When I tweeted a similar argument last Friday, Romney’s strategist, Stuart Stevens, responded, “Debating improves debating. But 20 plus filled with process questions doesn’t help.”
True, over the course of the GOP debates, Romney made statements to appeal to a primary audience that were more difficult to defend during the general election. But this can’t be blamed on the debates. It gets to Romney’s inherent weaknesses as a candidate. The bottom line is that he had a moderate to liberal record as governor of Massachusetts, which included campaigning for and signing a law that was the model for Obamacare, so he had a lot of work to do to reassure a skeptical Republican electorate that he’d pursue conservative policies as president.
Walking the tight rope of trying to reassure the base while remaining a viable general election candidate was something that Romney was going to have to deal with no matter what.
To be sure, as a political reporter who has to watch every debate as part of my job, I’d be able to live with fewer debates. This is especially true given that in 2012, Obama ran uncontested, so the only primary debates were on the Republican side. In 2016, given that the nominations are going to be contested in both parties, there could be over 40 combined debates for the political world to digest.