Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bill Crawford: Debate Strategy Puts Lid on Issues

Important issues in the Republican primary for governor are getting short shrift.

The second Republican gubernatorial debate is scheduled for June 7th at Southwest Community College in Summit. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will again be a no-show. He skipped the first one held April 2nd at Mississippi State University too. His absence kept the first debate off television and, apparently, will keep the Summit one off too.

That appears to be a Reeves campaign strategy. His opponents, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller and state Representative Robert Foster, have little money to use paid advertising to increase their name identification and compare themselves to Reeves. So, why should Reeves give them free airtime in televised debates?

Meanwhile, Reeves has buckets of money with which he can dominate paid advertising. The latest campaign finance reports showed Reeves with $6.7 million in the bank, Waller with about $580,000, and Foster with $19,000.

Reeves even ignores his two challengers in his campaign ads. Instead of them he takes on Democratic candidate Attorney General Jim Hood, though that contest cannot occur until November and only if both win the primaries. Hood had $1.2 million in his campaign account.

There will be one exception to Reeves' rope-a-dope strategy. No doubt to appear shrewd rather than fearful, Reeves has agreed to one televised debate with Waller and Foster on July 23rd, just two weeks before the August 6th primary. WJTV in Jackson announced last week it would live stream the debate on its channels.

The dearth of face to face debates that include the front runner gives short shrift to voters' need to hear unedited discussion of important issues. It will be interesting to see how they react.

Waller has raised enough money to allow him to buy limited advertising in key markets outside of Jackson where he already has good name identification. Will a limited buy be sufficient to gain voters' attention? No doubt Reeves will try to drown out any Waller advertising with his own heavy ad blitz.

Foster is having to depend social media and news reports.

Meanwhile, voters appear disposed to hear issues debated. As reported in Mississippi Today, the latest Millsaps/Chism Strategies poll showed 37% of voters think the state is headed in the right direction while 35% think the opposite. And the gap between the two has been tightening in recent weeks.

The right direction is where Reeves contends he and outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant have got the state headed over the past eight years. Waller, Foster, and Hood say hold on a minute and point to challenges Bryant and Reeves have not resolved.

The reality is both sides have strong points to make, which is why issue debates would be helpful to voters.

On the positive side, more people are working in Mississippi than ever, the unemployment rate is at a record low, and our business climate is favorable. On the negative side are issues in or near the crisis stage – funding for highways and bridges, teacher shortages, rural hospitals at risk of closing, and increasing distress in many rural counties.

There are nine weeks until the first primary. Can Reeves keep the lid on 'til then? Or will major issue discussion leak out? Stay tuned, if possible.

(Yes, I know the same is happening in the Democratic primary.)

Crawford is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

When Tate did the front porch debate (maybe at Neshoba?) with the guy from the coast a few terms ago, he got destroyed. He looked mad the whole time and was beet red. It is smart of him to stay away from debates.

Anonymous said...

7:01 am It is smart of Tate to avoid debates.
It's stupid of us to vote for a politician who does that.
If he can't make a good argument for himself , how can he make one for Mississippi?

Anonymous said...

Mississippi is not a progressive state. If things are not so bad economically the candidate of the status quo could be bozo the clown and he'll win in a landslide. That's the reality of the matter as far as getting elected is concerned debates are really irrelevant, and getting elected is all that counts. It's pitiful, but it's fact.

Anonymous said...

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Anonymous said...

Forget it Jake, it's Mississippi. The electorate is tribal, moronic, and they are classic System One "thinkers." You think they care? They do not.

Plainly Tate (my candidate), while dumb but not stupid, is afraid of mixing it up with another person even marginally more human than he. Who cares, swear him in, it's a done deal.

Truth be told I don't much care if Jim Hood wins. How much difference is there really between these two morbidly obese bipeds? Short answer: not much. Waller, on the other hand, is obviously too smart for the job . . . all that reading and stuff. Why can't we just have Haley Barbour back again?

What's with these fat bastards? Am I the only guy who ever heard the phrase "low carb?"

Anonymous said...

I just shows what a pitiful clown Tater Tot is. If he has to run on his record he's toast. We need a governor who will get this state moving forward not the same crap as the last 8 years. Go Bill, Go.

Anonymous said...

Tate is best off just keeping his mouth shut and letting the machine work. If he lets the people hear his ignorance, he will only hurt his chances. Notice his new commercial is just his wife speaking. Clearly his handlers understand how weak their candidate is and are trying to limit the damage he does do their cause.

Anonymous said...

12:06 mentions the "handlers". Spot on. There's a handful of firms in this state with a stranglehold on the flow of funds. They are getting very rich and very fat off of running campaigns and once their guy is in, they make even more steering public service ad dollars. They are connected to the established candidates and also connected to the mainline donors. In any other industry, what they do would be considered shady at best, but its the norm in Mississippi politics.

Anonymous said...

Met a very smart kid while judging a debate contest a few months back.

He said he was going to college in North Carolina, and would probably live there after graduating. No chance he was coming back to Mississippi.

I asked, don't you think if more smart people like you stayed, maybe Mississippi could do better?

He said it was pretty clear Mississippi had no interest in listening to people like him and added: "I mean look at who's running for governor."

Cut The Boy Some Slack.. said...

Tate is busy with issues that surround the lower Delta and the flooding issues. Wait...that's bullshit. He could not care less. His number one right hand man and piss boy Vendevender has penned letters to every federal official who draws a breath begging them to destroy the delta so he can buy it at rock-bottom salvage prices for his hunting fun.

If we allow Mr. Potato Head to become our next governor it's as with Jackson....We deserve what we get.

Anonymous said...

The reason Tate is not debating is because he comes across as a thin-skinned and sensitive real-life Dilbert. If Tate believes things are good in Mississippi, he is fooling himself.

Anonymous said...

This is the dumbest group of comments I’ve seen in awhile on here. Stupid is probably the wrong description - biased and anti-Tate is a better way to describe the same dozen people who say stupid and anti things about Tate.

No one in Tate’s shoes would debate Waller or the guy from DeSoto more than once when they don’t have any money and can’t get any press. I’m shocked he agreed to debate them in late July.

Why do you think Jim Hood isn’t debating his primary opponents, or Michael Guest with Whit Hughes, or Roger Wicker when Chris McDaniel was in his race....same reason. At least Tate is debating once - none of those candidates had a one on one debate.

Anonymous said...

Every month in Rankin County the Republicans conduct a straw vote. Waller has beaten Tate every time.

Rankin County, go figure.

Anonymous said...

The reasons that the lt governor’s campaign give for not debating are extremely disheartening—he “won’t be in the area”. Well, Summit, MS just happens to be one short hour from Jackson. Not real sure why he “can’t” be in the area. It’s interesting that he agreed to debate at WJTV, but only with no audience (and pretty sure he set those terms). I definitely don’t want him as my next governor!! Just one college student expressing my views.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope Chief Justice Waller can get some traction. I sent in my little contribution weeks ago. (I sent as much as I could afford). What could Reeves possibly have to say to the former Chief Justice? Waller is smart, a statesman, a leader, and a man of integrity (IMHO). Unfortunately, he will have a difficult time competing against the Reeves bank account and machine. If Tate wins, it will be Mississippi's loss.

Anonymous said...

10:01 needs to make a substantive response to the article and the comments and not just call people stupid. Do you dispute the fact that Tate would be a disaster in the debate? Do you believe campaign strategy is a good excuse to deny voters the opportunity to hear a substantive discussion of the issues more than once? Tate has never been able to articulate a strong position on his policies and I am curious if you can articulate a strong defense of the most light-weight Republican candidate for governor i have seen since i cast my first vote for governor in 1987.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have to wonder why Tate wants to be Governor when he could almost certainly take out Cindy Lou-Who in a cakewalk. He could even be a hero to some by bowing out and endorsing Waller, who would then stroll into the job. Then, Tate could keep a whole bunch of his campaign warchest and stroll into the Senate. Obviously, not gonna happen, but...

As to Tate not debating, why would any candidate in his position? You might want him to and I'll even accept that he should (in a "perfect world"), but there is simply nothing in a primary debate for any heavily-favored front-runner with a 10-to-1 budget advantage and significant name recognition over his or her closest challenger. Those who think elections like this one are about the candidates' positions and policies don't know much about politics.

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