Think of how Romney-Obama presidential race turned around with one debate and now imagine that the Hoekstra-Stabenow race will have no debates at all. The stunning development is a devastating blow to the Hoekstra campaign in what may have been his last chance to turn around a flagging campaign.
The Hoekstra camp is understandably frustrated that Stabenow stubbornly refused more debates ” or even to give network coverage to the two debates they could agree on. Meanwhile, other Senate races in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida are all engaged in vigorous TV debates.
But in the end, Hoekstra is the challenger that needs debate oxygen – not Stabenow.
The debate debacle is the latest setback in a bumbling Senate campaign that began with PeteSpendItNot tripping out of the blocks with a bomb of a Super Bowl ad. Since then he has failed to gain the traction or the money that he expected when he was reluctantly drafted into a key Senate race if Republicans have any hope of retaking the Senate (and exorcising Obamacare). He has also received little support from Romney, who has concentrated on Ohio at Michigan’s expense.
Like Romney, Hoekstra has had to fight both an incumbent and a partisan press in Michigan that has given him little airtime – except to hammer him for his China ad gaffe. Thus the imperative of a debate – Hoekstra’s lone chance to talk directly to Michigan voters.
In a phone press conference Thursday after Stabenow pulled out of debate negotiations, Hoekstra lamented Senator Debbie’s refusal to agree to primetime, network TV. Instead, Stabenow insisted that a Detroit Athletic Club debate not get any coverage – and that a Grand Rapids rumble be relegated to public television.
“It doesn’t do a whole lot of good (to debate) if no one can see it,” lamented Hoekstra when asked if it is worth doing debates with little TV exposure.
He has a point, of course. Imagine if Romney and Obama had debated in Denver with no TV.
It is hard to defeat a Democratic incumbent & Media without the boob tube (as painful as that is to admit as a newspaper guy). Print coverage won’t cut it. And ultimately, the fact that Michigan isn’t having the same TV debates as other states is an embarrassment.
“Michigan needs an independent debate entity,” says GOP consultant Paul Welday. Just like Massachusetts. Just like the presidential race.
Shame on Debbie Stabenow for refusing Michigan voters the chance to compare her and her challenger. And shame on Michigan’s MSM for not calling her on it. But in the end, this is Hoekstra’s problem. He needs debates to get into this race. He isn’t in a position to negotiate. Even if she proposes a debate in a closet, he’s gotta go.