It’s official: Lee Anderson’s staffers have decided he has more to gain from avoiding debates with John Barrow than he has to lose from being seen ducking them.
We suspected as much on the night of the runoff. Anderson’s posse surrounded him during his victory party, keeping reporters away from the eventual winner and allowing him to speak to the gathered supporters only when hustled out, kept on script and then whisked away.
It’s as if he’s been kidnapped by consultants in pinstripes.
Republicans for the past three years have loved beating up on President Obama for using a teleprompter during even the most mundane speeches. What are we to say about a candidate who won’t even speak?
In any event, what makes the professional handlers’ judgment official is the announcement Monday that Anderson won’t debate Democrat Barrow at the Atlanta Press Club. Earlier, his campaign had set up straw-men conditions for a debate with Barrow, but on Monday they just said, no, Anderson won’t attend.
No matter which side of the partisan fence you’re on, there’s only one conclusion: Barrow is willing to debate. Anderson isn’t. How does that make Anderson look anything but bad?
What’s worse, I seriously doubt the final decision not to speak was Anderson’s. After all, before all this, he typically was accused of talking too much. For example, he’s often been the subject of good-natured ribbing because of his windy introduction of his preacher in the Legislature last year.
When he stood at the Columbia County Justice Center in July to make comments during the memorial for Probate Judge Pat Hardaway, a couple of people joked that we didn’t have all day. But then Lee told a charming story about the late judge that resonated well with the audience.
He’s capable of doing the same thing with other audiences, but ducking debates gives the appearance that his handlers aren’t prepared for Anderson to speak without being given the questions, and the answers, in advance. Considering Anderson wants to go to Congress, where members don’t always have the option to get a script before making a decision, that seems a little scary.
Recently I made the point that partisan elections are about choosing a member of a team. Republicans will generally elect a Republican to support their team in Congress, while Democrats will choose a Democrat.
Columbia County reliably gives about 70 percent of its vote to the Republican team. Anderson’s camp likely takes that number for granted and knows Richmond County will be a loss, so they’ll focus on collecting a few votes at a time from the rural counties in the rest of the district.
That’s not necessarily a losing strategy. But someone who appears afraid to debate his opponent doesn’t look like a winner, either.
Anderson is scheduled to speak Saturday in the friendly confines of the Republican Party breakfast at 8:30 a.m. at Fatz Cafe. It should be worth $7.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/