My friend Larz raises a good point, noting that there are at least 54 people running for president, yet only a handful ever get invited to debates or covered by the media.
I’m not naive. Based on poll numbers, fundraising, experience and the conventionality of their views, I’d say there are only six plausible candidates for president: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards among the Democrats, and Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain among the Republicans. (Sorry, Governor, but the Republicans are not going to commit Huckacide.)
But why should we be screening anyone out before a single vote has been cast? What should the standard be? It seems to me that if a candidate is competing in enough states to win the nomination of either major party, then he or she deserves at least some coverage. How much? I don’t know.
Then there’s the perennial conundrum over what to do in the general election, when independent and minor-party candidates come into play. Again, it seems to me that if a candidate is on the ballot in enough states so that she or he could theoretically win the presidency, then coverage is warranted.
Should such candidates be included in the televised debates? I’d say yes. Maybe for the final debate you could restrict it to candidates who are pulling at least 15 percent in the polls. But I don’t see how you can exclude people until they’ve had a chance to make their case.