The debate started with the candidates expressing frustration at the way the media has been covering the primary races. Governor Mike Huckabee answered the first question about the support he is getting compared when he won the Iowa caucus in 2008. “I think it’s the message isn’t getting out,” he said.
Sen. Rick Santorum elaborated on the point when his first question came.
SANTORUM: You know, listening to what your network was talking about prior to this race, this debate, reminded me of the coverage that many on this floor are getting. This race, this debate, was called the, “Undercard Debate”. The undercard debate.
It wasn’t advertised significantly. In fact, the entire hour lead up to this there was no conversation about any of the four people on this debate stage, and that is the chronic situation.
In fact, they listed — they put a poll up from Wall Street Journal/NBC News, they listed the candidates, and they failed to mention I wasn’t listed. I got zero, why? Because they — NBC, Wall Street Journal poll never includes my name on the list.
This is what the media has been doing over the past year, and trying to segregate, and take Iowans out of the process.
Carly Fiorina, took a similar tone when she was asked about in-party fighting, saying she doesn’t get asked about that when she speaks to the people of Iowa.
FIORINA: I will tell you what the biggest surprise is: the chasm, the yawning chasm, between what the national media talks about and what the people of Iowa and the people of this great nation talk about…
In other words, I’m going to put my faith every single time not in the pundits, not in the polls. Most definitely not in the national media. I’m going to put my faith in the common sense and the good judgment of the voters of Iowa.
Even Gov. Jim Gilmore got in on the action:
This media across the country is manipulating and shaping and framing this campaign and has been for at least a year now in order to get the kind of choices that people are going to have an opportunity to see.
I think the candidate’s frustration was more about the process as a whole than the moderators tonight and they were showing some emotion about what they see as an unfair process overall. At one point I was beginning to think they were being a bit unfair and I actually felt bad for the moderators, Bill Hemmer and Martha Maccallum.
But one exchange (one specific question) really showed why the frustration. It was one of those questions that makes your head explode and you wonder, “Who in their right mind asks that?” The media tells us these questions are prepared with much care, weeks in advance, but this question to Rick Santorum cannot possibly have been thought out at all.
Here is the question from moderator Martha Maccallum to Rick Santorum:
MACCALLUM: Let me just ask a quick question here to Senator Santorum.
Carly Fiorina was the only one of the GOP candidates to attend the March for Life in Washington last week. Where were you.
Anyone who knows Rick Santorum as nothing short of a pro-life hero, is wondering what in the world kind of question is this. I think Sen. Santorum was just as shocked. But he was graceful. Here is his answer:
SANTORUM: Well, I’ve been to the March for Life for about 25 years and I thought — I think that’s a pretty good record.
Spoken at it a few times and I have shepherded every single piece of pro-life piece of legislation that’s passed over the last 20 years. I’ve either authored it or shepherded it through the United States Congress and I’m pretty proud of that record too.
But we have an election going on and there was some snow coming. So I decided that maybe it would be better for me to get out and do some campaigning and not be stuck as my wife and kids were for a week, piling out of two and a half feet of snow.
So, here’s what I would say. If you want someone that is going to talk a good game, there are a lot of folks on this stage that have talked a good game on the issue of life.
Not only have I talked a good game on life and I’ve done some things. But I’ve also lived it. You know, one of the things Saint Francis said was, you know, if you preach the gospel, then if you have to, speak.
The bottom line is, that twice in my life, we were counseled to have an abortion, one with our son Gabriel and one with our little girl Bella. And neither time did Karen and I for a moment think about it because we know that life begins at conception.
We know the dignity of every human life and we know the potential of every child, no matter how long that life lives. And that is a message that can come across to all Americans and without having to say a word and defend the institution of life and the dignity of life in this country.
Good answer, but still, what in the world is the point of such a question? If you’re anything like me, you were stuck there. Thankfully, Carly Fiorina jumped in to grant us some relief:
FIORINA: Martha, can I just say we’ve been talking tonight about a lot of issues and we’ve also been talking about the fact that the game is rigged and frankly, the media has a lot to do with that.
It is outrageous frankly, that Fox News, and you, would question the pro-life credentials of Rick Santorum.
That is outrageous.
“Thank you,” I said out loud. “Seriously!”
So unfortunately, once again, the media becomes the story and a disservice to the American electorate.