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Rick Perry says there are too many debates. Is he right?

Well, yes. But not really. Rick Perry may well be right that, by historical measures, there are too many debates. But in this YouTube world, debates might be more crucial than ever.

By Staff writer / October 28, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry fills out his papers to be on the New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary ballot Friday at the State House in Concord, N.H.

Jim Cole/AP

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Rick Perry says there are too many GOP presidential debates, and that they’re counterproductive. On Fox News the other day the Texas governor told Bill O’Reilly that his participation in all these word fights might have been a mistake.

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“All they are interested in is stirring it up between the candidates instead of really talking about the issues that are important to the American people,” said Governor Perry.

His campaign says Perry is committed to appearing on stage at the next Republican debate, in Rochester, Mich., on Nov. 9. After that it will decide whether to participate on a case-by-case basis.

“There are numerous – 15, 16, 17 – debates, and we’re taking a look at each one and we’re making the appropriate consideration,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner on Thursday.

Is Perry right that there are too many debates? Or is this a baseless complaint, like Emperor Joseph II’s infamous criticism of a Mozart opera for having “too many notes”?

Well, Perry is simply saying out loud what many Republican operatives believe, for one thing. As Byron York points out, there are a dozen debates scheduled between Nov. 9 and the Florida primary on Jan. 31. Given normal holiday breaks, “that’s a lot of debates in very little time,” Mr. York writes.

We count a total of 21 debates overall between last August and the end of the primary season. Totals vary, depending on what you define as a “debate,” but by our total there were 17 debates in the corresponding time period in the 2008 presidential cycle.

So yes, there’s debate creep. Plus, the events themselves are becoming less PBS and more “X Factor,” with flashier graphics, more attention to staging and other production values, and a general amp-up of attempts to define distinctions between candidates.

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