The final CNN debate, scheduled for March 1 in Georgia, has fallen apart. Mitt Romney’s campaign announced today that he wouldn’t join the debate. Ron Paul quickly announced he’s out, too, as well as Rick Santorum. CNN cancelled the debate after the pullouts, announcing, “Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate.” Newt Gingrich didn’t pull out, but he can’t monologue on CNN, as much as he would like to.
There’s a good political reason for Romney and Santorum to pull out: they have nothing to gain. Santorum is running far ahead of where he thought he would be at this point in the race; Romney doesn’t want to give Santorum any more ammunition. Ron Paul would rather spend time fundraising and wearing tinfoil hats.
The big question is: now the debates don’t matter? For months, all we heard was that debates were the best way to select our candidates. On that basis, we ousted Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Now debates have taken a backseat to basic campaigning.
We’ve seen all we’re going to of the candidates in situations where they have to answer tough questions. Now it’s seemingly up to the Super PACs and the media to decide the narrative.