6 weeks ago we wrote about Democratic candidate Mike Gravel being excluded from a June 3rd New Hampshire debate sponsored by the Union Leader (UL) newspaper and CNN.
The UL and CNN stated that they excluded Mike Gravel from the debate because "Gravel is a 3rd tier candidate nut".
Or something like that.
As New Hampshire's chattering classes are scared silly that the Granite State is going to lose its first-in-the-nation status after '08 why in God's name would the UL exclude a legitimate candidate (a former U.S. Senator who has filed the correct paperwork, participated in at least 2 other high profile debates and who is fully on the campaign trail) from their debate?
The UL's decision to exclude Gravel (or at least not formally invite him to debate) seriously jeopardizes NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner's work to keep New Hampshire relevant.
If New Hampshire is the last true "retail" state where "unknown" candidates can compete on the strength of their ideas then a candidate who campaigns in NH must expect to be able to campaign in a Union Leader debate as well.
Otherwise you undercut the legitimacy of New Hampshire as a retail state.
Question to John DiStaso: How much of a "must-read" will your little column continue to be at the national level if New Hampshire's Primary gets gutted? Time for you to be nervous? Maybe get out on the campaign Trail? We're just saying.
Which brings us all the way around to yesterday's Union Leader editorial.
You've got to give the Union Leader editorial board credit - they are hemorrhaging influence and political clout but they still write as if it was the grand old days of the 1940s.
Yesterday's UL editorial actually had the stones to criticize Clinton and Obama for not participating in the same debate that the UL won't let Gravel participate in:
That is going to be the nature, we suspect, of what will be the longest presidential campaign ever. It is going to be different. It is likely to ebb and flow. It is likely, therefore, for the candidates to at times assume that the electorate is a lot more familiar with their campaigns and stands on issues than is actually the case.Like we said earlier. Stones.
New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary will again play a crucial role, but it also will change. The push by so many other places to crowd us out has already meant that candidates' time is more and more divided, with a lot of it being spent elsewhere.
The two best-known Democrats, for instance, draw big crowds when they are here, but that doesn't mean many likely primary voters are clued in on their positions or nuances thereof, the clarification of which will be crucial in this crowded and well-groomed field.So we can't fathom why Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are saying "no" to giving a wide New Hampshire audience the first real chance to see them in debate with other contenders here on Sunday, June 3.
We certainly hope that Obama and Clinton decide join the debate in June. INCLUSION is a good thing for NH's first-in-the-nation status.
Therefore, we think that the Union Leader should just shut its mouth on this issue.