The bad news is that we’re not done with the debates. Hillary has accepted a “2/10 debate to be broadcast on This Week with George Stephanopoulos; A 2/27 CNN debate in OH and a 2/28 MSNBC debate in Houston,” and, according to Mark Penn on a conference call going on right now, a Fox News debate on 2/11. Remember, Fox News? The one Dems wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole? Maybe the polls have changed.
It’s a truism in politics that it’s the guy who’s behind who is the most eager to debate (it gives him/her a chance to be on equal footing with the front runner, it gives the front-runner a chance to screw up). On the call, Hillary folk simply said that these debates give them a chance to talk “directly to voters” and that they would be “foolish” to turn them down. No word from Obama camp yet.
UPDATE: Obama camp: “We’ll figure out our schedule, including any debates, soon.” (One staffer also asked if it was true Hillary had really agreed to the Fox debate.)
Asked about why they would agree to a Fox debate after having “led” the revolt against participating in the 2007 debate, a campaign spokesman characterized that movement as having been led by MoveOn.org. It might be more descriptive to characterize their pullout as has having been given cover by the DNC — MoveOn or no MoveOn. The DNC’s refusal to sanction the Fox Nevada debate allowed Clinton and Obama to skip that debate without having to specifically criticize the network (as Edwards did). Ailes’ Obama/Osama joke gave them even more cover, though will also complicate any decision by Obama to participate…
UPDATE: Totally screwed up that back and forth. Here’s a t’script, courtesy of the Clinton campaign:
Josh Gerstein, NY Sun: Hey Howard, how are you? I have a question – you know MoveOn.org a couple of days ago did that poll, its members endorsed Senator Obama. If I’m not mistaken, they also led the crusade to cancel the FOX debate last year. Did you folks take that into account as you made this decision and is the Senator concluding that the MoveOn caucus in the party is not going to be for her so she may as well reach to the center.
HW: No, that’s not true. The effort with regard to the debate last year was more than just MoveOn. It was something that the progressive blogosphere felt strongly about too. I wouldn’t just characterize it as a MoveOn effort. We have a large and diverse party. We’re going to continue reaching out and talking to all parts of the party. MoveOn made the decision it did with regard to the Obama endorsement and that was their decision. The truth is that both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have appeared on FOX – many times, or at least multiple times – in the last 6 months. I think when you have a primary here in the DC area and you have the opportunity to have a station that has the ability to reach lots of people in our local FOX affiliate, it’s a good opportunity for both candidates to talk directly to voters and so it was a good offer and we took it. I hope that Senator Obama follows up by accepting that offer. I hope that Senator Obama in fact follows up by accepting all of the offers we’ve accepted with their own acceptance so that we can have some good debates between now and March 4th.