The First 2012 Debate Approaches. Or Does it?

The 2012 presidential campaign is finally getting underway, in fits and starts.

But the election season really arrives on May 2, when the Republican candidates gather in Simi Valley, Calif., for a televised debate at the library of their collective hero, Ronald Reagan.

Or, maybe they won’t.

In the political world, the first presidential debate is a signal that the game has begun. But the fate of this year’s first debate, co-sponsored by Politico and NBC, appears to be a bit uncertain.

So far, with only about five weeks until the debate, most of the big-name potential candidates have not even said whether they are running. Most are remaining coy about their timing, but operatives regularly suggest that they could wait until later this spring to announce their candidacies.

Conversations with Republican operatives this week suggest that there is deep skepticism in the camps of several potential candidates about jumping into a televised debate so soon after getting into the race. And several Republicans said they were nervous about committing to a debate hosted by NBC if the moderator ends up being a television host with an acknowledged liberal bias, like Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews.

“Why declare, then set your candidacy back immediately if something goes wrong,” said one Republican strategist who asked for anonymity because he did not want to be seen as speaking on behalf of a potential candidate.

(UPDATE: The debate organizers have said it will be moderated by John Harris, the editor of Politico, and Brian Williams, the anchor of the “NBC Nightly News.”)

via The First 2012 Debate Approaches. Or Does it? – NYTimes.com.

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