Santorum/Romney Debate Would Devastate the Republican Party

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Rick Santorum has challenged Mitt Romney to a one-on-one debate, according to ABC News. Santorum wants the special debate to point out why he believes Romney is a "weak" candidate. While the candidates hold significant leads over Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, it is not time for a one-on-one debate. As a political scientist, I would see this type of debate as a dangerous move for the Republicans.

While on "This Week," Santorum pointed his belief that a private debate between the Republicans will show how he is the better candidate than Romney. The former senator believes a private debate would expose the "weak" record of the former governor.

A one-on-one debate would not only disenfranchise Paul and Gingrich, but their supporters as well. One of the greatest criticisms of the GOP is the disorganization of the party and the inability of conservatives to support a single candidate at this point. Excluding 50 percent of the field in a debate would show the GOP's willingness to ignore part of itself in the choice of a frontrunner and undermine the primary process. It would also strengthen the divisional criticism against the Grand Old Party

Paul and Gingrich share 179 delegates, according to the New York Times. This is 19.3 percent of the 926 delegates won to this point. How are the supporters of these candidates going to feel in November about being cast aside for a debate between Santorum and Romney? Could they decide not to vote in November? Could these forgotten conservatives decide to vote for President Barack Obama as a way to get back at the Republicans who wronged them?

The time for a one-on-one debate between the two top candidates should not be held until just before the Republican Convention or once Paul and Gingrich have officially left the field. The Republicans will never be able to prove unity as a party if they take an apparent action to disqualify the interest or votes of 19 percent of the GOP. Unity will only happen when the party allows all groups to share a voice and this will not happen if certain voices are not allowed to speak. The Santorum/Romney debate should not happen yet.

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