idea of debates is that the field should thin out leaving only the viable contenders. This weeding out process is not working in this GOP selection season.

By now those with less than 10% should be gone or eliminated by the debate sponsors.

As far as Perry is concerned, my original predictions are coming true and for that I am thankful as he is NOT the best choice to win the nomination.

Hopefully, the herd will be thinned out and the selection process can continue…

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Romney’s jobs plan is accessible in a PDF on his site…I guess it’s the length?

Fiscal plan is a one page summary

He’s got Tax Reform lumped in with healthcare on his site

    I have to say, for a guys who’s been running for POTUS for 5 or so years now, if this is the best he can do, I’m even less than impressed than I was. (I am sorta impressed that he made me less impressed.)

    There’s not much there, there — quite a feat in a document (the job document) that runs to 87 pages.

    To boil it down, his bottom line seems to be: study [something]; pursue [something]; reform [somehow] [something].

    His numbers and concrete proposals are pallid, unimaginative, and weak: tax income at 20% of the GDP [above the historical average]; corp taxes at 25% [rough parity]; issue drilling permits [that should have already been issued]; approve a pipeline [that’s being approved]; approve trade pacts [that have been passed]; flatter-ish sorta-kinda tax plan except we’re gonna add more deductions sorta kinda.

    These are all starting positions — the positions from which he intends to move towards compromise? Some reforms? Some permits? 22% of the GDP [maybe]? 30% tax rate? Trade a few [my guys] deductions and subsidies of [your guys] deductions and subsidies?

    This guy supposedly ran a business? Succesfully?

    If, in all my career, I’d put out a proposal like this on how my team was going ot accomplish a task, two things would have happened: 1) deafening laughter; 2) a bruised ass from the door hitting it on the way to being unemployed.

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm


It aint’ over till it’s over so I guess you will just have to stay grumpy about it.

workingclass artist | October 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Link to Cain’s 999 Plan
(most of the details are available in PDF form)

Most of the issues on Cain’s site are brief summaries but not a lot of substance meat

There have been too many debates–it is actually quite exhausting, and we are getting into the realm of negative returns. Scheduling so many debates was simply a bad idea.
Having said that, Perry should be the last one to complain, as it makes him sound like he can’t cut it (and in truth, he can’t). At some point, if Perry were to be the nominee, he would have to stand on a stage and debate Obama. If in a debate he cannot defend his record, show why he is a better candidate than his opponent, or present a clear vision for America, then he does not deserve to be president. As it is, in debates he often seems to have trouble stringing together two coherent sentences, he refuses to answer questions posed to him, he refuses to offer a defense of his record, and he launches personal attacks against his opponents instead of debating policies. Why would anyone want such a man to be president?
Regarding the fall-out from debate performances, we have to face the fact that many of these candidates were not ready for prime time. No one put a gun to Bachmann’s head and made her make these flaky comments. No one has been forcing Santorum to be whiny and condescending. Aliens are not beaming mind-control waves into Ron Paul’s head to make him start raving like a lunatic. Rick Perry had plenty of time to speak in the last debate–the moderator did not force either Perry or Santorum to rudely cut Romney off. These people have done it to themselves.
In every election cycle that I remember, we have had debates following identical formats as these, and the candidates did not have this much trouble navigating them. This current crop of candidates simply lacks the skill, character, and experience to even engage in debates where all they are asked to do is offer up superficial soundbites. It should not be difficult to do, but they are not up to it. The nation is hurt because of it.

Not sure how many election cycles you remember, but this might be instructive:

    John Scotus in reply to Owen J. | October 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Owen J–I see what you are saying. My comment was about the debate format. Many people are blaming the short time allotted to the candidates as though that were the problem. I cannot remember a debate where candidates had a longer time to respond. As for the gotcha questions and the attitude of debate monitors, the candidates themselves have a choice how they will respond. Neither Gingrich nor Romney have been hurt by these debates, because both are on point, largely positive, and giving off the appearance of grace under pressure.

      Clearly the time issue is a non-issue. I took “format” in much broader context.

      But the larger point of that article, which I heartily endorse, is that we get the debates we deserve: if we create a Lady Gaga society we will get a Lady Gaga performance.

      And while it’s true the debaters have a choice over how they respond, that still does not make the current debates useful to their alleged purpose.

A few debates are fine, especially if they are run by the Heritage Foundation, or an actual entity that wants to give the GOP voters a real chance to see their candidate. However, being offered up to the Lame stream media and the gotcha questions, is hurting ALL the GOP candidates and helping Obama. Even Newt got skewered by Romney on his support of an individual mandate during the last debate knockdown. The Left is using so many debates to diminsh all of our candidates. I can’t get any real interest up for the debates any more as no matter what actually happens in the debate, the MSM are going to spin it for the One anyway. The coverage is not even close to what actually took place.

workingclass artist | October 28, 2011 at 12:10 am

Interesting take at Daily Caller…

“And while there’s no dearth of pundits presenting compelling arguments for why Perry should not go this route — I thought it would be fun to play devil’s advocate.

Here are some arguments for why skipping some debates might not be so insane:

1. Debates aren’t targeted. A small percentage of the people watching a given debate on TV are likely, persuadable, and eligible voters who live in the early states. If someone who is already 100 percent committed to, say, Herman Cain watches a debate and Perry performs well, it doesn’t help him. If someone who is a Democrat living in Maryland watches a debate and Perry performs well, it doesn’t help. But when Perry is campaigning in Iowa, he can be pretty sure that he is reaching an audience of voters that might actually help him win. (Granted, the people in the debate hall are typically from early states, but they represent a small percentage of viewers.)

2. Nobody is saying Perry will skip all the debates. “There are something like 18 (debates) being planned … it seems like doing another dozen or 18 debates is not realistic,” Perry communications director Ray Sullivan told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday. That’s a lot of debates. And by skipping some debates — yet participating in others — Perry can avoid the appearance that he is afraid to debate. What is more, he might generate “buzz” and speculation over whether or not he will participate in a given debate. Lastly, nothing says this is permanent. Perry can try this out. If he gets away with it, he can skip other debates. If he doesn’t get away with it, there will still be plenty of others to attend.

3. Perry can show he is in control of his campaign — not the MSM. Leaders don’t always allow others to dictate terms to them — they set the agenda. Agreeing to every debate the mainstream media wants to host is reactive. This is an opportunity for Perry to show he is proactively seizing control of his campaign. Why let the mainstream media dictate his campaign strategy?

4. He can blame the media. From a messaging standpoint, Perry can argue that the debates are being used by the media to gin up internecine squabbles — that Republicans are merely pawns. In fact, he’s already doing that. As Perry recently told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “… these debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates.” This is an argument that might actually resonate with some conservatives.

5. Let’s be honest — debating isn’t playing to Perry’s strong suit. Perry is good on the stump — and is great at retail politics. Instead of spending his time playing to his weakness, why not spend the vast majority of the time between now and the Iowa caucuses playing to his strengths?

6. What does he have to lose? Perry’s campaign is in trouble. Playing by the rules didn’t work, why not take a few shots down the field and see if he can shake things up?

7. It’s a tradeoff. Granted, there will be some blowback to this strategy — there is no doubt. But when you factor in the negative impact that a bad debate performance might have — and couple that with the time commitment — it might be a smart tradeoff.

Note: I’m not arguing that these points are potent enough to overcome the potential downside. As many others have argued, this gambit could make Perry look weak. What is more, it would anger the media — which is typically a bad idea.
But before casually dismissing this as crazy, it is important to note that there are some good arguments for doing this…”

Read more:

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Read more:

    Good analysis. I think the most important point is not letting others dictate strategy.

    One downside to the debates and basic nature of the media campaign itself is — going out on a limb in grossly oversimplifying a complex issue — the question of persuadability. Pundits and the media like that in a candidate because it gives them (or they think it gives them) influence, hence power. So they naturally tend to reward the people who play by their rules.

    If the pundits and the media were trustworthy, this would not be such a bad thing, but over the decades they have become the most debased and venal element of society.

    Many — if not most — people are waking up to this, but the candidates still play by their rules. Someone needs to have courage to call them out and stop playing by their rules.

    That is not to say it will work — we will get the candidate we deserve. But I have a lot more respect for someone who will take that gamble than I will for someone who is — or feels like he must act as though he is — a stooge for the media and the pundits.

I happened to read this post earlier today when it first went up, and did not want to be the first to comment. Been thinking about it, and I agree with a number of the braver commentators here. I think Perry has made the right decision. If the debates aren’t serving to advantage him, why do them. Without Perry to attack, Romney will have less traction, and I like that. Let Gingrich articulately trumpet the message, and take the toys away from the media.

I agree that we have too many TV debates. These, in essence, are sound bite popularity contests.
What I would like to see the good Professor do is start a discussion as to what an informative, substantive debate format could be. If you have 8 people on the dias we cannot be informed of the substance of the candidate. Can we have a two hour program where each gets 15 minutes to address one, shortly worded issue? The only moderating that would be required would be a 5 minute notice, a one minute notice, and time.
Lastly, I just can not listen to one more talking head take 2 minutes to ask a potential president to answer a skewed question in one minute, with interruptions. How is this informative to select a president?