In the category of What Are They Thinking?: all the principal Republican presidential candidates have decided to skip a major televised debate next week on minority issues. The absentees will be noted by nameplates at empty lecterns, and some party leaders warn that the perceived disrespect will prove costly at the polls.
Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is urging the candidates to reconsider their rejection of the debate on the PBS network and "lay out their vision," according to The Washington Post. Jack Kemp, the party's 1996 vice presidential candidate, is more blunt in his dismay: "What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?"
The candidates insist that their absence next Thursday is dictated by scheduling conflicts. But it's important to note that the invitation to the debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore was sent out in February. "Baloney," said Newt Gingrich of the scheduling excuse, warning of the "enormous error" in ducking the event. The Democrats' comparable debate at Howard University in June was attended by all the major contenders.
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