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Duckworth Ducking Debates?

Republican Peter Roskam sat across from an empty chair yesterday in Addison, Illinois, and he couldn't have been happier. The event was a debate hosted by the town mayor, and the extra chair was there for Mr. Roskam's opponent in the Sixth District Congressional race, Democrat L. Tammy Duckworth. But Ms. Duckworth never showed up, causing the Mayor to declare "It is insulting that Tammy Duckworth would refuse to participate in a discussion of issues important to our voters."

The Roskam campaign wasted no time in pouncing on Ms. Duckworth's no-show, emailing out the Mayor's comments along with a photo of Mr. Roskam sitting next to Ms. Duckworth's empty chair.

Attendance at debates is rapidly becoming an issue in this race. Ms. Duckworth has agreed to four debates with Mr. Roskam, but she has also turned down at least four other opportunities, citing "scheduling conflicts." Roskam Campaign Manager Ryan McLaughlin was quick to take advantage of that excuse, saying "Tammy Duckworth can find time to go to San Francisco for three days to raise liberal special interest money, but when it comes to talking issues with voters she apparently is 'unavailable'."

The flap over debates is welcome news for the Roskam campaign, which has been on the defensive since President Bush vetoed the stem cell research bill back on July 20. Mr. Roskam supports a full ban on embryonic stem cell research, and Ms. Duckworth has been aggressively using the issue to portray Mr. Roskam as out of the mainstream as well as to further tie him to Mr. Bush - something Democrats believe will be a potent strategy for defeating Republicans and possibly winning back the House this fall.