When I was a girl I used to read my older brother’s comic books. One of my favorites was the Bizarro World version of Superman, where everything was backwards. Sometimes this election year seems to be from Bizarro World Pennsylvania. It is a commonly accepted truth that challengers want to debate incumbents and incumbents try to avoid debating challengers. Adopting the local version of a “Rose Garden” strategy, going about their legislative business, incumbents deny challengers the equal status that sitting together in public in identical chairs of equivalent heights, or talking together on the radio, provides. It’s just how things are done.
And yet, this year, in Bizarro World, it is the incumbents who are crying for debates, and lots of them, and the challengers who keep saying “Allright already! Sheesh!” Even after the challengers have agreed to debates the incumbents keep yammering for more or different or something.
As evidence I provide three examples.
In the U.S. Senate race we have incumbent Republican Rick Santorum repeatedly, like a jack in the box, hopping up and demanding that Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr., debate not only him, but any number of other people. Last November he was calling for as many as 10 debates, but seems to have toned it down lately. See press releases here and here. (via politicspa)
In the 8th congressional district, incumbent Republic Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick keeps asking Democrat Patrick Murphy for debates. Even after Murphy has agreed, Fitzpatrick’s chief of staff breaks into a press conference call to demand Murphy agree to debates he has already agreed to. Last Friday even though Murphy had a well-publicized lunch fund raiser with Nancy Pelosi, Fitzpatrick showed up at the local radio station where the two had debated the week before, to try and debate Murphy again. (here, here, and here)
In the 6th state senate district, incumbent Republican “Tommy” Tomlinson issued a press release asking why Democratic challenger Paul Lang had not agreed to debates that Lang had already agreed to. Lang had notified the sponsoring organizations that he would appear at Oct. 11th, Oct 20th, and Nov. 2nd debates.
According to the press release (via politicspa):
Paul Lang stated, It is no surprise to me that Tommy failed to find out that I had, over the last few weeks, already accepted each debate and notified the appropriate point of contact.
Lang continued, Tommy has mentioned that he is eager to defend his record. I look forward to his answers for his 50% pension increase, his failure to follow the state ethics rules, and his dismal record on reform.
More evidence of Bizarro World? Santorum has been seen out in public in short sleeves and casual clothes. Fitzpatrick has changed his stance on the Iraq War. What can be next? In a year where incumbents, who traditionally slide into reelections without a care, are scrambling to distance themselves from the president and calling for debates even after debates are scheduled, there’s just no telling.