April 23rd, 2010

Candidate Dubie Reaches Predictable Tipping Point on Debate Avoidance; Diss To 7th and 8th Graders No Standard Diss

by Philip Baruth

Brian Dubie is famous for a few things, but most famous for a slack campaigning style. Credit where credit is due: that slack style has worked spectacularly well. Why would those two things both be true, and true simultaneously? Because while Vermont Democrats perennially make an issue of Dubie’s pronounced debate avoidance, the Vermont press corps generally does not. And of course that’s all that matters in matters political: how they are portrayed.

Dubie, hard at work

So when Dubie ducked a series of early debates with his potential Democratic rivals, we didn’t bat an eye. It was as business as usual as business as usual usually gets.

But when Dubie finally agreed to accept an invitation, so long as the questions would be posed exclusively by middle-schoolers, our ears perked up. Surely this would get him roundly mocked, and then pressured by the mainstream press to give primary voters due diligence.

But no. It passed essentially unremarked. Until now: Dubie has dissed the middle-schoolers too.

His campaign is making noises about a prior engagement with his family, but make no mistake: gubernatorial candidates place their feet very carefully, and if they refuse to place their feet somewhere, anywhere, it is because that place has been deemed a cost-prohibitive environment.

That is, the negative press from the middle school event could conceivably overwhelm the positive press. Hence now no Dubie.

But here’s the thing: the Vermont press corps knows that this has been Dubie’s style, and they know further that they’ve been at least partially complicit in the past on allowing the Lieutenant Governor to avoid head-to-head match-ups in front of voters. And they will want to make clear, VDB predicts, that this time out of the gate they will hold Dubie to the higher standard.

Which is to say that dissing the 7th graders is the tipping point, especially in that Dubie is running a series of Facebook ads touting the idea that he’s the front-runner.

A front-runner who won’t debate is a huge target, and rightly so. So expect some target practice, and relatively soon.

George Bush Jr. learned the hard way that you don’t diss librarians. Governor Schwarzeneger learned that you don’t diss nurses. And soon Brian Dubie will learn that even a sitting Lite Governor with no primary opposition disses middle-schoolers at his peril.

And high time too.

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