A top Tennessee political analyst says he is not surprised that three of the four candidates running for the Republican nomination for governor dropped out of a final statewide televised debate scheduled for this weekend.
“My assessment is that I would guess is the debate was not going to move as many votes as [the campaigns] targeting where they need to move them,” said Steve Gill of the Tennessee Star, who has been a longtime conservative commentator familiar with all the campaigns.
He adds that a final debate a week-and-a-half before election day on August 2nd, and well into early voting that began last Friday, may not be seen by campaigns as the place to move voters.
Or if some candidates go after each other on stage like they have with recent negative ads.
“Who gets the benefit of that?” asks Gill. “Because the attacker is going to lose a few points and the person you are attacking is going to lose a few points–where do they go? And in these debates that is the big question mark as well. If I do well in the debate, who else moves up with me?”
Like most analysts inside and outside of the campaigns, Gill agrees the race is very close between Diane Black and Randy Boyd at the top with Bill Lee nipping at their heels and Beth Harwell still in the picture.
“People are going to be voting on who they like and that impression they get, that image they portray,” adds Gill. “That dictates a lot more at this point than where they are on the issues because most of them are relatively close on the issues and they are trying to create distinctions that may not be as big as their television ads portray.”
All four of the candidates stressed they have taken part in numerous forums and debates across Tennessee prior to the cancellation of the event Sunday.