Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack likes a campaign idea advanced by a nationally-prominent Republican. Last week during a visit to Des Moines, former U-S House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it’s time to end presidential debates and instead, have 90-minute discussions between the two major-party candidates, like the famed Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Vilsack, who is mulling a bid for president, is intrigued. “I think his concept of a dialogue as opposed to a debate is a good one,” Vilsack says. “The reality of debates today is candidates are primed and prepared with canned responses and so you don’t get a sense of what they think about the direction of the country and the future of the country.” Vilsack says it would be an interesting experience to have a couple of candidates sitting around a table and having a discussion without the “interference” of questions. “I think people would find out who had depth and who had an understanding of the issues,” Vilsack says. Gingrich also suggested that Iowans could change the tone of the 2008 presidential race by insisting that campaign events be bipartisan rather than dominated by only one party or the other. Vilsack says that, too, is intriguing and might be worth testing during the 2006 campaign for governor in Iowa. “His goal, and I share that goal, is to reduce the rancor that is in politics today,” Vilsack says. The governor says it would be difficult to pull off, though, and might require an independent third party — like a media organization — to pull off a gathering of candidates from both major political parties.
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