More than five million Americans tuned in to Saturday night's Republican Presidential debate.
Political pundits and media executives have expressed surprise at the increase in debate popularity--especially since there have been so many--10 to date.
Debates are increasingly important to the candidates, as they see that they can reach millions of voters through the free publicity that the debates provide, and lessen the need for paid advertising. Regular appearances in debates can also reduce some of the time, travel, and stress that come with retail politicking.
The debates can be an excellent way for the voters to get to know more about the candidates and what they stand for; but something that occurred before and after this latest debate has me concerned.
John Dickerson, political director for CBS News, which aired the debate, accidentally sent a copy of an email to the Michelle Bachman campaign. The email instructed CBS staff to "get someone else" for a post-debate online program, because Bachman was down in the polls and was "not going to get many questions" during the debate.
Dickerson was right, because according to the Project For Excellence In Journalism, Bachman got less time to talk during the debate than did perceived front runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich; and "good copy" candidates Herman Cain and Rick Perry.
Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman also suffered from a lack of attention from the moderators. On one occasion, after a lengthy period of being ignored, Jon Huntsman complained that he felt like he was in Siberia.
When called out about his email, and the unequal--and unfair--distribution of questions, Dickerson was unapologetic, and said he was simply being realistic and telling the truth about Bachman's dwindling chances for the nomination.
Dickerson's thinking is downright scary and dead wrong. All candidates who qualify for the debate; all candidates who are invited to participate; all candidates who are given space at a podium on the stage---all candidates, without exception, deserve equal access to the voters, which means equal time, and the same number of questions.
It's a dangerous practice to have any one person dictate whose views get the most time and attention in a nationally televised debate. One person should not have the power to decide who or what the public will hear.
It would seem that Dickerson has forgotten, if he ever knew, that John McCain, in the midst of his 2008 Presidential campaign, lost most of his staff, was nearly broke, was down in the polls, and was written off by the "experts".
John McCain, of course, went on to win the nomination.