Last night brought us the 19th or 22nd — depending on how you count them — GOP presidential debate of 2011-12. It was the second this week and sixth this month.
Mercifully, there won’t be another for almost four weeks.
To say the networks have had to strain to keep things fresh would be an understatement of Newt-ly grandiose proportions. We were only two debates into the schedule when moderators tried the “This or That?” gimmick (as in: Elvis or Johnny Cash?). Last night, we were treated to questions about such issues of immediate national importance as lunar exploration, Puerto Rican statehood and why each candidate thought his wife would make a good first first lady. (Note that CNN was responsible both for these and “This or That?”, as well as the infamous debate-opening exchange between Newt Gingrich and moderator John King in South Carolina last week about allegations by Gingrich’s second wife that he’d asked her for an “open marriage.”)
How many debates should there have been in the GOP primary?
Total Voters: 116
My multiple references to Gingrich are not accidental. Each time he’s stumbled on the campaign trail, debate performances have brought him back to the fore. Rick Perry, by contrast, had arguably the best resume of any candidate but was undone by his stumbles (”Oops”) on the debate stages. It’s quite reasonable to wonder if, had there been only a couple of debates rather than almost a couple of dozen, Perry might not have been sitting in Gingrich’s place and vice versa. And because debating skills are valued in presidential campaigns out of all proportion to their utility in presidencies, one also wonders if the current arrangement is really best.
On the other hand, no one can argue they haven’t had an opportunity to watch the candidates tackling a variety of topics that test their grasp of the issues, ability to think on their feet, temperament and discipline. So, were voters well-served by having so many debates, or did the number of forums waste our time and the candidates?
That’s this week’s Poll Position question. Answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below.
– By Kyle Wingfield