Cardboard Connie may have to make a comeback. In 1988, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Robert Merkle often brought along a life-sized image of Connie Mack III because Mack refused to debate him. Now the former senator's son is trading on his father's name and refusing to debate his Republican opponents in the U.S. Senate race.
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV was invited this week to a statewide televised debate co-hosted by the Tampa Bay Times and set for July 26. Mack immediately declined to participate, claiming it is clear he already has won the Aug. 14 Republican primary and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. Clear to whom? It is Republican primary voters who will decide whom they want to run for the Senate, not a lawmaker with a famous name and a modest record of public service.
Voters expect candidates to explain their positions and debate their opponents. On the way to clinching the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney participated in more than 20 candidate forums and debates. And there are three other credible Republican Senate candidates: former Sen. George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and former Rep. Dave Weldon. If Mack keeps refusing to debate them, get ready for Cardboard Connie 2.0.
Mack has time to reconsider, and his father could provide a history lesson. The former senator did debate his 1988 general election opponent, Buddy MacKay. And the Senate has long been regarded as one of America's great debating societies. Mack could use the practice.