Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Biggest Risk

Purgason Wants A Debate Too
Robin Carnahan isn't likely to debate Roy Blunt until next August, and Roy Blunt isn't likely to debate Chuck Purgason . . . ever.
But the debate over the debates have begun earlier than usual for the 2010 cycle.
The psychology around it all is political and rather juvenile. Usually the front running figure is the pol who wants to debate the least.
In the 2010 Blunt-Carnahan race, there's no clear frontrunner -- but the Blunt camp knows that its candidate has more potential targets on his back, being an incumbent in Congress. Blunt's risk of a serious primary opponent is/was also much higher than Carnahan's.
So by asking for a debate, a joint press conference, to share a cab, etc . . . --- with Carnahan --- it's meant to paint a clear demonstration that Blunt will be the man to carry the GOP banner. It's also meant to draw a contrast with Carnahan, who's mostly dodged specifics during the first seven months of her campaign.
Show Carnahan to be in clear alliance with the Obama/Democratic agenda while conservatives are red hot and motivated and the majority's popularity seems to be in decline -- and Blunt could be a U.S. Senator after all, the thinking goes.
But wait, there's Chuck. Purgason that is -- who will run a longshot campaign on a shoe-string budget with his family (Oh, the horror!) serving as his top advisers.
Last night, in another signal that he's a nightowl (Purgason sent his last release announcing his candidacy after 10:30 p.m. --- Ugh!!! The consultants would cringe!), Purgason basically asked everyone to "Stop, Collaborate and Listen." (Pun intended).
He waved a red flag and said Blunt was attempting to "bypass" the August primary election.
"I can't help but wonder why I was not invited to participate," Purgason asked.
Oh, sure you can, Senator. But that's not the point.
"Could it be because my background is so strong in health care?," Purgason went on.
It's true that you served on the House committee on Appropriations for Social Services and the House Budget Committee and the Health and Mental Committee AND sponsored the Senate bill that resulted in the 2005 Medicaid cuts . . . ahem reform.
But guess again.
Purgason won't get a debate the same reason Blunt won't get a debate -- until next August.
Because it involves too much risk. Too much risk for Purgason to make a point or argument that could be used against Blunt later. Too much risk for Blunt to attempt to give legitimacy to a bolo-tied cowboy from Howell County.
Just like it's too much risk for Carnahan to stand next to Blunt and debate the public option, how to cover those with pre-existing conditions, the cost of cap and trade. (Why bother when third party interests groups are pummeling him and you can kick back as Secretary of State?)
Too much risk for any of them to take their eye off the bigger prize.
Blunt could pin Carnahan in a corner; or Puragson could prove to be smarter than them both.
If it happened, the voters would probably learn a lot more about them all. It would serve democracy well.
But it won't happen.
But one could hope that Purgason --- being the least risk-averse --- might be the purest of them all.
And should another little-known unlikely candidate climb into the race under any party banner or none at all, Purgason should step up and say, "let's debate."
Because the biggest risk to these candidates may be actually engaging each other on substance.
But the biggest risk to the rest of us is allowing them to attain office without hearing them define their differences clearly and often.

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