For political candidates, a newspaper endorsement can assist in garnering votes, but earning one requires meeting with a paper’s editorial board for a round of intense questioning.
These meetings and papers’ subsequent endorsements are something candidates usually squabble over, but recently, some candidates have foolishly dismissed their importance.
While it leaves their initial success unaffected, it may cost them the general election and, at the least, cost voters valuable knowledge about important candidates.
During the primary election season, both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, refused to meet with editorial boards in their respective states, with Perry now even refusing to debate his Democratic opponent Bill White.
Both see no use in meeting the editorial boards, as
they both won their primary elections without them.
However, this strategy may not work come November’s general elections.
Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said Republican voters tend to view the media as hostile, while swing voters tend to be influenced more by them, according to the Associated Press.
Swing voters can often turn the tide of any election.
Perhaps Scott and Perry fear meeting with the boards because of the intense nature of the questioning and what their answers, or lack thereof, will say about them, as many critics have claimed in advertisements and editorials.
“You’re meeting with a lot of very smart, opinionated people who are just not going to take any guff off of the candidate,” Mark Sanders, Republican political consultant, said to the AP. “You’ve got to be very, very well-prepared to go into an editorial board meeting.”
Opponents have a right to be upset.
Voters need to learn more about candidates than what is presented in short campaign attack ads, planned speeches and answers to questions that have been given in advance.
It’s troubling that Scott and Perry have so much political support from voters when they avoid chances to present more than just tired and empty rhetoric.
Perry argues that newspapers are becoming insignificant because of changes in the mass media landscape.
However, newspapers are still a popular source for information online, and evaluation of politicians is necessary and something that can never go out of style if American democracy is to work.
“One of the most important things in races is that people really know as much as they can about how somebody thinks,” Scott said to the St. Petersburg Times, referring to his planned debates with Democrat Alex Sink.
This is true. Perhaps Scott should heed his own advice. He and other candidates who wish to avoid the intense screening of editorial boards are doing their campaigns a disservice, as well as impeding transparency from voters and damaging the viability of America’s political process.