Fischer turned down an invitation this week to debate Kerrey during the annual Boys and Girls State convention at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on June 5, citing prior commitments. Kerrey has agreed to debate Fischer at the State Fair in Grand Island this summer. He proposed seven debates before the general election, noting that the Republican candidates had seven debates before the primary election.
“I believe Nebraskans deserve an opportunity to see and hear the candidates speak and answer questions in multiple debates,” Kerrey said in a press release.
He proposed that a debate be held in each of the state’s three congressional districts and be done in the Lincoln-Douglas style, with each candidate taking turns speaking and posing questions for two hours.
“I can think of no better way for Nebraskans to compare and contrast the candidates for Senate than in Lincoln-Douglas style formats,” Kerrey said in his release. “I want to have beneficial discussions about how we plan to address the issues.”
Fischer’s campaign manager, Aaron Trost, said the campaign is sorting through many debate invitations and will get back to the Kerrey campaign “at the appropriate time.” As for the Lincoln/Douglas format, he said the campaign will review all debate and forum requests and formats.
Yesterday, the Kerrey campaign was critical of Fischer’s rejection of the Boys State/Girls State debate. Trost noted Fischer has only been the GOP nominee for a week.
“It’s clear that they’re sagging in the polls and they’re trying to create something to talk about,” Trost said today.
Republicans were quick to point out that Kerrey was not a big fan of debates in 1994, when he was the frontrunner being challenged by Jan Stoney. At the time, his campaign manager, Paul Johnson, said debates were “overrated in terms of their importance.”
Political consultant Phil Young, who has worked for Fischer in the past, said generally frontrunners aren’t as eager to debate as candidates who are behind in the polls.
“If you’re behind, you want to try to get the person into as many predicaments as possible,” he said, “where they might make mistakes.”
Reported by Deena Winter, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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