It was a tough distinction to earn (given the competition), but tonight ABC News managed to stage perhaps the most pointless debate of the Republican presidential race. George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer seemed to be under the impression that Mitt Romney is in 5th place in the GOP race (they seemed to be aware that Rick Perry is in 6th) and therefore saw little point in asking the other candidates how they would distinguish themselves from him.
Instead, the moderators encouraged tussles between Ron Paul and essentially everyone else on the stage (successfully managing to draw Rick Santorum, in particular, into that trap). Then, having entirely controlled the debate’s content and flow to the detriment of Republican voters and all but one member of the GOP field, they abruptly cut off debate at 10:45 EST — so as to leave time to broadcast their post-debate “analysis” in prime time.
Along the way, however, ABC did ask the questions that Republican primary voters care most about: Was the Supreme Court right in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965? What should those who engage in homosexuality do if, as throughout most of world history, they’re not allowed to marry? What would the candidates be doing this Saturday night if they weren’t there debating? (Newt Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney all said they’d be watching the college football national championship game. Not to worry, guys: That’s Monday night. One wonders whether any of them could throw out a first pitch any better than President Obama.)
Worst of all, ABC, like Fox News in the previous debate, failed to ask a single question about Obamacare. So we’ve now gone four full weeks, and three hours and forty-five minutes of debate time, without a single question on the sitting president’s signature legislation. Perhaps the media can go as long without asking a question about Obamacare as the Senate has gone without passing a budget.
It’s hard to know who that benefits more — Obama or Romney?