Which Candidates Should You Hear From?

Thursday's Iowa caucuses will likely whittle the field of Presidential candidates, but it seems TV networks are already paring them down. Blog reader gg first alerted me to this a couple days ago, outraged that Fox was excluding Republican Congressman Ron Paul from an upcoming debate. Turns out, Fox isn't alone. ABC also plans to limit who will participate in a forum it has planned. The networks say they are looking at poll numbers and opting out of inviting those on the lower end. It's easy to understand the outrage if you support one of those candidates on the lower end. And who's to say those candidates don't have potential. Let's not forget that Mike Huckabee, for example, was polling in the single digits not too long ago. However, as one who's been involved in organizing local candidate and gubernatorial debates for our station, I can appreciate the predicament the networks find themselves in. The cable news channels have it a bit easier - they're all news, so I would think it's easier to say they'll devote two hours to a debates as opposed to the broadcast networks which would end up preempting an episode of CSI in a move that may anger a lot of viewers, not to mention lose them a lot of money. It's even trickier at the local level. We have only so much time of network programming that we're allowed to preempt and often can devote only 30 minutes to an hour to a debate. The more candidates you have, the more time it takes for each questions. The more time it takes for each question, the fewer issues you'll be able to cover. You could cover more issues by allowing less time for each question and little to no rebuttal time, but that can also be tough. If you've watched some of these early debates with eight candidates on stage, they're given only 30 seconds for some of their answers and no one can respond to a swipe from someone else. The internet could give us a solution to some of these problems. In the future, we could perhaps produce a longer debate, unlimited in length, strictly online. We could do long-form interviews with each candidate, major party and third-party, available for view on the internet. It's a delicate issue of balancing interests. What would you propose as the solution? All candidates, all the time? Do their need to be limits?
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