Hatch’s Debate Problem
As I predicted earlier, the Hatch campaign decided to agree to a tightly-controlled debate and the Liljenquist campaign is continuing to make hay of it. We all knew that Hatch had to pick the least bad downside, but in this case, he seems to have picked both of them.
- The debate that the Hatch campaign agreed to is a radio debate during work hours on an outlet that is friendly to Hatch, The Doug Wright Show. I knew the Hatch campaign was going for tightly controlled, but to restrict responses this way and have a friendly moderator is stacking the deck a bit too much.
- It’s also been proposed to have the debate a mere week before the primary, long after most vote-by-mail voters have cast their ballots. That’s no accident, and it’s meant to try and secure votes before people would change their mind.
- KSL and the Deseret News offered to host a televised debate between Hatch and Liljenquist. Live. In prime time. I can’t recall having seen such a proposal for a federal or state-wide race. Passing on such a visible offer sends a signal to voters that he isn’t confident that he could out-perform Liljenquist in the debate format. It also seems at least slightly arrogant.
- Despite insisting that the Senator has a very busy schedule and can’t accommodate more than one debate, he somehow found time to write a new song as part of his musical side gig and has hinted at hosting multiple town halls. That mixed message creates a poor image.
- The media is continuing to echo the Liljenquist campaign’s talking points about having additional debates. When the media starts sympathizing with your opponent, it at least blunts the effects of your planned mass media campaign. At worst, it’s going to make the media more hostile towards Hatch.
It seems like if the Hatch campaign were using appropriate damage control, they would quickly and graciously accept the offer from KSL/Deseret News and plan appropriate media blitzes with that massive war chest to try and soften any blow from it. However, it appears that the paid professionals on his campaign staff still have a lot to learn about image control.