Debates? What Debates?
It's been overshadowed so far by the Virginia and Maryland Senate races, but Maryland will indeed select a new governor in three weeks, and yet, neither Gov. Bob Ehrlich nor Democratic challenger Martin O'Malley seems especially interested in reaching out to Washington-area voters. Ehrlich and O'Malley have been squabbling like 12-year-olds over whether, when, and how to debate, and what they finally agreed to was two debates, including one that airs tonight at 7--on a Baltimore station.
The tiresome debate debate has seen the governor insisting that he simply cannot debate after Oct. 15 because he'll be spending the remaining days of the campaign taking his message directly to the voters. Of course, no amount of wandering around the state can reach as many people as a TV debate, but Ehrlich doesn't bother to address that contradiction. O'Malley, for his part, claims that he's the one who's willing to debate anywhere, anytime, yet the Baltimore mayor didn't show up to a debate at a TV station in Salisbury on the Eastern Shore last week, claiming that he had a fundraiser with D.C. Mayor-to-be Adrian Fenty to attend instead.
O'Malley's campaign put out a statement Friday arguing that they hold the high ground in the debate debate because the mayor has accepted invitations to four debates. But it's noteworthy that all four of the sessions he chose to attend are in Baltimore--the WJZ, one for another Balto TV station (this past Saturday night at Maryland Public TV in Owings Mills, aired on Baltimore's WBAL and statewide public TV), one at B'nai Israel synagogue and one at Morgan State University. The only joint invitation outside his own city that O'Malley has accepted is an appearance on Mark Plotkin's show on Washington Post Radio, which is not a formal debate, includes no audience and is not telecast to a large, statewide audience.
Four years ago, Ehrlich and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had but one TV debate, and neither candidate did particularly well. But both Ehrlich and O'Malley are feisty improvisers and a debate would likely be much more revealing in this race than they have proven to be in, say, the Virginia Senate race.
By the way, last week's final televised debate in the George Allen-Jim Webb Senate race did not exactly light up the ratings board in the Washington area. Public TV station WETA aired that debate, and it got trounced in the Nielsen ratings:
During that Monday 8- 9 p.m. hour, WETA drew but 33,000 viewers, dramatically fewer than any of the network entertainment offerings. Here's the rundown:
NBC's Deal or Nor Deal (WRC-4) - 256,000
Two CBS sitcoms (WUSA-9) - 186,000
ABC's Wife Swap (WJLA-7) - 186,000
Fox's Prison Break (WTTG-5) - 55,000
Two CW sitcoms (WBDC-50) - 61,500
My Network TV's Fashion House (WDCA-20) - 37,000
That doesn't bode well for the slim view D.C. area voters have to see Ehrlich and O'Malley debate. Maryland Public Television will pick up the WJZ-Baltimore broadcast of the gubernatorial debate, relaying the program to public TV viewers around the state.
Of course there is another way to catch the candidates on TV, and that is through their advertising. Both Ehrlich and O'Malley are already advertising on TV and will step up those spots in a big way in the next week or so. But thus far, those ads are running almost entirely in the Baltimore market, which is much cheaper than Washington TV time. The Washington suburbs are home to the single largest bloc of Maryland voters, and while both sides know that Montgomery County will go heavily Democratic, Ehrlich is trying to improve his showing there and pick up substantial support in Prince George's County. Ehrlich is touting the Inter-County Connector as proof of his work on behalf of D.C.-area commuters, yet his campaign in this region remains strangely quiet.
Instead, we get to see an awful lot of Michael Steele, taking out the trash in his curiously captivating ads.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Tired | October 16, 2006 8:17 AM
Posted by: Jack | October 16, 2006 8:45 AM
Posted by: MoCoDC | October 16, 2006 10:11 AM
Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 16, 2006 10:31 AM
Posted by: Adams Morgan | October 16, 2006 10:33 AM
Posted by: Catcher50 | October 16, 2006 11:15 AM
Posted by: Scottynuke | October 16, 2006 11:53 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:32 PM
Posted by: LWV | October 16, 2006 12:40 PM
Posted by: Loudoun Voter | October 16, 2006 1:47 PM
Posted by: Falls Church, VA | October 16, 2006 7:35 PM
Posted by: Govt. Emp | October 16, 2006 8:43 PM
Posted by: Black Democrat In Silver Spring | October 16, 2006 11:40 PM
Posted by: Jack | October 17, 2006 8:49 AM
Posted by: Black Democrat In Silver Spring, Maryland | October 17, 2006 1:35 PM
Posted by: Ron | October 21, 2006 11:18 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.