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Virginia Gubernatorial Contenders Debate How Many Debates To Have

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Could Virginians sit through 15 debates? Cuccinelli thinks so, but McAuliffe disagrees.
Gage Skidmore:mhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/6238582161/
Could Virginians sit through 15 debates? Cuccinelli thinks so, but McAuliffe disagrees.

In Virginia, Republicans and Democrats are debating the debates in the race for governor.

Back in 2009, candidates for governor participated in four debates. This time around, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe called for five debates.  But Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli disagrees. Instead, he's calling for 15 debates, a tactic his supporters are calling a political stunt. 

"I think a lot of people were watching it online, which, you know, how many people were actually doing that who weren't just political junkies? For the average person, were they really going to be paying that close of attention?", asks Geoff Skelley, an analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Will people voters stop paying attention after the third debate? Who will still be watching by round 13? Nobody knows because no one remembers Virginia gubernatorial candidates ever engaging in that much public discussion. University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says it's a tactic that appears aimed at diluting controversial statements by other Republican candidates.

"There are plenty of Republicans who do not link the KKK and Planned Parenthood in the same sentence. Even pro-life Republicans," he says, referring to controversial statements made in the past by lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson.

Farnsworth says that Jackson's statements are likely to be part of the discussion  regardless of how many debates Cuccinelli calls for.

The first gubernatorial debate of the season, hosted by the Virginia Bar Association, is scheduled for next month. 

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