Sheldon Whitehouse is limiting his debates with challenger Barry Hinckley

Sep 24, 2012

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse appears to be using a modified Rose Garden strategy in his campaign with Republican challenger Barry Hinckley, agreeing to a relatively sparse debate schedule.

Today’s Political Scene in the ProJo mistakenly reports that Whitehouse and Hinckley will square off in an October 30 debate sponsored by ABC6, the League of Women Voters, and RI Public Radio. In fact, Whitehouse has declined Rhode Island Public Radio’s repeated invitation to participate in a debate with Hinckley.

The word from the Whitehouse camp if that they’ve agreed to two debates. Prior to last week’s Rocky Point news conference, Whitehouse told me he had received about 15 debate invitations and couldn’t agree to them all.

This isn’t particularly surprising; incumbents tend to favor fewer debates, rather than more, to avoid handing their challengers an opportunity.

Still, critics could argue that more debates would serve the public interest. (Hinckley’s campaign declined to comment on the issue last week dropped a news release shortly after the publication of this post, saying that Whitehouse has not responded to the Republican’s invitations to a debate:

“Given the circumstances, I have personally sent our junior Senator a letter challenging him to a head-to-head debate.  I believe debates are the best way for voters to understand the distinct differences in the candidates and to best be able to make an informed decision in November.  But, apparently the Whitehouse campaign doesn’t agree” stated Hinckley.

“Over the past several months, there have been numerous candidate forums and debates across the state of which all of our congressional candidates have taken part of.  Evidently, Senator Whitehouse has mixed feelings about having his record questioned and having to answer the tough questions before the electorate.  Further, unlike a candidates forum, a debate allows for the two principal candidates to interact with each other – which is an important difference that allows voters to contrast the candidates” continued Hinckley.

As it stands, Whitehouse has a huge financial advantage over Hinckley, yet some say the GOP could ramp up its focus on the Democrat.

This post has been updated.