The hot issue at the GOP debate: Charlie Rose’s oak table

October 24, 2011, 1:00 PM UTC

FORTUNE — We all know that Charlie Rose loves the iconic circular oak table on his PBS talk show. But who knew it would become the subject of a dispute among eight Republican presidential candidates? At their recent debate at Dartmouth College, Rose, who was moderating, wanted the candidates to sit at a giant-size replica of the table. It would mark the first time in a string of GOP debates that podiums were not used. Many of the candidates didn’t like the idea. Among the complaints heard by representatives of Bloomberg, which sponsored the debate: The table’s not big enough! I’ll look too confrontational when I turn to my side to argue! Somebody else will be able to see my notes! Before the debate, the sponsors even sent the campaigns a diagram of the table. Rose prevailed. But a table still had to be built — and Bloomberg picked up the tab. (Is there nothing the empire of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg can’t afford?) An upstate New York shop got the job and added leaves in case the field of candidates changed. But Bloomberg’s representative in the negotiations, Al Hunt — executive editor of Bloomberg News in D.C. — still worried about a ninth candidate. “If Chris Christie had entered the race,” he says, “we’d have needed a much larger table.” —David A. Kaplan

This article is from the November 7, 2011 issue of Fortune.

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