Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Perdue, Moore contemplate a debate

One clear difference between the Republican and the Democratic primary races for governor is this: Republicans in the main have embraced debate appearances together. Democrats can't even agree how to debate when both finally agree to a real debate on the same day.
It’s not that the four leading Republicans have always attended every debate, or that they’ve sung that old folk standard, “Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.” But they have appeared together frequently, worked through the issues and traded jabs and japes. Those who have paid attention know a lot about how Bill Graham, Fred Smith, Bob Orr and Pat McCrory think about government.
Those hoping for debates from the Democrats have been disappointed. While there have been six forums and one online “debate” that showed more promise than proof, there has been no direct debate between Treasurer Richard Moore and Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue.
Moore has been willing all along to debate – anxious to do so, in fact. Perdue has not been enthusiastic about a direct debate with her challenger, but changed tactics recently. She said she was swearing off negative ads of the sort that Moore has aired, and she challenged Moore to a debate.
Two TV stations have proposed hosting the debate Tuesday evening, April 22 – WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, and WTVD, the ABC station in Durham. Moore immediately accepted WRAL’s proposal for what appeared to be a free-wheeling debate with candidates given time to explain their positions and to challenge one another in follow-up exchanges at the discretion of a moderator. There would be no time limits.
Perdue accepted the more structured proposal of WTVD, which would give candidates 75-second time blocks to explain their positions and give their challengers 60-second windows to rebut. There would be formal opening and closing remarks. It’s a more formal format, but still useful to voters.
As a viewer I liked the WRAL proposal better; in the hands of a skillful moderator – WRAL proposed former WSOC’s Bill Walker for the job – that kind of debate can be illuminating and entertaining as well as showing how the candidates stand up to pressure.
But WTVD anchor Larry Stogner, who would moderate its debate, is also a veteran newsman who likely would keep the candidates on schedule and perhaps squeeze in a larger variety of questions for the gubernatorial candidates.
Either way, the viewing public will learn more about the candidates than from the sterile forums that have previously aired. It’ll be interesting to see whether there will be real fireworks – or any reasons to energize voters to cast their ballots for one or the other when the debate is over.
After all, that would require Moore and Perdue to agree on a place, now that they've agreed on a deate.

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