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Debate Dodging: Why Texas Politicians Are Skipping Primary Showdowns

Each day, more incumbent politicians and front-runners in Texas are skipping debates during the primary elections. Why is this happening?

Recently, a GOP primary debate was hosted in Uvalde. Three candidates assisted the forum, but the man they are running against, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales was not there. The candidates freely bashed Gonzales for his voting record on immigration and for his decision to back gun reforms after the Robb Elementary School shooting.

According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, this practice has become more popular in recent years, thanks to the rise of social media, polarization and distrust of traditional media.

Going to a debate, could sometimes be harmful to the candidates, specially in primaries and when the candidate is the favorite. Some experts say that in primary debates, there are few policy differences between the candidates, and thus, these debates are mainly focused on attacking the other candidate.

“It’s hard for modern debates to be handled in a fair way that also gives voters a lot of information about the differences between the candidates,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, told the Chronicle. “In a primary, a lot of times, the differences aren’t about policy. It’s about the emphasis or about personality, and those things don’t necessarily lend themselves to a real debate.”

People also don’t tune into debates as before. Social media has really changed the landscape for debates. Candidates now can send clearer messages to their audiences in a more efficient way through social media.

Candidates who have the lead can be harmed by going to debates. They have everything to lose and almost nothing to win. If they make a mistake, it’s simply over. It’s better for them to have the lead secured than to risk everything.

This was a move popularized by former President Donald Trump, who skipped the GOP primary debate of the 2016 election, and even to this day, he has refused to debate during primaries. Nikki Haley has tried to get a debate with Trump, but he still refuses.

Other Texas Republicans have also refused to participate in primary debates, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“Trump’s impact on both parties can’t really be understated,” said Jacob Thompson, an associate vice provost at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas “He’s created, in some ways, an antipathy toward debate. But also, he’s facilitated the idea that you don’t have to debate if you’re either ahead and have nothing to gain and everything to lose, or that you don’t want to elevate your opponent.”

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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