One of the more memorable moments of the 2012 campaign came during the Republican National Convention, when entertainer Clint Eastwood decided to do a routine of sorts with an empty chair. To the great disappointment of the Romney/Ryan campaign, it didn’t go well.
Last week in Michigan, however, Rep. Gary Peters (D), his party’s U.S. Senate candidate, also appeared alongside an empty chair, and his stunt was far more effective. Peters’ point was to highlight the fact that his Republican opponent, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) refuses to accept any debate invitations (thanks to Ron Chusid for the heads-up).
“If a candidate isn’t willing, when they are running for office, to stand up and say what they are for, if they were elected, they would completely disappear,” Peters told voters.
Ordinarily, when a candidate refuses to debate, it’s because he or she has a sizable lead and doesn’t want to risk it by standing alongside a weaker rival. But in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land is losing – and she still won’t consider any debate invitations.
Jamison Foser flagged this Detroit News column from Laura Berman, who can’t quite figure out Land’s “no-show strategy.”
Terri Lynn Land’s no-show strategy for a U.S. Senate seat is a weird dare to Michigan voters: She’s gambling you won’t notice her near total disappearance from the campaign trail.While both Land and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, are bombarding the airwaves with commercials, it’s Land who’s trying to stay out of sight. Her campaign doesn’t advertise public appearances – if there are any – and ignores or postpones interview requests from journalists.Want to see flesh-and-blood Terri?“I’ll let you know if Terri has availability,” her press secretary, Heather Swift, emailed me last week, after repeated requests for an interview or notice of upcoming appearances with the former Michigan Secretary of State.
It’s one thing to duck debates, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a major-party candidate in a competitive statewide race literally hide from the public.
To clarify, this is not to suggest Land is quitting. On the contrary, the Republican campaign is still running plenty of campaign ads and, as best as I can tell, still hopes to be elected to the Senate.
That said, the GOP candidate is taking a non-traditional approach of limiting her interactions with voters, avoiding interviews with journalists, and skipping all the debates.
It may have contributed to the fact that the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners officially gave up on the Michigan race last month.
Adding insult to injury. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) re-election campaign recently said it “wouldn’t discuss” its relationship with Land’s campaign, and the two candidates have not campaigned together.