Two Barrett-Walker debates? More like a buck and change. | Wis.Community

Two Barrett-Walker debates? More like a buck and change.

Tom Barrett sought four televised debates with Scott Walker before the June 5 recall election, and that seems reasonable considering how unprecedented and contentious the campaigns and issues. Walker turned around and agreed to two debates. But it's not really two. It's one, or, at best, one and a third. Because thanks to stilted formats, there's typically very little actual one-on-one debate going on in a modern campaign debate, at least not in the classic sense of a formal debate -- you know, Lincoln vs. Douglas, that sort of thing.

Tonight's debate is being served up by WISN-TV (Channel 12), the Hearst-owned ABC affiliate in Milwaukee. The debate is also being streamed on the station's web site (see more, below), as well as Milwaukee's WUWM-FM (89.7) public radio outlet, and online at  . The debate also is scheduled to air on several other TV markets in the state including Green Bay and Madison. It will begin at 9 p.m., which may be too late for many voters, and as best we can determine, it won't appear on nearly as many outlets as the first debate. UPDATE:  . Video will air tomorrow on CSPAN.

Added up, that means a lot of voters aren't going to find the debate, even if they are aware it's happening. And this face-off could be better than the first, given all that's happened in the intervening days. So score a small tactical point for Walker. Relative obscurity is likely to be one of the few gains Walker has made this past week, which otherwise hasn't gone particularly well for him.

Still, it hurts Barrett not to gain more exposure, especially given his funding lag and the tightening race. But that's how things go in the Republican-driven political reality. Knowledge is power, and Republicans tend to like to keep stuff to themselves.

Walker can only screw up at this point, not gain very much ground, so it's better, in his team's mindset, not to be seen or heard at all. Close to the vest. A limited, modified hang-out. Zippered. Heck, Walker's even going Romney more and more, changing his story from day to day, as he did this week on vote fraud (he agreed with the national GOP chair that Wisconsin votes include 1 or 2 or 3 percent fraud, but quickly backed away from any hard number when critics noted how ridiculously large and unproven that claim is).

Of course, newspapers and broadcast outlets statewide will cover the debate after the fact, but there's nothing like the immediacy of a live event. Channel 12 staffer Mike Gousha will host, and he's not been shy about asking tough questions. But it'd be good if he allowed the two candidates to engage each other directly. Let's watch and see if he follows normal form.

Here's the WISN lowdown on tonight's debate:

Turn to WKOW in Madison and WBAY in Green Bay to see the goings on in those respective cities. Check local listings in other communities. This thing hasn't been well publicized, which is a pity, especially if you think Barrett -- armed as he is with even more damaging information -- is going to go two for two.


May 31, 2012 - 4:48pm