Hardballing The Debate Issue

Normally I wouldn’t side with the equivocating politician on the subject of campaign debates. But when it comes to next Monday’s (Oct. 30) gubernatorial debate between Charlie Crist and Jim Davis (seen locally on Channel 8 at 7 p.m.), Crist was right to have held out for a more appropriate forum.

The debate, which will be moderated by Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” was originally to be styled after Matthew’s show, a traditional give-and-take interview format with all participants at the same table.

The problem with that is that it pretty much remains personality-driven “Hardball.” Actually, that’s a show I like and do watch most nights. Although I sometimes wince when Matthews interrupts too much, on balance I find that he asks the sort of questions viewers at home would want asked. He can be provocative and funny, and it can make for good television.

But this is the Florida gubernatorial debate, not the Chris Matthews’ show. The most important dynamic is the one between the two candidates. The focus belongs on them. Matthews can facilitate that.

He will ask good, tough questions, and it’s his call as to when opposing candidate rebuttals will be allowed. At his discretion, Matthews will also be allowed follow-up questions.

That could be the great equalizer.

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