MYRTLE BEACH — Tom Rice and Gloria Tinubu will face off for their final debate along the Grand Strand on Tuesday, and chances are good that most, if not all, in the audience will know where each of them stands in their contest to see who is the first representative for the state’s new 7th District.
It was, after all, less than a week ago when the two shared a stage at Myrtle Beach High School for their first debate and it’s unlikely either will broach a new favorite topic at Coastal Carolina University’s Wheelwright Auditorium.
Nor is it likely that many at the event will be undecided over where their vote will go. So that puts pressure on those questioning the candidates to give those in the audience and viewing on television something worthwhile.
John Sweeney of the Florence Morning News, one of three questioners Tuesday night, says he hopes to be able to reveal the way a candidate processes problems.
“Can we see how this person’s mind works?” Sweeney characterized the approach.
He said it can be difficult to get the discussion to that level when trying to stay topical, but maintained it all depends on how the question is asked.
For instance, he said using the presidential race as an example, rather than asking questions what they think about the situation in Libya, the questioner could ask candidates how they would respond to a conflict or attack. The question needs to be broad, he said, but the lead-in to them specific. Sweeney, and The Sun News’ Dan Golden, another of the questioners, said they formulate their questions for such debates based on what they think voters want and need to know.
WBTW’s Brie Jackson, the third questioner in Tuesday’s debate, could not be reached Monday for comment.
Golden said he knows that some information will be the same that people have heard previously from Republican Rice and Democrat Tinubu, but he will hope to overcome that by asking for more details.
Golden said he thinks most people know how the two think on the top issues, but he’d like Tuesday’s debate to be able to highlight their differences to help the undecided decide or maybe even switch the positions of some of those already decided.
“There’s always a chance [the candidates] will say something that makes a person think, pause, and perhaps change their decision,” he said.
Both Sweeney and Golden acknowledged that Rice and Tinubu are adept at turning any question toward their talking points. While this might mean the candidates don’t really answer the questions given them, both said it can be hard to stop that from happening in the time-constrained format of a televised debate.
It wouldn’t be fair to the audience to spend the entire debate trying to get a candidate to answer a question, both said.
Sweeney said that if there is enough time remaining for a given answer, he’ll diplomatically tell the candidate that he or she didn’t quite address the question and ask them to do so.
He said that the audience is smart enough to know when candidates are blatantly ignoring questions, and believes there is no need to call attention to it.
“The problem comes,” he said, “is that people accept it.”
Golden said he plans to at least point out to candidates and the audience if they fail to address what was asked of them.
Golden said he thinks one of the failings of local debates is that they lose sight of what the office is. For instance, what a new member of Congress can do to create jobs locally. Many of those decisions, he said, are made for the entire nation rather than a single region.
“I think sometimes we lose sight of that,” he said, “and think ‘What are you gong to do for me?’ ”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.