The first debate of the 2012 election cycle — Fox News' Republican primary debate, scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday — has already been maligned for its lack of star power (no Romney, no Huckabee, no Palin), with few serious Republican candidates scheduled to participate.
Now the debate — which will include former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain, former CEO of the "Godfather's Pizza" chain — is facing another issue: being completely overshadowed by President Obama's visit to Ground Zero, four days after announcing the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
"You can't envy anyone who has to present him or herself as an alternative to the commander-in-chief just days after one of the country's most concrete military successes in years," TheWrap's Tim Molloy noted on Monday.
Also read: The Case of the Ill-Timed Republican Debate
You also can't envy anyone who has to present him or herself as an alternative to the commander-in-chief hours after Obama's historic, poignant laying of a wreath at the World Trade Center site to honor the families of the victims of 9/11.
What's more, the Associated Press and Reuters announced that they are skipping the debate because of “restrictions placed on media access.”
“The debate sponsors, Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party, will only allow photos to be taken in the moments ahead of the debate and not during the event itself,” the AP said in an advisory. “These are restrictions that violate basic demands of newsgathering and differ from other debates where more access was granted. Accordingly, the AP will not staff the event in any format nor will the AP disseminate any pool photos taken by another outlet.”
So, no wire service photos, no Republican stars, and a sitting president and slain terrorist leader dominating the news cycle — not the greatest start to the G.O.P.'s 2012 campaign.