Debates over debates are a ritual in political campaigns. Who asks the questions? How long for rebuttals? How high the podium?
The debate in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race hasn't even gotten that far.
Negotiators for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis have yet to get to the table themselves.
Hagan laid out her debate plan in a May 29 letter to Tillis. She proposed accepting a request for a televised debate from the N.C. Association of Broadcasters.
"Once this debate has been finalized," she wrote, "I look forward to setting a productive and mutually agreed upon public debate schedule with mainstream media and moderators with ties to North Carolina."
On Thursday Paul Shumaker, Tillis's debate point person, emailed his counterpart Jim Phillips proposing a meeting to establish a schedule of debates. At least a half dozen other groups have asked to host one.
"The Tillis Campaign sees this process as one that is much larger than just finalizing debate details with the N.C. Broadcasters Association," he wrote. "In fact I assumed that as a seasoned political veteran you would see the value of a planning process that finalized a complete debate schedule through an inclusive process with all the organizations rather than an exclusive process with just one."
Phillips responded Thursday afternoon.
"It's clear we all agree that we need a spirited and productive public debate schedule like we proposed in our initial letter... Based on my experience negotiating debates in the past, I believe we will have the most effective process if we sit down with the Broadcasters and come to an agreement on all the many details involved in setting and conducting a debate. The first step will make it easier to determine the rest of the public debate schedule."
Shumaker says voters deserve many chances to the differences between the candidates, especially in a pivotal election nationally. He thinks Hagan is trying to avoid that.
"It appears this is about her trying to avoid multiple debates," he says. "We don't want an exclusive process where we're showing favoritism to one group over another."
There's no debate-ducking, according to Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.
"We're open to as many as it takes to make sure voters have the opportunity to see the contrast between her record of putting North Carolina voters first and Speaker Tillis's record of putting special interests first."