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By Avoiding Debates, Democrats Show Their Candidates and Ideas Are Failing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Rebecca Droke

We're just weeks away from the midterm elections, and confoundingly, Democrats are hiding from their Republican opponents in key races, in some cases busting two decades of precedent in their race by refusing to put their ideas up against the GOP's before November.

As usual, Democrats have avoided being honest about the reasons why they're refusing to debate and instead trying to assert that their opponents are "too radical" and their agenda "too harmful" to debate. But if those claims were indeed true, wouldn't a Democrat want to have as many debates as possible to warn voters and quickly debunk Republican extremism? Apparently not. 

In close races — such as the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania and the gubernatorial contest in Arizona — Democrat refusal to debate makes even less sense. Undecided and independent voters will be critical voting blocks that polling shows are already favoring Republicans, all the more reason for Democrats to contrast themselves with GOP candidates to try and peel off the needed independent and undecided voters.

What's more, recent reports have shown that the Republican funding machine is running on all cylinders in the final weeks of the midterm cycle — even expanding the GOP's map and making seemingly blue states and districts competitive — as Democrats are being forced to triage their spending to focus on fewer races while abandoning "toss-up" races that could be winnable. 

One would think more Democrats debating and (in their minds, at least) proving the merit and superiority of their policies would help make the case for other Democrats up and down the ballot…yet Democrats aren't chomping at the bit to explain and defend their agenda.  

In the Keystone State, early voting has been running for weeks, and Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman still hasn't debated the GOP nominee, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Their debate scheduled for October 25 is still something of an uncertainty, as Fetterman fails to show signs of recovering since he suffered a stroke earlier this year. 

In a recent interview with MSNBC, Fetterman failed to show understanding of questions despite using a captioning device that only raised more questions about his ability to debate Oz for just an hour and made his fitness to serve a six-year term in the Senate even more dubious. 

The eventual debate on October 25 comes after Fetterman rejected several invitations to debate before early voting began that Oz accepted, and the Democrat's campaign has rejected Oz's request that the debate run longer to account for the longer time it will take for Fetterman to understand and answer questions with the assistance of a captioning device.

For Fetterman and his campaign, it's clear that they don't want a debate because 1) recent interviews have shown his issues understanding questions and providing clear answers, and 2) he doesn't want to have to answer for his soft-on-crime record, his incident holding an innocent black jogger at gunpoint until police arrived, or his refusal to be forthcoming with his health records. Oz has had the wind at his back in recent weeks, showing the momentum to be with him rather than Fetterman. That's not expected to change after their debate, but early voting has been going on for weeks, limiting the impact of the debate — likely by the Fetterman campaign's design. 

Despite MSNBC's decision to be honest about Fetterman's questionable fitness to serve in the U.S. Senate, the mainstream media elsewhere isn't letting off the gas when it comes to tossing lifelines to Democrats who are too scared to debate their Republican opponents or whose campaign coffers are running dry.

In Arizona's heated gubernatorial contest, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is refusing to debate GOP nominee Kari Lake. As a result of Hobbs' decision to deny voters the chance to hear and compare the candidates' ideas in real-time, Lake was the only party to accept a PBS invitation for Wednesday evening, and the format was subsequently changed to an interview. Even though Hobbs declined the invitation to debate, the PBS affiliate stand extended an invitation to do a solo interview with the Democrat as well. This, despite Arizona's Clean Elections Commission's decision not to allow Hobbs to reject the debate offer and still get a one-on-one interview. That is, taxpayer-funded PBS went around the agreed-upon method for debating in Arizona's gubernatorial race to do a favor for the Democrat who was too cowardly to put her ideas up against Lake's.

Hobbs' explanation for her refusal to debate is that she wants to talk "directly to voters" — something a debate provides — without the supposed "spectacle" that would come with Kari Lake sharing her stage and being able to rebut and argue for her own values. But campaigning is a spectacle — of democracy. The lively debate of issues is the cornerstone of a political campaign, and there's no better way for a candidate who is proud of their platform and party's values to contrast their vision for the future with an opponent than a direct debate. 

But for Hobbs, like Fetterman and other Democratic candidates cowering from their Republican opponents, they know their party's platform and agenda can't pass muster with most voters this cycle. Only the wokest, most blindly partisan voter would be wooed by an impassioned defense of the Democratic agenda under President Biden. All Biden and Democratic leaders have brought is runaway inflation, crime and drug crises, and a weakened America at home and abroad. 

Up against a Republican in the 2022 midterms, the Democratic plan for America is even more unpalatable than usual.


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