The standard argument for keeping the field open is that doing so is a way to put a more diverse set of issues and viewpoints on the agenda. It’s a good argument. But the right approach, at this point in the campaign, is not to worry about how to be fair to the also-rans, but how to use them to find out more about the leading candidates. While, yes, the voting remains to be done, it’s safe to say that neither Republican primary voters nor other politically engaged individuals need exhaustive coverage of Santorum’s take on every issue at this point. But it would be interesting to know how Mitt Romney (and other serious candidates, if any emerge) responds to Santorum’s case for manufacturing-based industrial policy, or Paul’s stance on foreign affairs, or Jon Huntsman’s views on trade with China, or—to cite a candidate who really has been frozen out of the debate—Buddy Roemer’s take on campaign finance. And who knows? Maybe there’s a good reason to work Bachmann in here, too.

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Greg Marx is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.