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Are debates headed toward extinction? Voters in several key states won’t get a debate before midterms

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More than 5 million people have begun to cast their ballots in the 2022 midterms, but voters in a number of battleground races won’t get to hear their candidates debate the top issues before completing their ballots.

In key gubernatorial races, candidates for governor in Arizona, New York, and Pennsylvania have yet to formally debate their opponents.

In Arizona’s gubernatorial race, Democrat nominee Katie Hobbs has flat out denied debate requests from her Republican opponent, Kari Lake, refusing to take part in the ‘circus that insults and embarrasses Arizonans,’ according to a Hobbs spokesperson.

In New York, after months of sparring over debate logistics, Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., and her GOP challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., will debate on Tuesday, though Zeldin has demanded Hochul ‘come out of hiding’ in a recent letter to her campaign demanding that she agree to additional debates.

On the Senate side, 58% of Senate races have still not held a debate — only 15 Senate races have hosted debates so far, according to a FiveThirtyEight report.

As Senate candidates enter the final stretch of their campaigns, there will be eight more debates throughout the final three weeks of the midterms — 52% fewer debates when compared to this stretch of time in the 2018 midterms.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats, and her GOP challenger, Adam Laxalt, have been suspended in a stalemate over debate logistics, each blaming the other. Nevada could determine the balance of power in the Senate, however, with a little more than two weeks to Election Day, it’s likely it will be the only battleground race not to hold a debate.

In past years, candidates typically debated at least once, usually holding two to three debates throughout the entire election cycle, according to FiveThirtyEight.

These days, it is more common that voters will only get to hear their candidates debate on major issues one time. Of the battleground Senate races this cycle, only Ohio and Wisconsin have had more than one debate.

While some campaigns and polls have suggested that voters’ minds are largely already made up, with or without a debate, Democrat pollster Mark Penn says debates make a ‘real difference’ and allow voters the chance to see candidates ‘react in real time to situations largely out of their control.’

‘Just last cycle, for example, Mike Bloomberg got knocked out of the presidential contest by a debate,’ added Penn. ‘Trump in 2016 rose after each debate. They count.’

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