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Opinion: Bachmann, Paul and Huntsman Unfairly Excluded from Debate Questions

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Think what you will about Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann or Jon Huntsman, they all have a legitimate point in their complaint that they were deliberately left out of the CBS debate on Saturday night.

The problems began early in the day. Dave Weigel reports, in an unfairly titled piece "Michele Bachmann wants special treatment": "At 2:42 p.m., [Bachmann's press handler Alice Stewart] was accidentally cc'd on a planning email from [new CBS News's political director John Dickerson], about a Bachmann availability tonight.

"Okay," he wrote, "let's keep it loose though since she's not going to get many questions and she's nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else.""

Weigel takes issue with the release of the email at 10pm, in a Facebook posting from the Bachmann campaign, which implied the email was received while Bachmann was onstage. Still, whatever the language used by the campaign to release the email for maximum impact the fact remains that Bachmann, and the other non-frontrunner candidates were unfairly treated.

Following the debate Ron Paul supporters complained that he only got 89 seconds to speak while Jon Huntsman's daughters tweeted: "Does anyone find it weird that the only candidate with FP experience on stage was given two minutes? There are no words. Disappointed CBS."

They are all right.

It's one thing to use poll numbers to decide whom to invite to a debate. We need some sort of metric so that we don't have 400 candidates on a debate stage. But once the candidates are on the stage it's not right to exclude them from the questions based on these poll numbers. This kind of action may actually impact those polls. Standing next to the people the network has arbitrarily chosen as the real candidates and not getting any questions can lower the standing of a candidate in the polls. The question then becomes: is the network reading the polls or affecting the polls?

Even before all these troubles, though, the debate seemed like amateur hour. Ben Smith described the debate itself as having a "confusing format--the televised portion for most of the nation ended after an hour and viewers were expected to go to the Internet to see the final 30 minutes — led to widespread frustration among those following the debate." People complained of choppy reception on the internet airing and twitter was ablaze with angry debate-watchers.

Ultimately, it didn't seem like CBS took their debate-airing responsibilities seriously enough. It's too bad because the questions for this debate were serious and interesting. If only CBS felt that people deserved to hear the answers--from all the candidates.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.