Dumb as presidential elections can get, I am sure readers know it can get a whole lot dumber in House contests, where there are few true “local issues” to liven things up and candidates are mostly running cookie-cutter partisan ads without the inconvenience of much media strutiny (not because reporters aren’t trying, but more because there just ain’t that many of them left outside the very biggest cities).

A good example is one of the most competitive House races in the country, in the 12th district of Georgia, where ever-embattled John Barrow, the last white Democrat in his state’s delegation, is being challenged by Republican state legislator Lee Anderson.

Now I think even Anderson’s closest friends would admit he’s not rhetorically gifted. Complete sentences, particularly those that involve facts and figures, sometimes seem beyond his ken. Indeed, the likelihood that he would get slaughtered in a debate with the incumbent was one of his Republican runoff opponent’s major talking points.

So instead of the usual challenger’s posture of eagerness to debate, Anderson has met Barrrow’s requests with “preconditions,” of the kind Republicans think you need to set when negotiating with the North Koreans or something. Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News has the hilarious details:

In politics, it’s usually the challenger who accuses the incumbent of ducking debates.

But in the 12th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. John Barrow says challenger Lee Anderson is shunning them.

Anderson, a Republican state representative from Grovetown, hasn’t refused outright, but wants Barrow to jump through two hoops.

He’ll “consider” a debate if Barrow first discusses on TV his recent tepid endorsement of President Barack Obama.

And, if spokesman Ryan Mahoney adds, Barrow says on camera who he supports for Speaker of the House.

“Barrow,” Mahoney said, “… is incapable of telling the truth to voters … and doesn’t deserve a platform to further promote his empty campaign promises and tired political rhetoric.”

Although saying he’ll answer questions about Obama and his choice for speaker during a debate, Barrow rejects Anderson’s demands.

And now Anderson’s campaign spokesman has issued this non-sequitur:

“Rather than apologize to seniors … for gutting Medicare, entrenched politician John Barrow issued a debate challenge.”

Wonder what’s next? Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests:

There is talk that Anderson is ready to heap on more requirements intended to even the debating field: Barrow would be required to shave his eyebrows, wear a clown suit with large red pom-pom buttons, and issue all his responses through a nose whistle.

But we have not been able to confirm this.

Sounds about right.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.