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Except for some quick follow-up questions, moderators at recent debates aired on CNBC and Fox News Channel made a conscious effort to ask each candidate onstage to address one issue at the start of their debates. Fox said it tries to treat each candidate equally; NBC News would not discuss its debate policies.

An examination of transcripts for four debates (one each by CNN, CBS, Fox and CNBC) revealed that Romney, generally perceived as the front-runner, had the most questions addressed to him. He had 45, with Cain next at 37, Perry at 36 and Gingrich at 35. Santorum and Bachmann had 29 and Paul had 27. Huntsman did not participate in all four debates.

Even the networks that strive for some equality in asking questions can’t guarantee equal time on camera. If one candidate specifically criticizes another in an answer, the victimized candidate is generally given rebuttal time. Organizers seem to relish when a couple of candidates go after one another and often let those exchanges play out.

Networks that try to be even-handed with the questions show favoritism by placing candidates who are high in the polls near the center of the stage, increasing the likelihood these leaders are involved in more exchanges. In two separate debates, Huntsman complained that it was “lonely out here” on the fringe.