Lincoln-Douglas debates are back in the news

Newt Gingrich thinks modern voters could benefit from an old-fashioned campaign staple:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Saturday that, if he wins the Republican nomination, he’ll challenge President Barack Obama to seven forums akin to the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Gingrich announced this intention while speaking at a presidential forum in Iowa sponsored by the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The former Georgia congressman described the 2012 election as the nation’s most pivotal since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln – a Republican – defeated three opponents, including Stephen Douglas, to capture the presidency.

Historian H.W. Brands, meanwhile, has written an op-ed piece questioning the value of such debates, arguing that success in these verbal contests doesn’t equal administrative ability.  Brands also believes that debates exacerbate political divisions by bringing extremism to the fore.

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