The New York Times (at least their blog), has dedicated a little space to a proposed last-minute debate among third-party candidates. While the article does little in terms of actual reporting (they confirmed McKinney "will also be there, according to her website," without actually lifting a phone to call the campaign), it does do a great deal of speculating.
One such assumption is that "Mr. Barr has made it clear that he will only debate Mr. Nader and no one else." This, in keeping with the journalistic standards of a common Internet blog, was not attributed to anyone, or even checked with the Barr campaign.
Most likely, this assertion came from one of the event organizers. However, the event organizers’ displeasure with Bob Barr is a bit disingenuous.
According to the blog entry itself, official invitations for the debate just went out this week — mere days before the event is to take place. Given that the proposed event is intended to take place less than 16 days before the election, it is a little absurd to assume that candidates, in the peak of a presidential campaign, have time to drop all pre-scheduled activities and run off to New York for a hastily planned event.
The Barr campaign, which has a very fast paced travel schedule, had already made campaign commitments in other parts of the nation that can’t, and won’t, be dropped for an event that another campaign put together at the last minute without prior coordination. There is good reason why the Commission on Public Debates puts out their schedule well in advance; it gives the campaigns a chance to put it on their calendar.
Contrast that with the fact the invitations to this hastily conceived event are still in the mail.
All along, the Barr campaign has said it would be willing to debate any third-party candidate if the debate was going to be at the national level. Otherwise, the Barr campaign has a campaign plan and they are going to stick to it.
Scheduling a legitimate candidate’s time is a difficult job of juggling all of the media opportunities, thousands of requests for speaking engagements to motivate supporters all around the country, having to spend time fundraising and dashing off to catch a flight to the next city.
Poor planning by the people putting this event together cannot be covered up by accusing Bob Barr or any other candidate, for their inability to get to a specific city at a specific time that was chosen arbitrarily by one campaign.
It should be encouraging to know that Bob Barr has such a vigorous campaign schedule that he is unable to drop everything and head to New York at the whim of another campaign. Supporters should feel assured that the campaign is making a strong finish in key states.
We wish the event organizers the best of luck, and encourage them in the future to plan ahead and coordinate with the folks they want to participate.
Update 2: Ballot-Access News: Third Party Unlikely