In case you missed it, on Sunday I reported about the inevitable “debate debate" that has popped up in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.
As in just about every other election, front-running candidates want to minimize the number of debates, while underdogs want as many of them as possible.
Sure enough, Mike Rounds says debates can wait until the spring, when there can be a few of them put on by media organizations. Annette Bosworth and Larry Rhoden say there should be at least a debate a month from now until the June primary, if not more — both said eight more debates sounds about right. Stace Nelson went even further and said he’d like a debate in “every city and town in South Dakota.” (For anyone who’s not counting, that would be hundreds of debates, more debates than there are days remaining for the election, though Nelson was speaking about his “ideal world.”)
Seeing Bosworth, Nelson and Rhoden criticize Rounds for not appearing at debates so far was pretty expected, in a world where a cardboard cutout of Rounds has already shown up on the debate stage (courtesy of Bosworth). More surprising was Rounds’ pushback when asked about the criticism:
Rounds said his schedule of meet-and-greets, local Republican Party dinners and fundraising is too busy for debates now — and he suggested his rivals might have time to debate because they’re not working as hard.
“If the other candidates aren’t busy … if they’re not out trying to establish those types of direct contacts with the public, maybe they’ve got the time to sit around with other candidates and visit,” Rounds said. “I’ve got plenty of opportunity to do that as we get closer to the election.”
As the saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag.*
*Side note.: I had never, until now, looked up the precise origins of that phrase. The full context was a satirical newspaper column by Finley Peter Dunne, a wildly popular political humorist, in the words of his “Mr. Dooley" character — a "bachelor, a saloon-keeper and an eagle-eyed observer of politics and the human condition."
The full quote, which reads as politically incorrect today if you don’t pick up on the tongue-in-cheek nature of it, is: “Sure, politics ain’t bean-bag. ‘Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childer, cripples an’ prohybitionists ‘d do well to keep out iv it.”