Understand that Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s acceptance of four debates with opponents to her reelection signals definitively that she gets it that her prospects to return to Washington are in trouble.
Back in the good old days, debates – where candidates actually verbally sparred back and forth for hours, instead of rushing to drop in as many relevant sound bites as they can before hustling to the next question as these have become today – served a useful process for the politically interested who could spread this information to others that they otherwise could not acquire from any source. These days, the interested person pretty much can find everything and anything about a candidate’s issue preferences through watching plenty of television advertisements and/or reading mail pieces and/or (most comprehensively with views from all sides) making a few mouse clicks. The casually interested will pay no attention to these, unless something dramatic happens that gets reverberated through news stories and campaign communications forcibly delivered to their eyeballs, eardrums, mail boxes, and in-boxes.
For these reasons, as information about candidacies increased and became more easily disseminated over the past few decades, debates have devolved, from candidates’ perspectives, into going on patrol in a minefield. A candidate can do nothing on his own to derive any benefit from a debate; rather, he only can harm himself by saying something stupid that makes him look uninformed, ignorant, or “uncaring” enough to voters. Any debate participation produces gains only if one or more opponents make unforced errors that you avoid. In other words, it’s a gamble as to whether you won’t blow it to your detriment and if others do to your benefit.