(Richard Shiro / Associated…)
As Michele Bachmann made her case for the Republican presidential nomination at a Saturday night debate, her campaign was working behind the scenes to make a different case – that the media had conspired against the Minnesota congresswoman.
Earlier that afternoon, Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart was included in an email chain between CBS staff that suggested Bachmann would not get many questions at the CBS/National Journal debate because “she's nearly off the charts” in recent polls.
Stewart had inquired with CBS earlier in the day about including Bachmann on a post-debate “webshow” with CBS political analyst John Dickerson. She was later copied on an email chain started by CBS politics producer Caroline Horn, who was inquiring with Dickerson and others about arranging for Bachmann or a member of her staff to appear on the webshow.
Dickerson appears to have inadvertently hit the “reply all” button when he responded: “Okay 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.”
As Bachmann stood on stage at the national security-focused debate in South Carolina, her staff fired off a press release charging that the email “[indicates] a planned effort to limit questions to Michele Bachmann at tonight's CBS/National Journal Debate.”
Debate moderators Scott Pelley and Major Garrett turned to Bachmann a half-dozen times during the 90-minute debate, fewer than the number of questions posed to Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, who have held the advantage in recent polls.
Dickerson, a longtime political correspondent at Slate who recently joined CBS, defended his comment.
“Bachmann is at 4% in the polls and has been for a while,” Dickerson told the New York Times. “Other candidates aren't. I sent an email based on that.”
A CBS statement to CNN echoed that sentiment.
“It was a candid exchange about the reality of the circumstances – Bachmann remains at 4% in the polls,” the nework said.
Bachmann delivered a solid performance at the debate, in which all eyes were focused on Rick Perry, whose deer-in-headlights moment at a debate earlier in the week threatened to kill his candidacy.
But as usual some remarks by the Minnesota congresswoman raised eyebrows.
Responding to a request for her assessment of the intelligence situation in Pakistan, Bachmann suggested that “the table is being set for worldwide war against Israel.”
When asked how she would bring down the national debt, Bachmann seemed to argue that the U.S. should look to China.
“If you look at China, they don't have food stamps,” she said. “If you look at China, they're in a very different – they save for their own retirement security. ... And China's growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that [Lyndon B. Johnson] gave us with the Great Society, and they'd be gone.”