How many presidential primary debates should the Republicans hold? Before you answer with a number in the single digits, lets review the 2008 Presidential primary debates. In 2008, the Democrats participated in 26 primary debates. Yes, I said 26! Hillary Clinton participated in all 26 debates. Barack Obama participated in 25. That doesn't seem possible does it? Its true. Republicans participated in only 21. However, part of the reason for that paltry sum is that the race was largely over after Super Tuesday on the Republican side. There were no debates held after Feb. 2nd. The Dems held 4 debates after that date. So both sides were on schedule for 25+ debates each if the races had been close at the end.
So how many Republican debates should there be? Some may say that there were too many debates last election. Also that there was debate fatigue. I wouldn't necessarily disagree with either statement. However, my belief is that there should be 22-24 debates. Here are my reasons....
First, yes there was some debate fatigue last election. However, both sides were debating and there was a total of 47 debates overall. Since the Democrats won't have any debates, this will automatically cut overall debates in half. Also, since we have had a season with 47 debates, we are more used to the concept of lots and lots of debates. So having quite a few debates won't be so shocking and won't be so fatiguing.
The Republicans will be the only game in town and should take advantage of that stage. The issues are largely on the Republican and conservative side this election. Use the free air time without interviewer interruptions to pound home the message. Other then Fox, you never get that opportunity of a clear minute and a half of continuous runway to land your punches. All the candidates can pound away.
Also, I expect almost all of the Republican candidates to be effective debaters on the issues. Why not have Romney-Pawlenty-Palin-Cain-Huckabee-Barbour-etc present our case. These people are good communicators of the Republican message.
Debates tend to be the fairest ground in the main stream media for Republicans. Still unfair mind you, but much better then say a standard interview. In some ways the media feels compelled to be fairer then usual. I think partly because there is strength in numbers and partly because they know everyone is watching so they can only be subtly bias. I recall very few pathetically unfair moments in any of the debates including the general election debates. So why not take advantage of the media being "somewhat" fair?
Use the debates for practice for the inexperienced debaters. Which would be a majority of the candidates. The Dems wanted all of those debates to get Obama experience in debating. He largely lost the first 5 debates he participated in. He gradually improved. Barack Obama appeared in 25 Democratic primary debates and won the general election by 7 points. It didn't seem to hurt him. And if the Republicans hold 24, that would still be less then Obama and the Dems.
When should the debates begin? Last year the Republicans held their first debate on May 3rd. And the Dems on April 26th. However, debates should not begin that early this time around. First, the caucus's in Iowa occurred January 3rd and 4th 2008. In 2012, its scheduled for February 6th, 5 weeks later. So the first debates should occur around 5 weeks later should they not?
Two other points, the Dems second debate did not occur until June 3rd, so although they held one debate very early, it was just one debate. Finally, in 2008, candidates announced much earlier then they are this campaign. Mitt Romney announced on February 13th 2007. Its more then 2 months later then that time frame and he hasn't announced yet. Obama February 10th and Hillary in January. What major Republican has even announced yet? None. By the time of both parties first debate last election, all 8 major Democratic candidates had announced and appeared at the first debate. And only Fred Thompson had yet to announce and failed to appear out of the top 11 Republican candidates. So we kind of have to wait for people to announce don't we? The first debate should be sometime in June. Late June.
Now to the question of who should hold the debates. In 2008, the Democrats let Fox News do a total of ZERO. That's right, none of the 26 Dem debates. And only 1 debate was Fox News cameras even allowed to attend. The first debate should be in late June and not on MSNBC. None of the 22-24 debates should be hosted on MSNBC.