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Should Mitt Romney stop debating?
With his GOP rivals determined to use the debates to attack the undisputed frontrunner, staying in the mix may do Mitt more harm than good
 
Increasingly, the Republican presidential debates have become a venue for attacks against Mitt Romney, and his advisors suggest Mitt may opt out of future forums.
Increasingly, the Republican presidential debates have become a venue for attacks against Mitt Romney, and his advisors suggest Mitt may opt out of future forums.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney will clash with his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination once again on Thursday, in South Carolina's second debate ahead of its Saturday primary. But Romney has yet to sign on for the two debates after that, to be held next week in Florida. Enough is enough, suggests Romney strategist Stuart Stevens: "There have been too many of these," he said after Monday's forum, in which Mitt's GOP rivals fiercely attacked him, and Romney gave what was branded as an "intelligence-insultingly bad" performance. With a commanding poll lead, should Romney just play it safe and bow out of future debates?

Romney might be wise to quit debating: "The debates have basically become a contest over which not-Romney candidate can draw the most blood from the frontrunner," says Alana Goodman at Commentary. That gives other candidates "a chance to try to knock him down a peg. But there's not much of a benefit there for Romney." Floridians might feel snubbed if Romney sits out the next debates, but "if voters are just as tired of [the forums] as Romney is, then it might not make a difference."
"Will Romney unilaterally end the debates?"

But Romney can't quit if the others keep debating: Romney "might not like getting beat up on stage," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, "but at least he's there to defend himself." He can't afford to simply step out of the spotlight and let his rivals gang up on him, turning the debates into free anti-Romney commercials. As long as Romney's rivals keep showing up, he has to be there to push back.
"Romney wavering on Florida debates?"

And Mitt shouldn't count his chickens yet: Romney must figure that with his huge polling lead in Florida, he "can afford to coast," says Ace of Spades. "The problem with that rationale is that the field may not be five-strong when he gets to Florida. Perry or Gingrich or Santorum may drop out by then, and the remaining candidates will get a bump from that." If Romney skips debates, he'll be giving a single anti-Romney candidate a prime opportunity to break away from the shrinking pack.
"Romney may skip one or both Florida debates"

 

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