"The Republicans have let this become the reality show of presidential politics," said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina GOP. "We've let it be driven it by people who don't like us. We've had debates with people who don't like us. It's obvious when you see the questions, it's obvious when you see the bent of some of these debates. For that hour and a half of earned media, we have let the drive-by shooting of the liberal media come after our Republican candidates unfettered. And that really is the tale of this election cycle."
While it's true that there have been way, way too many debates—oh, God, have there been too many debates—the networks (including notorious "gotcha" liberal news organization Fox News) and numerous sponsors (including famous drive-by Democrats the Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots) have been encouraging them because of the high ratings. (And from the media's perspective, the fact that a debate can power two or three spins of the old 24-hour news cycle with endless lame-brained analysis and recaps doesn't hurt, either.) But the point is that somebody wants to watch these goddamned things, which means that arguments against debates are arguments against an informed electorate.
But there's more to it than that. Perry's "Oops" moment and lackluster debate performances undeniably killed his campaign. But those weren't his only mistakes. The man proved to be a terrible candidate on a national stage: He had no stage presence, no rapport with voters, no substance, and no control over his own organization. Blaming Perry's exit on the debates is like blaming Amy Winehouse's death on that one last glass of alcohol: Doom was engraved in the man's DNA.