strong>LAS VEGAS – Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters after the first Democratic presidential debate that CNN had told the candidates their speaking time would be based on their popularlity.

O'Malley had spent several months trying to get the Democratic National Committee to increase the number of debates. He is a distant third place behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in most polls, though he would dip to fourth if Joe Biden announced and he is closer to the bottom-tier candidates than the top. He said the network told the candidates about their limited speaking time before they went on stage.

"They kind of told us ahead of time that they were going to direct most of their questions to the two candidates that were currently front running in the polls," O'Malley told the Washington Examiner after the debate. "But one of the truths of our presidential election process is this, whoever is the candidate surging in October is not the candidate surging in February."

Clinton dominated the debate, with over 30 minutes of air time and Sanders spoke for nearly 28 minutes, but O'Malley spoke for only 17 minutes, with former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee each having considerably less air time.

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