No Apology Needed
This evening is the "All-American Presidential Forum" at Morgan State University, hosted by Tavis Smiley and broadcast on PBS. Outside of those of us directly involved with this production, and the students at Morgan, the anticipation of the event is like waiting in line for a viewing at a funeral home.
Despite the efforts of former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Melhman, former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, only five "second tier" Republican presidential candidates are planning on attending. This is especially disappointing to many members of the Maryland Republican Party, who just needed to catch a break and get a little political respect in a national forum.
So why are former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, Arizona Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani not appearing posting at the Morgan event? Scheduling problems according to their campaigns, but perhaps it's just the fact they may have made a logical choice based on their time usage and voter demographics.
Stop and think about an insider's perspective on this setting. You have nine candidates who have, to date, spent a tremendous amount of time trying to be the most "Reagan conservative."
Next you have dozens of venues and ventures that are vying for the opportunity to present a Presidential Debate for the prestige and publicity. Something has got to give somewhere.
Where is the incentive for a busy presidential candidate of the Republican persuasion to prioritize the Morgan event? Each is trying to out-conservative the other; yet, they are asked to come to an event in a small blue state, inside of a city with a demographic of greater than nine-to-one Democrat, where the last Republicans to visit there had Oreo cookies hurled at them. Not my idea of the perfect venue to speak about tax relief, immigration, gun rights or national security.
Multi-million dollar fundraisers in California, or speaking engagements in early primary states such as Florida or South Carolina, just seem to make a little more sense. No traps by the media, no trick questions, plus the same amount of ink in the papers as you explain and apologize for why you were a no show in Maryland. After all, how many Republican primary voters are really attending or watching the debate? Answer: not many.
Republican candidates not in attendance owe no apology. They are all men who are contenders and would make an excellent Republican presidential nominee. They need not placate any person, group or demographic. Their goal is to win a party nomination; and, for that reason, they owe their supporters and financial backers their best shot at being in the right place, at the right time to garner votes toward that goal.
Primary candidates have to be practical. They must win the primaries in many states before they can take on the opposition party candidate. The outreach by each party's primary candidates must be to the targeted voters of their own party.like it or not.
Doubtfully Democrat candidates would like - at this time in the campaign - to debate in front of groups of gun owners, farmers or pro-life groups for the same reason. It's not time yet for that specific outreach. You have to win your party's nomination before you can continue to the big show next November. They all know this fact.
>From a local perspective, Maryland Republicans are disappointed, again. We can never catch a really good break from a national perspective. Having nine presidential candidates to showcase, and the possibility of hosting a small event tied to this debate, would have been an excellent opportunity, especially for a meet-n-greet fundraiser to help fill empty coffers. Well, maybe next time.
For tonight, however, the candidates, who have the time in their schedule and are seeking extra TV time for their campaign, will make the effort. PBS viewers will have another chance to see Republicans in debate.
The Maryland Republican faithful will have the opportunity to watch contenders live and up close. Students at Morgan and citizens of Baltimore will see and hear Republicans espousing their ideas right in their own backyard.
Let's just hope there are no cookies thrown.