We noted yesterday that KARK-4, with a splashy assist from NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, is putting the pressure on Sen. Mark Pryor to accept a debate with Rep. Tom Cotton on the network. Cotton immediately accepted the KARK debate while Pryor has been non-committal thus far. Meanwhile, Pryor has accepted a debate hosted by AETN (which would also feature the Green and Libertarian candidates), which Cotton has thus far not agreed to join. 

This is an issue, of course, on which both candidates are taking the moral high ground, with no consideration to the narrow considerations of campaign strategy! Here’s Team Cotton: 


This marks the seventh debate invitation that Cotton has accepted during his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Senator Pryor has until Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. to accept or decline the invitation from KARK-TV. The debate would be broadcast statewide on all of the Nexstar Broadcasting stations and reach approximately 1.5 million households. 

Unlike the only other head-to-head debate that Senator Pryor has accepted, the KARK-TV debate would not have any topic limitations. Senator Pryor spcifically rejected the inclusion of foreign policy in a debate proposal from the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. His campaign tried to deny that fact, but was exposed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after emails were released showing the Pryor campaign specifically rejected any discussion of foreign policy in the debate. 

Here’s Team Pryor: 

[Q]uestions linger about why Rep. Tom Cotton’s campaign — after months of bluster — still hasn’t agreed to participate in the longstanding tradition of debating before AETN’s statewide television audience.

Earlier this year, Cotton and his campaign crowed repeatedly to the media about their willingness to debate anytime, anywhere and in any format. Hearing the offer, Pryor agreed in July to two statewide televised debates, and he has remained eager to meet Cotton at both venues to discuss the issues most important to Arkansans.

The Oct. 14 debate sponsored by Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce will feature both candidates squaring off head-to-head for one hour on domestic policy issues. The longer AETN debate in Conway, which Cotton has yet to accept, will include third-party candidates and cover both foreign and domestic policy questions, as determined by a panel of three Arkansas journalists and veteran moderator Steve Barnes. 

The Cotton campaign has publicly offered no compelling reason not to do the AETN debate. The Pryor campaign has publicly offered no compelling reason not to do the KARK debate. 


What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the world’s most boring game of chicken. 

postscript: The only other major candidate not to accept AETN’s offer is Secretary of State Mark Martin. Why? I’ve asked his campaign, will update with a response if I hear back.