One of the hardest decisions for news organizations which sponsor candidate debates is setting a bar for how a candidate qualifies to be included. It’s one of the reasons a lot of news organizations don’t bother sponsoring debates, anymore; it’s a no-win situation.
The most common suggestion is “invite them all.” It’s good for entertainment value. Candidates with no chance of winning often are more inclined to give straight answers than those who are under the control of the political experts. But the more candidates who are involved in a debate, the fewer opportunities there are for detailed answers.
That’s why some news organizations adopt a more controversial standard: A candidate has to have a chance of winning.
“People in charge of the debates have no business pre-judging election outcomes when they decide who to let in on a debate,” Ralph Nader says.
WBUR, Boston’s most popular public radio station, is addressing the issue today on its blog. A minor candidate wants in on gubernatorial debates in Massachusetts.
“Because Jill Stein will get one quarter of the time and camera and she has not a million-to-one chance to become governor. For her to be given a seat at the table is unfair to the voters, who will then have to wade through the clutter of a fourth candidate in the race,” WBUR’s political analyst says.
A commenter on the blog makes a fine point. “Third and fourth parties may not end up winning, but they often see their ideas co-opted by the eventual winner.”