he long, long run of Republican presidential debates is officially over. The Oregon Republican Party pulled the plug Thursday on the last of the scheduled debates, to be held in Portland on March 19, after frontrunner Mitt Romney said he wouldn't attend. It's easy to see why, says Dan Amira at New York: Romney's winning, so why "rock the boat" by risking more damaging attacks from rivals or a campaign-crushing "colossal debate gaffe that gets endlessly replayed online and on TV, a la Rick Perry's 'oops' moment"? Of course, not everyone agrees. Is Team Romney really wise to yank its candidate from debates?
Winners don't need to fight: Everyone knows Romney will win the nomination, either "by slog or by knockout," says Brendan Monaghan at Oregon Catalyst. He has "little to lose but absolutely nothing to gain" by "lowering himself" to Santorum's level and continuing "to play in Round One when he has already clinched his spot in the championship game." Romney should be making closing arguments to Republicans and raising money for the general election, not debating a field of losers.
"Why Romney's not debating in Oregon"
Romney needs more debates: Judging from his recent string of humiliating primary and caucus losses, Romney just can't close the deal with GOP voters, says Erick Erickson at RedState. But let's not forget: Mitt was doing great until "he decided to stop debating." Romney "destroyed" Newt Gingrich in the Florida debates, then "ruined Rick Santorum" in the last debate, in Arizona. Once Romney quit debating he was "out of sight and out of mind" for many voters — and "conservatives forgot why they thought he was the guy who could beat Obama" in the first place.
"Not closing the deal"
Fresh debates would help everyone: Romney should not only agree to more debates, he should "demonstrate fearlessness" by challenging Santorum to a one-on-one matchup, says Alan Schroeder at The Huffington Post. Though both men would have the chance to benefit politically, "this is not about what serves the interests of candidates, but what serves the interests of voters." Fewer than half of the GOP primary electorate has voted, and all Republicans deserve "side-by-side comparison shopping among their top presidential contenders."
"Now is the time for more Republican presidential debates"
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