Monday is a double-header for Maryland gubernatorial debates.
The four Republican contenders are scheduled to meet in the studios of Maryland Public Television at 2 p.m. to tape their second televised debate within 48 hours. But viewers will have to wait until Friday to see it.
The three major Democratic hopefuls will convene in the same place at 7 p.m. for their final televised encounter before the June 24 primaries. It is scheduled to be broadcast live both on MPT and WBAL-TV in Baltimore.
For the Democrats, the stakes are particularly high.
They still have one more debate scheduled later this week — but it’s on the radio, which guarantees a smaller audience. Monday will be the last chance for TV viewers to see Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) share the same stage for a full hour. (Video of the radio debate, hosted by Baltimore’s WOLB, is scheduled to be streamed on the station’s Web site.)
Aside from the TV ad wars, Monday night could also be the last chance for Gansler or Mizeur to alter the narrative of a race in which Brown has emerged as the frontrunner — leading in polls and fundraising heading into the final weeks of the contest.
The format Monday night could make it more difficult for any of the candidates to throw knock-out punches. The candidates will be sitting on stools in front of an audience of undecided voters, who will ask questions along with MPT moderator Jeff Salkin.
Candidates have 90 seconds to answer — more time than in previous debates — so expect the hour to pass by pretty quickly, with a limited number of topics being covered.
The debate among the four Republicans — Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ronald A. George (Anne Arundel), Anne Arundel businessman Larry Hogan and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar — could sound familiar.
The same group gathered Saturday night at Salisbury University for a debate in which each vowed to cut taxes and chart a different direction than Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has during the past eight years.
The biggest challenge for the Republicans is getting heard in a state where Democrats enjoy a more than 2-to-1 advantage in party registration — and where the media treats the two parties very differently.
Saturday night’s GOP debate was televised locally on by the ABC affiliate in Salisbury but didn’t air statewide until Sunday, when MPT broadcast it at 2:30 p.m.. The hourlong debate was squeezed in between “50s and 60s Party Songs,” hosted by Chubby Checker, and “Earthflight, A Nature Special.”
While all of the Democratic debates have been broadcast live (including the one Brown skipped), the Republican debated tape at 2 p.m. on Monday won’t air until Friday night at 7 p.m. on WBAL and MPT.