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Ramaswamy Brings Insults and ‘Inside Job’ Conspiracies to Fourth GOP Debate

Longshot presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has displayed an abrasive personality in previous debates. But in the NewsNation event in Alabama on  Wednesday night, he took his act even higher, calling Nikki Haley a “neocon fascist” and declaring the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was “likely an inside job” by the government.

“The only conspiracy theory Vivek didn’t endorse on stage was ‘Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer,’” a Republican strategist said after the debate.

Ramaswamy’s polls have been trending downward for the last two months. He never broke out of single digits and is currently hovering around 5 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average. As a result, he was able to play spoiler, launching attacks on traditional Republicans like Haley and Chris Christie.

On the other hand, Haley has emerged as the most likely serious challenger to Donald Trump. Her support has steadily increased over the past two months, and many observers expected her to be the night’s top target from her fellow competitors.

They didn’t disappoint. Ramaswamy and Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked Haley for receiving support from “rich, Wall Street donors” who, DeSantis said, would influence Haley’s decision-making.

“Nikki will cave to those big donors when it counts,” DeSantis said, to which Haley replied: “He’s mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him, and now they support me.”

Ramaswamy repeatedly insisted Haley is “corrupt,” at one point holding up a handmade sign on the notepad provided reading “Haley = Corrupt.” The audience booed in response.

Ramaswamy also called Haley a “fascist” several times, at one point saying, “You can put lipstick on a Dick Cheney — it is still a fascist neocon.”

The debate took its strangest turn when Ramaswamy reached into the Alex Jones playbook.

“Why am I the only person on the stage who can say that January 6th now does look like it was an inside job?” Ramaswamy said. “That the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11? That the Great Replacement Theory is not some grand, right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform? That the 2020 election was indeed stolen by Big Tech?”

Polls show most Americans consider Jan. 6 a disaster and a threat to democracy, and few believe the 2020 election was stolen. The “Great Replacement Theory” — the idea that America’s White, European population is being intentionally replaced by foreigners — inspired the chants of “Jews will not replace us” by White supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Ramaswamy’s antics came during what many observers considered DeSantis’ best performance. The Florida governor had some effective hits against Haley, particularly on her record of addressing transgender issues in school and her call to end anonymity on social media.

Haley had to backtrack from a previous call for “every person on social media (to) be verified by their name,” but DeSantis kept pressing.

“You can roll the tape. She said, ‘I want your name,’” DeSantis said. “She got massive blowback, and rightfully so.”

DeSantis also had another good moment when Christie, a former governor of New Jersey, laid out his reasons for opposing a ban on transgender surgeries for minors. Christie said he opposed the ban in the name of parental rights. “The minute you start to take those rights away from parents, you know, that’s a slippery slope,” Christie said. “What rights are going to be taken away next?”

DeSantis got a roar of approval from the crowd when he responded, “As a parent, you do not have the right to abuse your kids.”

There were more attacks and insults, like when Ramaswamy told Christie to “just walk yourself off that stage. Enjoy a nice meal, and get the hell out of this race.”

But the consensus is that nothing happened in the fourth debate to change the conditions since the first: Donald Trump has a big lead, and nobody is close to catching him.

“Christie was the adult in the room, but it doesn’t matter because he’s got no market,” said GOP strategist Pat Griffin. “Haley was the night’s punching bag, as expected. She handled herself well. DeSantis had the best night he’s had so far — but is that really a significant compliment? And despite the noise, Vivek was a non-factor. So nothing changes in the poll position.”

University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said he thought Christie’s straight talk about Trump and the rest of the field’s unwillingness to take Trump on helped him with voters who want an alternative to the former president. But that’s not necessarily good for the “Stop Trump” movement.

“Christie reminded Never Trump voters that he is the real deal. And that hurts Nikki Haley,” Scala said.

And he agreed DeSantis had a good night, too — for what it was worth.

“It’s a funny sort of debate when the two candidates with the least chance of becoming the nominee are the most dominant,” Scala said.

A GOP insider, speaking on background, told InsideSources the debate was a “dumpster fire” for the Republican Party, “bringing the brand to a new low.”

“It’s another step in Trump’s march to winning the party’s nomination in a landslide.”

FLOWERS: The Lioness Queen: When Nikki Roared

I’m not the kind of person that cottons to the idea of “girl power.” I am woman, you will not hear me roar. I will not be seeing the Barbie movie. I do not believe all women. MeToo is not only a lie; it’s bad grammar. And the worst “F” word for me is Feminist.

Just to get that out of the way.

But every now and then, I do look at myself in the mirror and appreciate the fact that I have two X chromosomes instead of that pesky “Y.”

Debate night was one of those times.

Ambassador Barbie

I had just come from a fantastic dinner with four women I’d gone to school with at Merion Mercy Academy in the last century. (Literally, it was the last century, although they looked fabulous.) We’d reminisced about old friends, and older nuns, and the wine and affection flowed freely. It occurred to me that having gone to a girls’ Catholic school was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

And then I went home and turned on the TV so I could watch the gladiatorial debates between all of the GOP candidates not named Donald Trump. I say “gladiatorial” with tongue in cheek because I wasn’t expecting fireworks from a panel that included Asa Hutchinson, Mike Pence, the guy from North Dakota, and Tim Scott, all very nice and accomplished men who don’t scream. I was expecting Chris Christie to do his “I’m The CNN Avenger Come To Take Out Trump” schtick, and I also thought that Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis would get into it a bit (which didn’t happen.)

What I wasn’t expecting was to be wowed by the woman who did, in fact, do Helen Reddy justice and roared.

Former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was loud, proud, and quite brilliant when it came to putting her male opponents in their places regarding foreign affairs. And that makes sense, given her pedigree and her experience screaming at tyrants from across the table at the UN. None of the other candidates had a chance, at least concerning international relations.

I know that a lot of people hold a lot of different opinions on our relationship with Russia and the war in Ukraine. I am personally in the anti-Putin-Russia dictator who invaded another country camp, and I am not opposed to additional aid to a Western ally.

But even if I was, I could have taken a step back and simply admired the forthright courage of a woman who didn’t mince words about a man who very likely, earlier that day, had orchestrated the murder of another of his opponents, Wagner CEO Yevgeny Preghozin. Haley actually referenced that when it seemed that the boys weren’t in the mood to speak truths to power. That alone made me feel proud to have angry ovaries.

The GOP has always been the party of international strength, of standing up to tyrants, of ripping a giant hole in the Iron Curtain. Reagan didn’t do it by himself, and he stood on the shoulders of other conservative giants who believed that you deal with despots from a position of strength, not conciliatory gestures. Haley reminded me of them and the tradition of politicians, often derisively called “neo-con.” And while I do not believe we should be going around the world as Human Rights Policeman without any assistance from our allies, I am also convinced that ridiculing the efforts to end the war in Ukraine is not in any way, shape, or form conservative.

That sets me apart from many in my tribe, and I don’t actually care. Neither does Haley. She showed that Wednesday night with aplomb and eloquence.

I don’t know if Nikki will make it to the finish line. It’s too far away to make any predictions, and the Trump card, so to speak, has not played out. But I can tell you that watching her on stage was a revelation, and it made me, for a brief moment, want to dig out my old Ambassador Barbie (yes, there was one) and hug her.

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GIORDANO: Debates Matter — And They Should

Are you amazed that a key state like Pennsylvania–in an election cycle that might change the history of our country– will end up having only one debate for the two highest offices being contested? If you’re like me, you might also be tired of pundits droning on TV that voters don’t make decisions based on what occurs in debates.

Is there any doubt that the Oz-Fetterman debate shook up the race?

More importantly, it underlined the seriousness of the issues that Fetterman still faces. The Insider Advantage poll taken the day after the debate had Oz leading Fetterman by 47.5 percent to Fetterman’s 44.8 percent. A subsequent poll released by Wicks Insights had Oz at 47.6 percent and Fetterman at 45.9 percent. It also was telling that among undecided voters, Oz led Fetterman 64.4 percent to 35.6 percent.

On my radio show, Dr. Oz told me he regrets the debate moderators did not spend enough time talking about crime. By my count, the actual time spent on crime was a little over two minutes. It was fine to spend ample time on abortion positions because there was a lot of contention over the positions of the two candidates. Oz made it clear once again he supports exceptions to abortion bans in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. It is unclear to me, but I sense that Fetterman is for abortion rights in any situation and time frame.

As I said, the moderators made a big mistake by not allowing the candidates to debate their visions on personal safety. Crime is the issue that distinguishes these two candidates and the issue that filtered back into the race. It is the issue across the country that people care about the most after their deep concerns over inflation. A central part of this debate should have been Fetterman’s defense of his work as chairman of the state Pardons Board and his views on sentencing convicts to life in prison.

This was even more important because Fetterman supports the policies of radical Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Of course, Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives announced last week they will formally try to impeach Krasner on various grounds in the near future by adding some days to their legislative session.

There is quite a backstory to this development. Republican leaders were afraid to go forward with impeaching Krasner because it would be done in retaliation to their guys in various offices. However, their members in the House revolted and forced them to move on to impeachment. As I have said many times before, Larry Krasner will be impeached. If Oz beats Fetterman, it will be more about the Democrats’ radical positions, particularly on crime, rather than his difficulties brought about by his stroke.

Regarding these after-effects and what they mean regarding Fetterman’s ability to serve as a senator, he could resolve some of the debate by releasing his complete medical records from his cardiologist and neurologist. They would give insight to voters about his cognitive ability and possible future issues.

There is a good chance that this Senate seat will determine which party holds the majority in the Senate. I believe Republicans will overwhelmingly take back the House of Representatives. If Dr. Oz beats Fetterman, President Joe Biden’s unprecedented spending will be stopped, and we will slowly roll back inflation.

If that happens, we’ll think back to the one debate between major candidates held in Pennsylvania this year and remember debates often do matter.

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Dean and Nascimento Square Off in Televised Debate

The candidates for Pennsylvania’s Fourth Congressional District used their debate on WFMZ Channel 69 to remind voters it is possible to practice partisan politics and remain civil.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D) and her Republican challenger Christian Nascimento debated issues ranging from the economy to energy to rising crime.

Moderator Jim Vaughn said a recent New York Times poll found 64 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Nascimento agreed that the country is going in the wrong direction.

“I think that Washington’s instinctive response to spend more and tax more is part of what’s exacerbating the inflation that we see,” said Nascimento. “I think we can fix that.”

Vaughn said, “In poll after poll the one issue voters are concerned about is the economy,” and asked Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks) about her vote for President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Christian Nascimento and Rep. Madeleine Dean debate.

Dean said, “Inflation is real. We are struggling with it here in America.” But she said it was a worldwide problem. Congress has acted to help, she said. In the Trump administration, the government sent money to people during the COVID pandemic and in the Biden administration, it passed the Inflation Reduction Act.

“This is putting real dollars in people’s pockets,” said Dean. “I was very proud to vote for the inflation Reduction Act and these other bills…I’m really proud of a piece of the Inflation Reduction Act that reduces prescription drug prices for seniors. I’m really proud of the investment in our global climate crisis, the greatest investment of all time…the CHIPS Act that will bring manufacturing of semiconductors right back here.”

She blamed “multiple sources, including corporate greed, the supply chain problem, and a host of other things” for inflation.

Nascimento said, “I think it’s fundamental economics that if government spends more, inflation goes up. Prices get driven up. The inflation we’re facing now is a global issue. Part of it is being caused by supply chain hiccups we’re seeing across the planet and that has come from decisions we’re seeing in Washington and other governments to outsource our supply chain, mostly to China.”

“These prices aren’t sustainable,” Nascimento said. “Inflation is not sustainable for working families. What I would have rather seen done is more strategic efforts on these issues, which we could have addressed. But this massive spending, trillions of dollars of spending that passed in such a short amount of time, is absolutely going to create massive amounts of inflation. And part of the problem, infrastructure spending is going to be around for a long time.”

Dean said the Inflation Reduction Act does not just send dollars out but brings dollars in by allowing the federal government to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs for senior citizens and touted “an investment in IRS.” Constituents call her office every day with problems with the IRS that is underfunded, she said.

She also praised Biden’s release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while Nascimento panned it.

He said, “I’m concerned about it. The timing’s concerning because it’s designed to help influence an election. But technically, I think the Strategic Reserve is there for strategic reasons and I think we could have gotten there differently in how we talk to fossil fuel companies and how we treated some of the energy providers.

“If we increase production domestically, not forever…that can give us a path to strategically convert our energy to cleaner fuels. What we’re doing now is we’re making fossil fuel companies, the oil companies feel like they’re being under attack. They’re stopping production, which is what you would do if you see a government that’s heading in another direction. And then that sends the president over to the Middle East to beg for oil. And I think that’s a problem for the United States.”

On crime, Nascimento said he had been a victim of an armed robbery and mentioned recent school shootings.

Christian Nascimento

“First of all, we have to prosecute criminals,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to throw the book at everybody who has a minor offense. What we see in Reading, what we see in Philadelphia, we’re not prosecuting criminals. I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police in Montgomery County. What police officers are telling me is they’re afraid to arrest people because they know they’ll be out on the street the next day.”

“We ought to be putting policies in place to help support police officers and hold criminals accountable,” he said. “The congresswoman mentioned the IRS. If we’re going to spend money on federal employees…rather than the IRS, we should spend money on police officers and on teachers that can lift the people of the 4th and whole country up.”

Dean zeroed in on illegal guns.

“Frustrating to me, I’ve cared about the issue of gun violence my entire adult life,” she said, citing a recent shooting in Pottstown that killed two teenagers. “We have a problem with too many illegal guns. We have a problem of children carrying and using illegal guns. Sure, we have to prosecute. But we actually, as legislators, have an obligation to come to the table around gun violence.”

“When we passed universal background checks we couldn’t get support from the other side of the aisle…They constantly say crime is a big problem, but why don’t they come to the table and legislate around guns and illegal guns?” she asked. “So guess what we did? For the first time in 30 years, we Democrats and only a handful of Republicans passed the Safer Communities Act.”

That law outlaws straw purchases and bump stocks, she said. It adds $250 million for community intervention.

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The Oz/Fetterman Debate May Not Have Changed Many Voters’ Minds

Will the train wreck of a debate seal John Fetterman’s fate and send Dr. Mehmet Oz into the U.S. Senate?

Other than party loyalists, the reviews of Fetterman’s performance have ranged from negative to brutal. Philly-based public relations pro Larry Ceisler compared Fetterman to a “boxer who could not defend himself against a smooth ring veteran. It was an unfair fight.”

Chris Kofinis, a veteran Democratic campaign strategist, was blunt: “He should not have debated. Anyone on his team who agreed to a debate should be fired, or never work again, because that debate may have tanked his campaign.”

But does that mean Fetterman is finished? During a “hot mic” moment with President Joe Biden Thursday in New York, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was overheard claiming, “Looks like the debate didn’t hurt us too much in Pennsylvania.”

One reason Fetterman’s struggles may not cause as much political damage as feared is that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters had cast their ballots before the debate.

And if those early voters have second thoughts, there is nothing they can do about it.

Linda A. Kerns, a Philadelphia lawyer, said, “Once your county election office receives your mail ballot, you have completed the voting process and cannot change your choices. If you show up to the polls in person, you will not be permitted to vote on the machine.

“Candidates and campaigns reveal more about themselves every day. When you vote by mail a month or more ahead of election day, you do not have the same information as those who wait. We should all vote on the same day in November except if you are sick or away on business,” said Kerns.

Villanova lawyer Wally Zimolong said, “If someone votes early and regrets it, there is nothing the voter can do. Voting early and having buyer’s remorse is the consequence of rushing to vote early. There are many reasons to get rid of voting early but I do not believe protecting people from ‘buyer’s remorse’ is one of them.”

And even with Fetterman’s clear challenges as he recovers from a late-April stroke, some Democrats will still choose him. Several Democrats told DelVal Journal they would vote for Fetterman because he is the Democratic candidate.

Cheltenham resident Elyse Ozer Fels said she would never vote for Oz. “He’s an outsider and I bet he’ll leave if he loses. I felt bad that Fetterman had to struggle. I will vote for him and watch as he continues his recovery. His mind is intact. He just can’t say it yet,” she said.

Penn Valley resident Melinda Jo Muzi said, “The debate was disgraceful. Fetterman’s team did not prepare him properly. He should’ve refused to debate and take the heat rather than show up and look so incompetent. Nevertheless, I would never vote for Oz. Couldn’t the Democrats have found a better candidate?”

Robin Kolodny, chair of Temple University’s political science department, does not believe the debate will have much effect on the close race.

“The truth is that debates do not change many people’s minds. Ever. And by people, I mean committed party loyalists who always vote. These are also the people who vote early. If you already sent in your ballot, you are saying that there is basically nothing the other side can say that would persuade you to vote for them.

“Undecided voters have to decide what matters to them. If it’s Fetterman’s recovery (fitness), then they will turn away from him. If it’s Oz’s positions (on abortion or support for Trump in 2024), then they will turn away from him,” she said.

Joe Foster, a Democratic state committeeman from Montgomery County concurred. “I could be wrong, but I don’t believe so, that is, those committed to voting for Fetterman, I believe will still vote for him,” said Foster.  “That said, it will make for a much tighter race as those who are undecided may be uncertain for Democrats. But I also believe that Dr. Oz said a lot of things last night, and while he said them well, when the focus turns on those comments he will lose votes. Among a lot to pick from, will be his mind-numbingly bad answer on a woman’s right to choose.”

But other Delaware Valley residents said they believe Fetterman’s poor debate performance is disqualifying.

Charlotte Ross of Waynesburg commented via Facebook, “How can this man fight for Pennsylvania when he can’t form and speak a complete sentence? How will he be able to debate on the Senate floor and negotiate with other senators to work on issues? He can’t. This man needs time to heal.”

Also on Facebook, Tanya Wakula Siletsky said, “I think his medical troubles unfortunately have not ended. This is why you vote on Election Day and in person as we always did prior to 2020.”

Andy Wilcox, of Norristown, who suffered a stroke a few months ago, said via Facebook: “Speaking firsthand, Fetterman’s condition has improved to almost as good as it is going to get. After the first several months of dramatic improvement, the progress will almost come to an end and any stress will bring the brain injury to the forefront…His disability is going to be permanent and there is no closed caption in Congress. And he is going to be unable to represent the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

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Fetterman Dinged Oz Over ‘Mansions,’ But Faces Ethics Questions Over Property Holdings

In Tuesday’s Senate debate, Democrat John Fetterman dinged Republican Mehmet Oz about his “10 gigantic mansions.” However, Fetterman’s properties have also become an issue in the campaign.

A watchdog group wants the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate Fetterman for failing to report property on his financial disclosure forms, as required by Senate members and candidates.

The Fetterman campaign countered he was not required to report on properties that did not produce income. The discrepancy seems to hinge on different sections of the Senate ethics committee’s financial disclosure instructions.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, filed a complaint with the ethics committee that pointed to Alleghany County records saying Fetterman’s July 29 financial disclosure form did not report eight real estate properties that he owns.

But the disclosure laws and Senate rules did not apply to these properties, the Fetterman campaign contended.

“These properties don’t produce any income and are not investment properties, so John did not need to disclose them,” Fetterman campaign spokesperson Nicholas Gavio told the Delaware Valley Journal in an email. That statement has also appeared in other media outlets.

The campaign’s response is disappointing, said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.

“Homes or investment property, all real property is in one of those two categories,” Arnold told the Delaware Valley Journal. “There is not a ‘bought it just for fun’ category.”

The Fetterman campaign’s rationale would allow someone to avoid reporting stock or other investments that lost money, Arnold said.

“In the past, we’ve filed these complaints and candidates have said they didn’t understand or it was an oversight, and updated and amended their filing,” Arnold said. “Then it becomes a moot issue. Our hope is that candidates and senators will see complaints and take their ethical duties seriously.”

Property has been an issue in the fiercely contested Pennsylvania Senate campaign, as Oz had once stated he owned two homes, and The Daily Beast later reported he owns 10 houses. Oz responded that he reported the properties on his financial disclosure form. But the Fetterman campaign later attacked the doctor and former talk show host for being out of touch.

Senate ethics rules and federal law require Senate candidates to fully disclose financial information including assets, debts, and income as well as any position held. As for assets, FACT contends a candidate must report anything with a value exceeding $1,000.

“The Senate Select Committee on Ethics must act to ensure compliance with the most basic ethics requirements to maintain the public’s trust,” the complaint said. “Senate candidate Fetterman’s failure to disclose his assets and apparent failure to comply with federal law must be investigated and appropriate sanctions imposed.”

The Daily Mail first reported the ethics complaint last month.

The complaint quotes from the Senate disclosure instructions.

“Report the complete identity and category of value of any interest in property attributable to or held by you, your spouse, or your dependent children in a trade or business, or for investment or the production of income, with a fair market value exceeding $1,000 as of the close of the reporting period or from which you received or accrued unearned income in excess of $200 during the reporting period,” the disclosure instructions say on page 14. “You must report the value of each asset and the type and amount of income generated by each asset or received from each source.”

In fact, a few pages after the portion cited by the FACT complaint, the disclosure instructions seem to provide some cover for the Fetterman campaign.

“Generally, you are not required to report a residence if it is not used to produce rental income,” the disclosure instructions say on page 17. “If any portion of a personal residence or other real property was rented for any period during the reporting period, or if the property includes a working farm, ranch, mineral excavation, or other income-generating asset, the property must be reported. Other requirements may apply if the real property is held by a trust, LLC, or other entity.”

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As Fetterman Fumbles, Pundits Ask: Do Debates Still Matter?

NBC News reporter Dasha Burns’ revelation about Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman’s mental acuity has once again raised questions about his fitness for the job. It has also raised the stakes for his debate with Republican Mehmet Oz at the end of the month.

Burns, who recently interviewed Fetterman, received pushback from partisan members of the media when she reported that “in small talk before the interview without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.” Due to the impact of a stroke he suffered in May, Fetterman only agreed to the interview if he could use a computer monitor with real-time closed captioning.

For weeks, Fetterman refused to agree to any debates. Now, the Oz campaign says, he has pushed it back so late that weeks of early voting will have taken place before the voters get to take the lieutenant governor’s measure in a one-on-one with his opponent.

“John Fetterman will do anything to keep voters in the dark about his radical policies, even if that means delaying a debate until the last minute, lying about his health, and robbing voters of their right to hear directly from both candidates,” said Oz spokesperson Rachel Tripp. “If John Fetterman won’t even do voters the courtesy of answering their questions, why would they trust him to fight for them in Washington? Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who will answer tough questions and address issues head-on – Dr. Mehmet Oz.”

Fetterman pushed back on Twitter: “Recovering from a stroke in public isn’t easy. But in January, I’m going to be much better–and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud.”

Asked if he still plans to debate, Fetterman said, “Well, yeah, of course I’m going to show up on the 25th.”

Agreeing to a single debate is a sign Fetterman is unfit, his critics say. But in the post-Trump political era, do debates still matter?

Fetterman is hardly alone in avoiding debates this cycle. In Georgia, Republican Herschel Walker will only debate Sen. Raphael Warnock once, limiting the number of questions he is likely to face over allegations he paid for a woman’s abortion.

And in Arizona, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs is refusing to appear on stage with her GOP opponent Kari Lake even once. Not surprisingly, Lake is making an issue of Hobb’s refusal to give voters the basic courtesy of facing a nominee chosen by thousands of Arizona voters.

“I have no desire of the spectacle that she’s looking to create,” Hobbs told CBS News, adding that she is “happy with where we are.”

“Where she is” is trailing her Republican opponent by one point in the RealClearPolitics average.

And here in Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano is also a “no” on debates thus far — not that his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is pushing to make one happen.

On Dom Giordano’s Phil-based radio show earlier this week, Mastriano said he’s happy to debate Shapiro. He just doesn’t want to have to debate the liberal media, too. He used the example of Gov. Tom Wolf (D)  debating Republican Scott Wagner with the late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek moderating. Trebek interjected his own opinions into the debate, Mastriano said.

He wants a debate where he and Shapiro pick their own moderators to ask questions, without any media bias.

“All the media would be welcome and then there is no bias. They could live-stream it all, whatever they want to do with it. We just want a fair platform. Josh Shapiro could even bring Donna Brazile. She could give him the questions in advance like she did Hillary Clinton. I don’t care. As a (former) military intelligence officer standing before generals, presidents, prime ministers, and handling tough issues of life and death, this would be a piece of cake,” Mastriano said.

More and more, however, pundits question the value of debates.

According to Larry Sabato, who oversees “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, candidates can “get away with canceling debates without much of a penalty.”

Sabato told ABC News that debates over debates “have become a permanent part of campaigning, and most people just tune it out because it doesn’t affect their lives. It has no real impact on your campaign or your likelihood to win.”

New England-based GOP strategist Patrick Griffin has a similar viewpoint.

“In the days of yore, when I was a young political hack, debates were all the rage. Everyone studied and practiced, debate prep was a serious thing mainly because voters watched. A gaffe could be deadly. Catching that hitch moment and seeing replay in ads again and again created a win-or-lose destiny for candidates,” Griffin said.

Not today.

“This election, like so many in recent years voters are too angry and impatient to listen to what they consider to be bs from both sides. Nobody has the time or interest — except for about a third of Democrats and a third of Republicans already firmly rooted in one camp or the other,” Griffin said.

Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research and the Floyd Institute for Public Policy at Franklin and Marshall College, bemoaned the decline of debates but said he understands the political strategy.

“I think candidates for public office should engage in debates,” Yost told DVJournal. “It is not unusual for candidates who have a comfortable lead to try to avoid debating because they often feel they have more to lose than gain from them.”

Are these candidates right?

“Past experience shows that debates do not usually change the trajectory of a race, but I think candidates are less interested in debates because it makes it potentially more difficult for them to control the messages that emerge if they misspeak.”

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Fetterman Agrees to Oct. 25 Debate

After weeks of debate and recriminations, Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has agreed to debate his GOP opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz, on Oct. 25.

Both sides took the opportunity to slam each other in dueling press releases.

The debate, hosted by Nexstar television, was among the seven Oz had already committed to. His campaign noted that Fetterman’s only debate commitment is for a face-off that doesn’t take place until weeks after voters have begun casting mail-in and absentee ballots.

Fetterman was off the campaign trail for months after suffering a stroke and only began campaigning again in late August. He has had some stroke-related difficulties with speech due to what he calls “auditory processing.”

In a press release on Wednesday, the Fetterman campaign said the debate will be televised in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

“We said from the start that we’d do a debate, which John reiterated very clearly again last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” said Rebecca Katz, senior advisor to the Fetterman campaign. “While John will be debating Dr. Oz next month, Oz doesn’t have to wait that long to be honest with Pennsylvania voters about where he really stands on abortion. It’s a simple question, doctor: Would you vote for the Republicans’ national abortion ban, or would you vote against it?”

The Oz campaign, in turn, released this statement: “According to Nexstar, the Fetterman campaign asked for closed captioning during the debate – for the moderators and for Doctor Oz. They also asked for two practice sessions in the studio in Harrisburg ahead of time so Fetterman could be comfortable utilizing the closed caption system. All of the other debate rules are traditional and fine with us.”

According to its release, the Oz campaign asked for three things: “That at the top of the debate – a moderator explain to the audience that Fetterman is using a closed captioning system during the debate, to explain any delay between him being asked a question and responding.

“That the questions asked by any Nexstar employee during the ‘practice’ sessions for Fetterman bear zero resemblance to the actual questions asked during the debate. We are totally fine with Fetterman practicing with the closed caption system, but not with Fetterman practicing his answers ahead of time in conjunction with the moderators. The details of how this would be enforced are still being worked out.

And, “that the debate be extended from 60 to 90 minutes – because John will be on a delay, we believe that it would be unfair to viewers interested in the candidates’ positions to waste airtime while closed captioners type questions and answers.

“If those three reasonable requests are acceptable to the Fetterman campaign, then we accept the debate invitation on October 25th,” the Oz campaign said.

“Doctor Oz has accepted seven different debates throughout September and October,” said Casey Contres, Oz campaign manager. “Today, after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking, John Fetterman finally agreed to one debate…that was originally scheduled for October 5th. It’s a debate that Fetterman insisted be delayed until only two weeks remain in the campaign, to keep voters in the dark as long as possible.

“And it’s a debate in which Fetterman insisted on accommodations for his health condition, accommodations that are not permitted on the U.S. Senate floor. Doctor Oz looks forward to being in Harrisburg on October 25th to share his vision for a better Pennsylvania and America, and he is ready expose Fetterman’s record as the most radical, far-left senate candidate in America.

“Voters need to hear about John Fetterman’s radical record of supporting parole for violent murderers and not paying his taxes 67 times,” Contres said.

The debate will be shown in the Delaware Valley on WPHL Channel 17.

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DelVal GOP Senate Candidates Face Off in DVJ Debate

During a one-hour forum hosted by the Delaware Valley Journal at the Radnor Memorial Library, four GOP U.S. Senate candidates made their case to Republican primary voters as they vie for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat.

Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, and Sean Gale discussed issues ranging from local attitudes about energy policy to the international crisis in Ukraine as they took questions from DVJournal’s News Editor Linda Stein and conservative columnist Christine Flowers. Managing Editor Michael Graham moderated the debate.

The debate was broadcast by the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN).

On a majority of issues, like Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination, all four candidates agreed on policy. The real differences were on style.

Bartos, the 2018 GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, focused on Jackson’s crime stance.

“It’s clear that Judge Jackson is an activist and has a record of being soft on crime,” he said. “We see first-hand how weak leaders in Philadelphia have let us down on this issue. You can’t have that on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Barnette, a Fox News regular, was more adamant about Jackson’s claim not to be able to define the word “woman,” in the debate over public policy regarding LGBT issues.

“If she can’t define a woman, how can we trust her to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law?” Barnette, a political commentator, and veteran, said.

While Gale, a business and healthcare attorney, agreed with his fellow candidates on voting against Jackson’s nomination, he was more concerned about Republicans on the court and how they had let him down–a theme of his anti-establishment campaign.

“We have a 6-3 majority in the court, yet it seems like we can never win any cases,” he added. “It’s important that we hold these Republicans accountable and make sure they hold up the Constitution.”

Bochetto, an attorney and former Pennsylvania State Boxing Commissioner, took a lawyerly approach to the questions. He also noted his concern about identity politics and the high court.

“The entire nomination process is about nominating the person for that position, and I don’t believe Judge Jackson is the right person for that position,” he said.

The candidates also discussed abortion. All said they are pro-life.

Jeff Bartos, Christine Flowers, Kathy Barnette and George Bochetto

“Abortion is my number one issue and is one of the main reasons I got into politics,” Gale said. “It’s truly a stain on this country which is why I will be the most pro-life senator in the U.S. Senate.”

Bartos blasted Democrats for their stance on this issue and how they do not care about the sanctity of life.

“When you have 47 Democrats who voted for legislation on late-term abortion, they will have to answer many questions come election time this November,” he added.

Barnette and Bochetto said they realize the importance of voting against pro-choice legislation.

Bochetto shared the fact that he was abandoned as an infant and raised in an orphanage. “I wouldn’t be here today if Roe v. Wade were a law during my birth which is why I’m forever grateful that I could survive and thrive in the way I did,” Bochetto said.

Barnette discussed how her mother became pregnant after being raped at age 11. “Based on my experience, I truly believe that life begins at conception, and I will make sure to fight for that when I’m in the Senate,” she said.

When it came to discussing other issues, all the candidates agreed the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and has weakened the U.S. on the world stage.

However, criticism of the Biden administration did not stop there, as the candidates also attacked his border, energy, and infrastructure agendas. They raised their concerns that Biden has gone too far left and that his policies hurt families across the commonwealth.

A last-second topic was interjected after YouTube took down a video of last week’s GOP gubernatorial debate hosted by the Pennsylvania Family Institute. All four candidates agreed conservative speech is being targeted by Big Tech, though they disagreed on what the public policy response should be.

Gale was reluctant to see direct government control of private social-media companies, but he noted how tech companies were trying to have it both ways on the issue.

“The biggest hypocrisy we saw was with Donald Trump. (He) was sued for banning people from his own Twitter page. And they said, ‘You can’t do that. It’s a public forum.’ But then Twitter can ban the president of the United States from its entire platform. So there’s a major inconsistency there,” Gale said.

Barnette, on the other hand, urged aggressive federal action. “The overwhelming majority of our [exercise of] free speech, which is a constitutional right, takes place on social media. So for tech companies to be able to tell people, ‘Shut up, sit down, and do as you’re told’ doesn’t cut it. We need to be very firm on that.”

During their final remarks, the candidates told Delaware Valley GOP primary voters why they should be the Republican nominee.

“Our country is at a crossroads, and this November is when all Democrats will have to answer for their failures,” Bartos said. “I’m running to save Main Street and will be the only GOP candidate that can win.”

“I believe that the American family is the main focus of our campaign,” Barnette said. “If it’s good for the American family, I want to work on legislation that benefits them.”

“When I’m elected to the Senate, I will be a disruptor to the system and hold both sides accountable,” Gale said.

“This country is heading towards a terrible direction, and I have 45 years of experience in finding solutions in Pennsylvania,” Bochetto said. “I can bring those skills that are desperately needed in Washington.”

The Republican Senate primary will be held on May 17.

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DVJ Presents: A US Senate Debate By DelVal Candidates, for DelVal Voters!

Mark your calendars: The Delaware Valley Journal will host a debate for the U.S. Senate candidates from the Delaware Valley from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight March 29.

Four candidates who call the Delaware Valley their home have accepted our invitation to discuss issues of particular interest to Republican primary voters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties: Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto and Sean Gale.

Managing Editor Michael Graham, News Editor Linda Stein and conservative writer Christine Flowers will moderate the debate.

If you have a question about life in the Delaware Valley you’d like these candidates to answer, please send it to [email protected].

While the debate is not open to the general public, it will be broadcast and live-streamed by PCN. There will be a live link here at DelawareValleyJournal.com. Please tune in!