Overall a rather poorly moderated debate any way you slice it. Intent on driving cross-talk rather than creating equal opportunity for the Republican nominees to get their message out, Mitt Romney garnered nearly 28% of all the talking time allotted to candidates. For the 2nd debate in a row Ron Paul was denied opportunities (two on this occasion) to respond to criticisms invoked by his competitors and then was rushed in his final response.
Proving the ineptness of his moderating, David Gregory spent the first 13 minutes out of the overall 51 minutes of the debate talking about electability which created six rebuttals and used three follow-ups. There seems to be far more relevant topics than looking for ways to get the Reds to slice each other up. In the first segment alone Mitt spoke six times, Newt Gingrich five times, Rick Santorum four times, Jon Huntsman four times and Rick Perry twice, and the candidate running in second place in New Hampshire -- the location of the debate where Tuesday's primary is held -- Ron Paul? Once. He spoke once. How's that for relevant moderating?
Of course, Ron Paul only had six speaking turns overall for a grand total of 6:04 (mm:ss) and just under 12% of the overall allotted time. How in the world Jon Huntsman was allowed two more talking turns when he will be resigning from the race as early as Tuesday night is indeed a mystery. Perhaps his last rights? At least Rick Santorum has a case for gaining a heavy chunk of 21% of the total talking time with his recent coup in Iowa, even though he has as good of a chance of winning New Hampshire as I do, there's still a case to be made for him to have a platform for the moment.
Things will get interesting once Huntsman is bounced on Tuesday, and then Rick Perry -- who nearly shuttered after Iowa -- follows suit after South Carolina. Then there will be four, and I suspect Newt or Rick Santorum will not be viable for the long haul without money or a strong organization, let alone a message to rally around that doesn't include bombing your way to peace. Things will be slim by February, and scrutiny of the remaining candidates will be at their peak and then the nation will begin to focus on the real options: elect Obama's counterparts, or elect Ron Paul.
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