By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The debate polling scandal

I’m not going to watch tonight’s Republican presidential debate. I think it’s the first one I’ll have missed. But I do want to offer a quick comment on the use of polls to determine who gets to participate, who gets to stand where, and even—informally—how much time gets allotted to each candidate.

It is, frankly, a scandal. To use national polls to determine who gets heard months before ordinary voters are paying all that much attention is an affront to democracy. OK, now we’re into the final weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. But this has been going on since last summer.

Moving to the kids’ table tonight are Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. Paul has been the only candidate to deviate from the belligerent stance on foreign policy favored by the rest of the field. His grasp of the issues had Marco Rubio sputtering like the well-prepped empty shell he is at the last debate. Personally I don’t think Fiorina adds anything, but no one has voted yet.

Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum—every one a current or former senator or governor—never made it onto the main stage.

At one time I believe there were 18 Republican candidates. If I were running one of the cable stations, I’d have gone with three debates on three consecutive nights, each one featuring six different candidates chosen at random. And why not? The cable nets literally have nothing better to do.

The devolution of presidential politics into infotainment is complete.

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  1. Chris Jones

    Sadly, I doubt the devolution into entertainment is complete. They haven’t tried game shows (Big Brother Presidential House, anyone?) or one on one combat sports yet. I agree with the coverage being a disgrace.

  2. Dan, I couldn’t agree with you more.

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