This will be a very interesting test. Perry is challenging the underlying rationale for debates, that they afford the American people a chance to see what the candidates believe and how they craft their arguments. Perry’s argument is that you can’t possibly explain your policy positions in the one minute that is allotted to candidates, and that debates are really more about (and these are my words, not his) inducing a rival to commit gaffes than they are about a real airing of views. Perry has a point–so much so that it could change how candidates view future debates, not just this year but in years to come. If Perry skips most of the rest of the debates, spend his time campaigning instead, and goes on to win the Republican nomination, he could set a precedent that the networks would hate, but it might change the future of American politics. I wouldn’t be surprised if Perry is MIA in all of the remaining debates. His distaste for them is palpable. He has endured several costly attacks, such as Michele Bachmann’s accusation that he is a crony capitalist and charges that he supported in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. He looks terrible when he is on the defensive, and not much better when he is on the offensive; his attack on Romney’s lawn service that hired illegal aliens fell flat. He is much better at other aspects of campaigning, such as meet-and-greets and speeches before friendly audiences. The only thing he will miss by not debating is the opportunity to confront Romney head to head, and he can do that just as well, if not better, with paid media. Yes, he will be subject to criticism that he is afraid to face the American people (as I suggested in a previous post), but so what? He has to be better off doing something he is good at than doing something he is bad at. If I were advising him, I’d tell him to blow off the rest of the debates.
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