This morning, gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis' responded to critics of his decision not to debate his fellow Republican rivals with a Denver Post op-ed in which he argued that while "GOP candidate forums" are fine, direct faceoffs will do more harm than good. "Republicans aren't afraid of differing views," he writes. "We must, however, be committed to unity and civility."
Andrew Cole, Josh Penry's press secretary, avoids replying to this assertion with a sarcastic "Ha!" -- but he makes it plain that McInnis' arguments against intra-party debates, which he described as "circular firing squads" a few weeks back, are the opposite of persuasive. "Above anything else, Republican primary voters want a candidate who can beat Bill Ritter," Cole says. "And if, at the end of the day, you can't stand up in front of a friendly audience and debate a fellow Republican, why should those voters think you can stand up and debate Bill Ritter when it really matters?"
In Cole's view, "There are inconsistencies in his argument about party unity" -- like, for instance, the paragraph in the op-ed "where he goes into an attack on Senator Penry and Bill Ritter in the same sentence" regarding possible expansion of the Fort Carson military base.
Arguably an even greater contradiction can be found in McInnis' closing passage: "Unseating an incumbent governor, no matter how unpopular or flawed his policies may be, is always a tough battle, and the last thing Republicans can do is grease the path to the governor's office for the other party the way the GOP did in 2006." These lines stand out given that McInnis did pretty much the same thing in 2008 in regard to Republican Bob Schaffer's race against Democrat Mark Udall for the U.S. Senate. He predicted that Schaffer would lose days before the actual vote took place -- the topic of a Westword blog entitled "Scott McInnis Prematurely Pisses on GOP's Grave."
What neither side in this argument will admit is that McInnis' no-debate stance is largely motivated by his advantage when it comes to name recognition -- and debates would help Penry gain the sort of attention apt to boost his viability. Not that Cole is crying poverty. "Our last fundraising quarter surprised everyone and surpassed our own internal goals," he maintains, adding, "We've said we don't have to beat either McInnis or Ritter in fundraising. We just have to stay competitive, and we are. Senator Penry is out there doing battle with Governor Ritter over the budget cuts, and that's what primary voters want to see."
Warring against McInnis won't be as easy, especially given his apparent preference of political heat over actually facing Penry in a debate format. But Cole shows no signs of letting the issue die.
"This is an election, not a coronation," he says. "Let's debate the issues."