It makes sense for the moderators to apportion the time with some regard to the polls! One-percenters are lucky to be included in the debate at all, especially this late in the game, when they've proven, over the weeks, that they are not gaining ground. Huntsman's poll numbers are flatlining.
This was a prime-time network debate. It wasn't wrong, at this point, to use some approach other than egalitarianism. They had equality of opportunity at the start of what has been a long series of debates. At some point, meritocracy kicks in. The people have shown they're most interested in comparing a set of 4 or 5 of the candidates to each other, and those on the outs should be grateful that they're given a shot at all.
The question isn't why is Huntsman getting so many fewer questions than Romney/Cain/Perry/Gingrich. The question is why is he getting so many more questions than Thaddeus McCotter?
And here's a news report revealing that CBS consciously chose poll-based proportionality. The Bachmann campaign got its hands on some internal CBS email:
In the email string, CBS News’ political analyst John Dickerson said that Bachmann was “not going to get many questions during the debate and she’s nearly off the charts,” a reference to the Minnesota congresswoman’s low standing in the polls....It's a level playing field if you view the game as beginning months ago! You had equal opportunity at the outset, but you've been doing poorly, and it's a meritocracy. Playing the "fairness" card now makes you sound like a liberal arguing for affirmative action... in a situation where there was no deprivation of opportunity at the outset.
“There’s nothing that can be done now. The debate’s over,” [Bachmann spokeswoman Alice] Stewart said. “They assured us prior to debate that it was going to be a fair and level playing field and it certainly wasn’t. We didn’t want to have to get the word out but they made it clear to us that it was going to be fair and it wasn’t.”
Paul’s spokesman Jesse Benton accused CBS of “disgraceful” actions that stemmed from an “arrogance” in thinking that “they can choose the next president.”Now, Paul does deserve attention, for the reason stated. But I think he got some great openings last night. He had the chance to distinguish himself as strongly opposed to all torture (defined unstingily) and to all undeclared wars. But he only had 90 seconds total, and so something beyond poll-based proportionality infused CBS's decisionmaking.
“Ron Paul consistently polls among the top three in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire,” Benton said in a statement. “He is polling in double digits in most respected polls.
After the moderator Scott Pelley defended CBS's choices:
“I’ll tell you that the time for all of the candidates was limited. We had an hour and a half. We had eight candidates... I’ll also tell you we spent an enormous amount of time, several weeks, counting all of the questions of all the candidates, making sure everyone had a fair shot. Gov. Huntsman, who is polling around 1 percent at this point, made a point of coming up to me on stage and said, ‘I really appreciate how much you talked to the candidates who are not polling very high in numbers.’ So I think the candidates felt they were well treated.”Oh, is Huntsman gunning for a network job? He's clever. Sucking up like that.
IN THE COMMENTS: Irene said:
A clever politician like Huntsman should know better than to joke about Siberia.
What if he had said "Nazi camp" instead?