Republican congressional nominee Robert Hurt can’t seem to make up his mind as to whether he’s going to debate his challenger from the right, Jeff Clark. In a recorded interview with The Daily Progress a week ago, he had this exchange with the paper:
DP: [Are you] going to be willing to debate Jeff Clark and Tom Perriello?
RH: We need to work out all of the details, but debates are a very, very important part of elections and obviously we want to make ourselves available to all of the citizens who will be judging us and we’re committed to doing that but obviously we have the details to work out. We haven’t talked with the Perriello campaign—I don’t think—about what they’re interested in.
DP: But would you be willing to?
That couldn’t be much more clear.
Then, shortly after midnight this morning, Hurt’s campaign released a written statement to the paper, in which he said that “we cannot allow the important debate in this election to be sidetracked by a candidate who is not serious about his campaign or his ability to win.” The campaign claims that Hurt wasn’t answering the question of whether he would debate Clark, but instead was…uh…well, they’re not saying. Apparently, if you ask Hurt if he’s willing to do something, he just says “absolutely.”
Hurt’s campaign is right to want Clark excluded from debates. I imagine the guy is polling below the margin of error. Not only would his involvement in debates probably not be useful, but it would be a bad political move for Hurt to give Clark any attention. Congressman Perriello quite naturally wants Clark included, because every vote that Clark gets is taken from Hurt. The problem here is this business of saying one thing one week and another the next, without explaining the change and, worse still, pretending that the Progress is at fault here. It’s OK to change your mind in the face of new information—in fact, it’s often the only reasonable thing to do—but you’ve got to share those facts with others if you want to be perceived as reasonable. Attempting to discredit a newspaper whose endorsement will be important this November is a foolish move.
I’d put money on the Progress endorsing Hurt. Or, rather, I would have. Now I’m not so sure.