In the print version, the headline on this story in The State was, “Have debates become unnecessary?” (Why it’s different in the online version I don’t know; it happens sometimes.)
The story is about the fact that, as things stand, there will only be two debates between Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen before the Nov. 2 vote.
I take keyboard in hand to answer the question:
No, they have not become “unnecessary.” In fact, in this election, it is more necessary than ever to have as many debates as possible. Having only two is unconscionable, tantamount to flipping a huge bird at the electorate.
One of two relatively little-known candidates will become our governor for four years. After having twice made the awful mistake of electing Mark Sanford — who as a congressman was much more widely known than either Haley or Sheheen before he ran — it is critically important that voters get as many unscripted opportunities as possible to hear them questioned, and compare them side by side.
This would not be for my benefit. I’m not the typical voter. I’ve known them both for years, well enough that there is not the slightest question in my mind: Vincent Sheheen would be a far better governor than Nikki Haley.
I believe firmly that if voters had the opportunity to observe and/or interact with them as much as I have, the majority of them would reach the same conclusion. Multiple, in-depth, face-to-face sessions with each voter is impractical. The best we can do would be to have multiple debates — 10 (the number that Sanford and Jim Hodges had) would not be too many. Far from it — 10 would merely be a good start. While Nikki, who is a very charming and presentable person on first acquaintance, will likely come through a couple of debates all right, each additional debate makes it more likely that voters will know her, and her opponent, a little better. And that would be a very good thing.
Nikki knows this. Hence the two debates.
Yes, I understand the conventional wisdom, and it’s correct as far as it goes. But the fact that she leads in the polls as her motivation for resisting more debates distracts us from a deeper, more strategic motive. You may have noticed that the more information that dribbles out about Nikki Haley, the more she is shown to be something other than what she lets on to be. That’s a far better reason for avoiding debates than her poll numbers.
But as I say, let’s not have more debates for me — or for Vincent, or for Nikki. Let’s have them because the people deserve more information about these young people than they currently have. And the more information they have, the more likely they are to make a decision that they will not regret later.