Well who could not see this coming a mile away on a cloudy day.....
Sen. Orrin Hatch’s refusal to agree to a television debate is about to become a driving issue in his Republican primary race.
Hatch’s GOP opponent Dan Liljenquist will go up with his first television commercial Tuesday, urging viewers to pressure the six-term senator into agreeing to more debates, according to an advance copy of the spot provided to POLITICO.
“In 1976, he challenged his primary opponent to eight debates. I’ve issued the same challenge to Sen. Hatch,” says Liljenquist, looking straight into the camera in front of a simple white background. “But now he refuses to debate more than once. And he refuses to debate on television entirely.”
The ad is the beginning of a $125,000, two-week buy on broadcast television and Fox News Channel aimed at framing the final month ahead of the June 26 primary.
I wrote last week, this strategy could backfire on the Senator, and so far it is as more and more state newspapers are taking the Senator to task for his refusal to debate.
“Everybody in the state — top to bottom — have called aggressively for open and transparent debates in this process. They’ve been rebuffed by the Hatch campaign,” Liljenquist, a former state senator, said in an interview Monday. “I’m asked about it everywhere I go, ‘Why won’t he debate?’ It’s disrespectful and everybody knows it.”
Hatch’s refusal to agree to a slate of debates proposed by Liljenquist has earned him a flurry of unflattering headlines, even from media outlets that are typically friendly to the incumbent.
Under the headline “Hatch Hides,” The Salt Lake Tribune editorialized that the senator’s decision to limit himself to a sole debate in late June on the radio was “cynical.” The Deseret News echoed that sentiment, opining that “it appears Hatch has picked up some bad habits from the Senate.”
“At least in this instance, he has shown he is willing to cynically use his position to block the open and transparent debate his constituents deserve,” the News wrote.
The St. George Spectrum, the leading paper in southern Utah, also chimed in last weekend with a pointed swipe.
“If Sen. Hatch wants to win votes for re-election, he needs to step up and debate Liljenquist June 13 in front of the St. George Chamber as well at least three other times in other parts of Utah,” the newspaper wrote.
The Senator's staff is sticking to the same line of defense.
Hatch’s camp said the senator has given voters plenty of opportunities to see him face-to-face with Liljenquist.
“Sen. Hatch has already done two debates that are easily accessible online to voters. He has also shared the stage with his opponent 19 times before [the] convention. This will be the third debate on a radio show that has an audience which is quite substantial and captive to the Senate race,” said Hatch spokeswoman Evelyn Call.
“Unlike his opponent, the senator has not resigned his position and has an obligation to fulfill his Senate duties limiting the time he can spend campaigning. We had to look at what was the most effective use of his time and debates are really only one way to get your message out to voters,” she added
They are seriously saying that pre-convention debates, held only for delegates and alternates before the average voter is even paying attention shows just how disconnected the Senator is. Only the most geeked out of political junkies pays attention to pre-convention debates. For the Hatch campaign to imply that those are enough for the average voter is simply insulting.
Former Senator Liljenquist hits the nail on the head....
Hatch’s team has said that the senator is busy attending to votes in Washington and points out that he already debated Liljenquist twice ahead of the April convention.
But Liljenquist thinks those performances are the reason Hatch’s team is resisting another verbal face-off.
“They were dancing on our grave the night of the caucus, but it was the debate that swung people. When delegates saw him up close, he had a hard time justifying his record. When we had the debates, we swung delegates,” said Liljenquist. “The Hatch campaign is trying to keep him out of the public eye as much as humanly possible. We just watched Mitt Romney, the adopted son of the state, go through 20 debates even though he was the front-runner. People expect debates.”
The more that Senator Hatch ducks debating his opponent, the more the media (who also expect debates) will openly hammer the issue. The more that they hammer the issue, the more the people will be aware of the issue and the more the people are aware of it, the easier it will be for Liljenquist to shape the debate.
Senator Hatch needs to come out of hiding and debate Dan Liljenquist. The sooner...the better.