The recently manufactured ‘controversy’ regarding Orrin Hatch’s purported hesitancy to debate Dan Liljenquist again before the June 26th primary is a clear sign of desperation. In spite of the fact that Hatch has debated Liljenquist twice in the last month and the fact that Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen indicated that more debates are likely, Liljenquist started a ‘sqeal’ campaign this week calling for a debate on every college campus in the Utah by June.
On April 24th, one week after Liljenquist last debated Orrin Hatch and only three days after the Utah Republican Party state convention that he survived by only 32 votes, Liljenquist kicked off his squeal campaign by posting on his website that he was “challenging” Orrin Hatch to no fewer than eight (8) debates in eight weeks, one on every college campus in the state. His justification for the exorbitant number of events was that he wanted “to bring the debate to the doorstep of the next generation because that’s what this is all about.”
Obviously exploding with self confidence after his first two encounters with Hatch, Dan Liljenquist told the Salt Lake Tribune in an April 25th article: “It is our anticipation that they will probably not want to debate given Senator Hatch’s performance in the last debates.” Dave Hansen’s reply in the same Tribune article was measured, but not dismissive. The tribune reported that Hansen said there probably would be a few debates, and that “Some campaigns think that debates are the only way to communicate with voters. There are many ways. We’ll probably use them all. We’ll have some discussion about debates, but we have not made a decision on that yet,”
Immediately after the April 25th article was published, the Liljenquist campaign launched an online and social media offensive to take advantage of what they hoped voters would perceive as a ‘hesitancy’ on the part of the Hatch campaign to engage in further debates. Supporters plastered Facebook with posts feigning outrage at Orrin Hatch’s supposed reluctance to debate again, saying that ‘Utah voters deserved more [than the first two] debates.’ On May 1st, Liljenquist posted a new press release on his campaign website with the heading “Hatch Refuses to Answer Debate Challenge!” The campaign reached a fever pitch later the same day when supporters purchased a domain name “IS ORRIN HATCH MAN ENOUGH TO DEBATE DAN LILJENQUIST DOT COM.” Hours later a Salt Lake Tribune article was released in which Liljenquist is quoted as saying “I think it’s clear he doesn’t want to debate.”
Manufactured controversies like this one by the Liljenquist campaign team are a clear sign of desperation. It appears that Dan Liljenquist is convinced that the only way he can get in front of a group of more than a few voters is by standing on a bar stool behind Orrin Hatch while he’s giving a speech. As I write this, less than two weeks have passed since the state convention and only 18 days since the last primary debate between Dan Liljenquist and Orrin Hatch. Granted in previous encounters Dan Liljenquist was forced to share the spotlight with Chris Herrod who has a stronger record, but is it really so important for voters get to see Liljenquist on stage without a more conservative former colleague looking over his shoulder?
I happen to believe that another primary debate would be good for voters – perhaps even two. Demanding eight debates however and crying to the press when your opponent (who still has a day job) takes more than a few days to agree to them screams ‘desperation’ to me. The fact that this is the only way Dan Liljenquist’s campaign team can find to get his name into the press one week after the state convention betrays a fatal lack of creativity and perhaps even substance. With this week’s activities, Dan Liljenquist has displayed all the patience and decorum of a little boy who has to pee! Shouldn’t we expect more from the men and women we send to Washington?