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Obama Under Fire: Who Launched the Most Attacks at the President during the New Hampshire Debate?

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Mitt Romney landed the most jabs at Obama among the seven candidates; Herman Cain and Ron Paul, meanwhile, pulled the most punches.

barackobama05.jpgPerhaps he is already looking ahead to the general election, or perhaps he is using a rhetorical strategy to help seal his position as the Republican front-runner, but Mitt Romney was the GOP's top attack dog against President Barack Obama Monday evening in CNN's New Hampshire debate.

A Smart Politics content analysis of the debate finds that not only did Romney launch more discrete policy criticisms against the President than any other candidate on the stage, but he tallied more than Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann combined.

All told, Romney was responsible for 15 criticisms or disparaging remarks against Barack Obama of the 38 delivered by the seven Republican candidates.

(Romney also enjoyed the most face time of his fellow debaters).

The former Massachusetts governor hit the president from several policy angles including health care, card-check, cap-and-trade, the bailout, the federal budget, and the economy and jobs.

Newt Gingrich was the next most critical of the president with six barbs, including an opening salvo during his "meet the candidates" remarks:

"And when 14 million Americans are out of work, we need a new president to end the Obama depression."

Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty each delivered five criticisms against Obama, followed by Rick Santorum with four, Ron Paul with two, and Herman Cain with just one.

Cain's only anti-Obama remark came on the first substantive question of the evening when he disagreed with the president's decision to focus on government programs rather than the private sector:

"This economy is stalled. It's like a train on the tracks with no engine. And the administration has simply been putting all of this money in the caboose."

Overall, President Obama was taken to task most frequently on his health care plan and his record on the economy and jobs with 11 criticisms for each followed by energy and the budget deficit/federal debt with four.

Obama was also criticized on the issues of the bailout (by Romney), gay marriage (Gingrich), Libya (Bachmann), and card-check/right to work issues (Romney, Gingrich).

Criticisms of Barack Obama During CNN's New Hampshire GOP Presidential Debate

Candidate
#
%
Mitt Romney
15
39.5
Newt Gingrich
6
15.8
Michele Bachmann
5
13.2
Tim Pawlenty
5
13.2
Rick Santorum
4
10.5
Ron Paul
2
5.3
Herman Cain
1
2.6
Total
38
100.0
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

"Obamacare"

"Obamacare," the President's controversial health care plan signed into law in 2010, was a frequent punching bag for several of the candidates Monday evening.

Romney - perhaps a bit on the defense due to his perceived weakness in passing a similar health care law in Massachusetts while he was governor - led the way with nine mentions of "Obamacare" and was emphatic about his position toward it:

"First, if I'm elected president, I will repeal Obamacare, just as Michelle indicated. And also, on my first day in office, if I'm lucky enough to have that office, I will grant a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare."

Michele Bachmann, also pledging to "Not rest until I repeal Obamacare," was next with six Obamacare mentions followed by Tim Pawlenty with four, Rick Santorum with two, and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul with one each.

Herman Cain was the only candidate not to utter the "Obamacare" phrase.

The President's Report Card

While most candidates were consistently unforgiving of Obama's policies and executive branch outputs during his first 2+ years in office, several went even further to summarize the president's performance by handing out an actual grade.

On this subject, the debaters spoke in unison.

Says Romney:

"This president has failed. And he's failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing."

"He isn't leading on balancing our budget and he's not leading on jobs. He's failed the American people both in job creation and the scale of government."

"He has failed in job one, which was to get this economy going again. He failed in job two, which was to restrain the growth of the government. And he failed in job three, which is to have a coherent, consistent foreign policy."

Says Bachmann:

(On the economy and jobs) "President Obama can't tell that story. His report card right now has a big failing grade on it, but Republicans have an awesome story to tell."

"Clearly, President Obama has failed in leadership. Under his watch, in two and a half years, we've increased the federal debt 35 percent just in that amount of time."

Says Pawlenty:

(On housing) "The programs that President Obama has put forward haven't really worked. They've been a failure. They've been slow. They haven't really solved the problem."

"But the best thing that we can do is get the economy moving again. And it's not going to happen by growing government. His way failed."

Says Santorum:

(On foreign affairs) "Look, what we're dealing with is a failure of leadership on this administration's part to actually put together a strategy where we can confront our enemies."

Interestingly, the only borderline complimentary words spoken of Obama during the evening came from Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor gave a passing "Congratulations" on the killing of Osama Bin Laden in the midst of a scathing critque on the president's lack of a foreign policy plan, and also acknowledged that Obama "Didn't create the recession."

Romney then added that the president "made it worse and longer."

When CNN moderator John King asked Ron Paul if the president has "done one thing right when it comes to the economy in this country," the Texas Congressman replied:

"Boy, that's a tough question. No, no, I can't think of anything."

The Betting Line on 2012?

Bachmann and Romney also tried to set the line on the 2012 general election with the following predictions:

"We need everybody to come together because we're going to win. Just make no mistake about it. I want to announce tonight. President Obama is a one-term president." (Bachmann)

"And that's why he's not going to be reelected." (Romney)

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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