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What do debate and tango have in common?

Posted at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2006 by Bill Wareham

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. The same could be said of debates.

Word seems to be getting around that MPR News "canceled" a gubernatorial debate Friday, much to the disappointment of Peter Hutchinson supporters. The Independence Party nominee has made debates a cornerstone of his campaign strategy, and its no wonder - debates generate plenty of free media coverage, providing just about the cheapest, most effective way to get your message out.

The problem is, we didn't exactly "cancel" a debate. Yes, we hoped to have one Friday, just as we hoped to have one during the Fair. But our wish to hold debates is entirely dependent on the candidates' willingness to show up, and as I explained in an earlier post Gov. Pawlenty has turned us down and Mr. Hatch won't participate in events that don't include the governor. We can't cancel what we don't have the power to schedule.

I've already fielded a couple of calls from outraged Hutchinson supporters and expect more. I've heard the suggestion that we hold the debate anyway, with empty seats to represent Pawlenty and Hatch. That'd make for a great photo moment, but I'm not sure what we'd do for the rest of the hour. Of course, we could chat with Mr. Hutchinson. We've got no problem with that - we've done it for a couple of hours already this campaign and have two more hours planned later on. But that's not a debate; it takes two (or more).

We are committed to presenting debates. We've scrambled to get tomorrow's Minnesota Chamber of Commerce debate on the air and on the web. Tune in to hear the three candidates side-by-side at 12:30 p.m. during Midday.