Both of Minnesota’s U.S. Senators are refusing to participate in any further televised debates but are still leading their opponents in the polls.
5 Eyewitness News invited Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) to participate in Sunday’s debates, which will also include the gubernatorial and attorney general candidates, but both declined.
“I have a couple debates scheduled in the coming weeks and I’m looking forward to those,” Smith explained, referencing two debates set to air on the radio. When pressed on the matter, Smith simply said that she has a “big complicated schedule.”
Her opponent, Republican Karin Housley said in a press release that she’s “extremely disappointed” Smith has “chosen not to participate in Sunday’s debate.”
“Minnesotans did not elect Tina Smith—and ignoring the very people we are asking for votes demonstrates an arrogance found far too often in career politicians,” Housley continued, noting that Smith was appointed to her position after the resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
Housley went on to criticize Smith for “denying voters the opportunity to see both candidates engage in a passionate discussion on the issues that matter.”
Smith’s campaign manager, however, responded to Housley’s criticisms by pointing out that the Republican also declined debate offers earlier in the campaign.
“Maybe you don’t remember, but Sen. Tina Smith agreed to debates in August and September, both of which Karin Housley declined, likely because she is unprepared on most issues,” Alana Petersen tweeted.
Sen. Smith’s campaign manager here. Maybe you don’t remember but @TinaSmithMN agreed to debates in August & September, both of which @KarinHousley declined… likely b/c she is unprepared on most issues—social security, health care, etc. See for yourself: https://t.co/XnUOt9Lapi https://t.co/vYwDmtoqo8
— Alana Petersen (@alanajpetersen) October 17, 2018
Klobuchar’s campaign also declined the invitation, first saying that she had a scheduling conflict with her Senate obligations, and then responded that she “will be in western Minnesota” on the day of the debate.
“Senator Klobuchar has canceled [seven] forums or debates including a KSTP statewide televised debate this Sunday,” Republican candidate Jim Newberger tweeted.
Senator Klobuchar has canceled 7 forums or debates including a KSTP statewide televised debate this Sunday.
KSTP-TV' s Tom Hauser tired to talk… https://t.co/NlTzrSbjaz
— Jim Newberger (@NewbergerJim) October 17, 2018
Political scientist Steven Schier said he has observed similar patterns across the U.S. in races where the incumbents already hold strong leads in the polls.
“When a candidate has evidence he or she trusts that they’re ahead they go into a stall strategy,” Schier told 5 Eyewitness News. “Four corner it used to be called in basketball. Where you just sort of freeze the ball and don’t give your opponent an opportunity to score points, and of course debates are an opportunity for that.”
According to an Oct. 14 Change Research poll, Newberger trails Klobuchar 41 percent to 50 percent, while Smith leads Housley 46 percent to 43 percent.
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