GOP Debates Then & Now - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
GOP Debates Then & Now
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So let me see if I have this straight. Quin Hillyer is now claiming that Newt Gingrich is arrogant and committing an act of “bad karma” because he challenged Mitt Romney to a one on one debate. He claims that Gingrich’s challenge to Romney to a one on one debate GOP debate is no different than George H.W. Bush insisting that John Anderson, Phil Crane, Bob Dole and Howard Baker be excluded from the stage during his one on one debate with Ronald Reagan in Nashua shortly before the 1980 New Hampshire GOP Primary.

I think some historical perspective is in order here. During the 1980 campaign, there were a grand total of six Republican debates all of which took place between January and April 1980. It is worth noting that Reagan skipped the first debate held in Des Moines on January 6th and his absence would cost him as Bush would upset Reagan in the Iowa caucuses just over two weeks later. Reagan would not make the same mistake in New Hampshire and participated in the next GOP debate on February 20th in Manchester along with Bush, Anderson, Connally, Crane, Dole and Baker.

Seventy-two hours later all hell would break loose twenty miles south in Nashua. Yet it is worth remembering that particular debate was initially sponsored by The Nashua Telegram and they only issued invitations to Reagan and Bush. The Federal Elections Commission ruled the newspaper couldn’t sponsor the debate without extending invitations to all candidates. So Reagan put up the money to sponsor the debate (which is why he could later say he was paying for the microphone.) But why would Reagan put up the money if he wasn’t interested in a one on one debate with Bush? Indeed, the other candidates initially directed their anger towards Reagan, not Bush. The Reagan campaign’s decision to include the other candidates came only hours before the debate was scheduled to begin and neither Bush nor The Nashua Telegram would budge. Of course, as it turned out, the debate itself was anti-climatic. With the audience and the Nashua Four applauding in approval with Bush sitting there not knowing what had hit him, The Gipper won the debate before it had begun.

Now let’s fast forward to the present day. If we keep in mind that Republicans had only six debates in 1980, the sixth GOP debate for the 2012 campaign took place on September 12, 2011. In all there were 16 GOP debates in 2011 not including the one one one debates Newt had with Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. Were they guilty of bad karma for agreeing to debate Newt one on one? With ten more debates scheduled to take place between January and March 2012, the Republican candidates are not exactly lacking for exposure and Newt can hardly be accused of seeking to exclude them especially when he has been prepared to engage them individually.

Newt Gingrich is prepared to face Mitt Romney in a debate any time, any place. Newt has twice challenged Romney to debate him one on one. He did so when he was ahead of Romney in the polls and has done so again now that he is behind Romney in the polls. Mitt Romney has twice said no to Newt. This is a mistake on Romney’s part. If Romney thinks he’s the best candidate in the field then there’s no reason he can’t (to use one of Quin’s favorite words) eviscerate Newt in a debate. If he can do so then he sews up the Republican nomination. But Romney’s refusal to debate Newt only causes already existing doubts to linger. After all, if Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum can debate Newt one on one then why can’t Mitt? Could it be that Mittens knows he can’t lay a glove on Newt?

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