I know how he feels:
The economy may be reeling, but these are boom times for lectern manufacturers. Every night, over-rehearsed candidates square off in televised campaign debates and battle questions from doggedly serious local reporters and painfully earnest "ordinary" voters. In a political season dominated by 30-second attack ads, stealth candidates who rarely campaign outside TV studios (yes, Christine O'Donnell, this is you) and shadowy corporate spending, debates represent the last best hope of the voters to transcend glib gimmickry and slippery sound bites in the quest for (yikes!) the truth.
But as campaigns have become nationalized and Senate candidates, in particular, all seem to have been prepped by the same small cadre of handlers, the TV debates themselves have taken on a paint-by-numbers quality. I can testify to this because I have endured a dozen recent televised Senate and House debates. ("And the winner of the 2010 Martyr to Journalism Award is . . .")
My debate disappointment, though, is based only on two -- the U.S. Senate debate and the 3rd District congressional debate -- not the 12 hours of debates this poor man has endured. What we came away with from the Senate debate is that Dan Coats was a lobbyist and Brad Ellsworth voted with the Obama-Pelosi agenda. In the 3rd District, we learned that Marlin Stutzman is just like his former boss Mark Souder, and Tom Hayhurst . . . wait for it . . . favors the Obama-Pelosi agenda!
In an age of attack-ad, sound-bite, Twitter-fed campaign simplemindedness, the debates offer an opportunity to get some real substance out of the candidates, but so far it doesn't seem to be working very well. The question-and-short answer-quick-rebuttal format lets them too easily just keep endlessly repeating the same old slogans and accusations over and over.
I've been a fan of the debates, and our page has praised the Indiana debate commission for getting them organized and scheduled much better than other states have accomplished. But maybe they should rethink the format and tweak things a little to get the candidates out of their comfort zones and into some real debates.
UPDATE: Elbert Starks, our Metro editor, disagrees with me. He thought the 3rd District debate moved at a brisk pace that didn't allow the candidates "to recite incessantly their "well-worn diatribes" that allowed voters to see a couple of layers below the surface. Maybe I've been at this so long I expect too much and might even have become a tad cynical.