When you are the establishment’s chosen candidate, you can afford to duck debates.
My Florida voting district has two races for the U.S Congress, Florida Senator and Florida Congressional District 23.
For the U.S. Senate, Republicans have four choices; incumbent Marco Rubio, Carlos Beruff, Ernie Rivera and Dwight Young. Unless you read my earlier post The Florida US Senate Republican Primary – And the Rest, you probably have never heard of the last three men. That is exactly what Rubio is counting on. Name recognition is a primary reason that there is over a 90% re-election rate in Congress.
There is no motivation for Rubio to debate. It’s not out of lack of experience. Rubio has participated in many debates over the past year as a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for president.
Rubio, the Republican Party’s establishment candidate of choice, is so far ahead in the polls, debating the unknown competition could only hurt his poll numbers and worse, could expose him for his General Election campaign.
The Democratic Party’s Senate race is slightly different. There are two well-known candidates in that race, Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Murphy is the establishment candidate and has been endorsed by every major Democrat, including President Obama and Vice President Biden. Grayson is a fan of the liberal wing of the party but is not well regarded by the establishment because he is divisive and frequently speaks his mind.
There are three unknown candidates; Pam Keith, Rocky De La Fuente and Reginald Luster. [There will be a post on them tomorrow] The networks say that candidates must garner at least a 15% polling number to be included in the debates. Of course, without the benefit of a debate, many of these candidates will remain unknown to the voters. Without name recognition and funding, media coverage is hard to come by. As a result, the three candidates were not invited to the debate.
Murphy, the chosen candidate, can only hurt his chances by debating Grayson, so it comes as no surprise that he cancelled his appearance on Friday’s televised debate on WFTV Channel 9 – Orlando. Murphy, who previously refused to participate in a radio debate with Grayson and Keith, pulled out of Friday’s debate citing the domestic abuse accusations against Grayson as his excuse.
I think WFTV should extend the offer to all five Democratic candidates – Murphy, Grayson, Keith, De La Fuente and Luster. If any refuse to participate, the debate can continue. The three unknowns would get free publicity on their campaigns by participating and Murphy and Grayson (if they choose not to participate) would be unable to defend their records. In any case, the debate can help voters make a more educated decision.
We are seeing the same issue within the 23rd Congressional District. Unknown Republicans Marty Feigenbaum and Joe Kaufman wouldn’t garner much interest and in the strong Democratic district, the winner of this primary will probably lose to the Democratic Party candidate.
But the same can’t be said within the Democratic Party. Incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz is very well known. She has been in Congress since 2005 and was the chair of the Democratic National Committee for five years before resigning after WikiLeaks released DNC emails that could be seen as showing favoritism toward Hilary Clinton against her opponent, Bernie Sanders.
Wasserman Schultz faces Tim Canova in the primary and has refused to accept to debate until a week ago. When that debate will occur is unknown as Wasserman Schultz provides no details beyond “we’re working out the details.” Canova thinks that Wasserman Schultz is just ducking the debate, hoping to run out the clock.
And why shouldn’t she?
She is ahead in the polls and she has better name recognition. Canova can only help his chances with a debate.
Canova is supported by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). He has closed the gap in recent weeks, especially because of the negative publicity she has received from the WikiLeaks email scandal.
The problem with this is that the establishment is able to game the system even more in an environment where everything is in their favor. These hand-picked establishment candidates have the name recognition, funding and endorsements and can avoid anything that can help voters learn about their opponents. It’s a disgrace.
Democratic Senate candidate Pam Keith probably said it best in her interview with the Miami Herald editorial board:
“It’s a farce to call this process a primary. It’s not; it was always intended to be a coronation.”
“The party decided who their candidate was going to be long before 2016. They decided they were going to coronate Patrick Murphy from the word ‘go,’ and they have given him every conceivable advantage.”
“When the party’s machinery fund-raises for one candidate and not the others, that’s not a primary. When the party’s machinery leans on politicians to endorse their guy, that is not a primary.”
And when the chosen establishment candidates refuse to participate in a debate, that hurts the process. Besides, it’s just cowardly.