Who says Mario Diaz-Balart is dumb? In an (uncharacteristic?) display of savvy, the incumbent GOP congressman in FL-25 is busy trying to avoid appearing on the same stage as Joe Garcia, his charismatic and articulate (in both English and Spanish) challenger.
Incumbents frequently don't want to do events with challengers, on the perfectly sensible (if selfish) theory that incumbency is an advantage, and sharing a stage just elevates the opponent. And, if the challenger's name recognition is low, a debate raises it more than do single-person events, so why go there.
The trouble is, of course, that the public likes debates, and often learns from them. So even the most cynical incumbent usually agrees to a few of them.
In the case of Mario Diaz-Balart, however, there's a lot of betting that he'd get his clock cleaned in a debate. So on the one hand, he comes in with low expectations, which can help him, but on the other hand to the extent that those low expectations are justified … well, it could be bad.
So it's not a surprise to read that not only has Mario Diaz-Balart refused Joe Garcia's invitation to do a series of non-confrontational joint events (where he'd risk looking bad even by comparison), but that now “Diaz-Balart is attempting to squirm out of his promise to attend a debate organized by Spanish network Univision on Wednesday, September 17, 2008.”
Better to have voters suspect you'd lose than to actually lose. Which if you think about it, is either not stupid…or very stupid if macho Miami voters decide you're … afraid.