Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: The great blog debate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I’m thinking of having a debate, a debate between Maryland’s first-term, Democrat incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Republican newcomer Dan Bongino. As far as I know, it would be the first blog debate ever. Major newspapers in our market, including The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, and broadcast television have all but ignored the race since the primary. I think they’re planning on waiting until it’s too late for the newcomer to overcome the incumbent’s huge advantage with respect to name recognition and campaign financing.

For the record, ignoring both candidates, however equal that treatment seems, favors the incumbent. In any case, it’s hardly a fair fight. Maybe we can do something about this, level the playing field a bit, by having a blog debate.

First, and most importantly, do I call it a “blate” or “deblog”? What do you think? Nah. They’re both lame. Recommendations will be greatly appreciated. Nothing too vulgar, please.

I have the impression, perhaps because I would do the same thing if I were Senator Cardin, that he’s hiding, by which I mean that he’s avoiding debating his opponent. Why wouldn’t he? Even if he’s prepared to defend his record in the Senate, all he would be accomplishing by debating is giving Mr. Bongino badly needed exposure. Given that Senator Cardin’s record is, to be kind, less than stellar, given widespread dissatisfaction with Congress in general, the exposure he gives his opponent could just be enough to give Dan Bongino a razor thin upset.

To encourage the candidates to participate, I’ve decided to keep it simple. Tentatively, pending your comments and suggestions, here are the rules:

1. I’m going to send each candidate a list of 10 to 15 questions. (I have 13 so far. Maybe that’s too many?)

2. I’m going to ask the candidates to write their own answers. They can talk to whomever they want, as if it were an open book exam, but they should write their own answers.

3. I’d like written responses, strictly limited to 500 words per question – hopefully less – accompanied by a video clip (one clip for each answer) of the candidate reading his response. Both the written and video answers will be posted on the Next Contestant blog. I’m not kidding about the 500 word. I’m going to actually cut the written responses and edit the videos at the 501st word. (What do you think? Too restrictive?)

4. I’ll ask for very specific, substantive answers only, with a bare minimum of general, partisan rhetoric.

5. And I’ll insist that both candidates answer the questions I’m asking, and not other questions they’d prefer that I had asked. I want focused responses.

So far, I have 13 questions in mind. Actually, it’s only 12 since 2 of the questions are directed specifically at one candidate and then the other. Let’s get to the list, but first, I have a comment to make directly to Senator Cardin.

Hi, Senator Cardin. No question about it, the Next Contestant is an anti-incumbency blog. As you can see from the various articles I’ve written, I think you need to be replaced. It’s a free country. I’m sure you didn’t think everyone likes what you’ve been doing the past 5 plus years.

That said, I sincerely believe in giving everyone more than a fair chance to make his or her case. Maybe I’ve missed something. Maybe I’ve been unfair. No kidding. This is no trap. The questions aren’t loaded. (If anything, they are easier for you to answer as the incumbent than they are for your opponent who is a political newcomer.)

What this is, is a chance for you to argue the basis for your re-election, to put your responses side by side with your opponent’s, and let the voters make up their own minds. It’s something you’ve been doing for years, beginning with the Maryland House of Delegates, then as a Congressman and now Senator, very successfully I might add.

Thank you for agreeing to participate.

Copies of your responses and your opponent’s, written and video, will be sent to all major print and electronic media in Maryland.

How’s that? And now to the questions I’m thinking about asking. Please use the comment facility at the end of this piece, or email me your comments to Here we go, in no particular order.

1. Critical legislation: Pretend it’s just you introducing and passing your own legislation. What, specifically, would be the first 5 bills that you would deliver to the President for his signature?

2. Campaign financing: What, if anything, would you do to reduce the costs of running for office? To change the way we finance campaigns? To reduce the potential for moneyed interests influencing legislation?

3. Fiscal issues: What, specifically, would you do to reduce the budget deficit? Apart from the ongoing deficit, to reduce the national debt?

4. Social issues: Identify 5 social issues – issues not related to the economy or fiscal management – and what you believe the federal government should do about them.

5. Health care: What, specifically, would you do to improve the health care programs already passed by Congress?

6. Cooperation: What specific efforts would you initiate to effect immediate and material improvements to cooperation between the parties?

7. Employment: What, precisely, should the federal government be doing to help the economy put people back to work more quickly?

8. Congress: What is it about the structure of Congress, and the Senate in particular, it’s organization and procedures, that you would change to improve its effectiveness?

9. President Obama: What, during his first-term in office, has President Obama done right? What has he done wrong? Make yourself list 3 to 5 items for side of the question.

10. For Senator Cardin: List 10 specific reasons you deserve to be re-elected. Your list can include references to your opponent, Dan Bongino.

11. For Dan Bongino: List 10 specific reasons you deserve to replace incumbent Ben Cardin. Your list can include specific references to Senator Cardin.

12. The Campaign: List 5 questions you would ask of your opponent at a public debate?

13. One more. Ask and answer one question this questionnaire has omitted, but which you believe is important.

Okay, people. What do you think? Format? Specific questions? Help me out here.


-Next Contestant

Print Friendly, PDF & Email