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It's the Mitt Show: Grossly Unequal Distribution of Face Time Continues at GOP Debates

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Romney scores 5+ minutes more speaking time in Michigan than the next closest candidate and has recorded more time than Ron Paul and Rick Santorum combined during the last five debates

mittromney02.jpgIf it seems like Mitt Romney is getting more and more polished with each passing presidential debate, perhaps that is because he is getting the most playing time, while the rest of the Republican field has to fight just to get off the bench.

A month ago, Smart Politics documented the stark disparity in the amount of speaking time logged in by the various Republican candidates at the debates, with the former Massachusetts governor coming in as the clear winner in receiving opportunities to get his message across to the viewing public.

After Wednesday evening's CNBC debate in Rochester, Michigan, Romney has once again padded his significant lead in face time.

But you won't hear the Romney campaign complaining about these gaudy numbers.

A Smart Politics review of the last five presidential debates finds Mitt Romney averaging approximately four minutes more speaking time per debate than his closest rival for the cameras, Rick Perry, and averaging greater than six minutes more time per debate compared to each of the remaining six members of the GOP field.

During the last five debates, Romney has logged in 73 minutes and 22 seconds of speaking time in answering moderator questions and responding to candidate attacks, giving him a significant advantage over the other candidates to communicate his message to the American public.

In these five debates (two in Florida, and one each in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan) Romney has tallied:

· Almost 20 minutes more speaking time than Perry (53 minutes, 51 seconds)
· More than 32 minutes more time than Michele Bachmann (40 minutes, 57 seconds)
· More than 34 minutes more time than Herman Cain (38 minutes, 43 seconds) and Newt Gingrich (38 minutes, 23 seconds)
· More than 36 minutes more than Ron Paul (37 minutes, 1 second)
· And more than 38 minutes more than Rick Santorum (35 minutes, 5 seconds)

(Jon Huntsman comes in at 29 minutes and 45 seconds, but skipped the Nevada debate).

In other words, across the last five debates, Romney has spoken for 1 minute and 16 seconds more than Ron Paul and Rick Santorum combined.

Overall, Romney has recorded an average of 14 minutes and 40 seconds of speaking time per debate.

As the table below documents, Perry is the only other candidate to eclipse 10 minutes, although he sank to fifth in speaking time in Michigan.

All other candidates average seven to eight minutes of speaking time per debate.

Time Allotted to Republican Presidential Candidates During the Last Five Debates

Rank
Candidate
% FL1
% FL2*
% NH2
% NV
% MI
% Ave.
Total minutes
Per Debate
1
Romney
15.8
18.6
25.0
22.8
21.8
20.8
73 min. 22 sec.
14 min. 40 sec.
2
Perry
20.0
15.7
14.1
16.0
11.2
15.4
53 min. 51 sec.
10 min. 46 sec.
3
Bachmann
12.5
9.8
12.3
13.2
10.1
11.6
40 min. 57 sec.
8 min. 11 sec.
4
Cain
8.1
10.0
12.5
12.1
12.4
11.0
38 min. 43 sec.
7 min. 44 sec.
5
Gingrich
11.1
9.1
9.7
11.0
13.7
10.9
38 min. 23 sec.
7 min. 40 sec.
6
Huntsman
11.3
11.9
8.6
---
11.7
10.9
29 min. 45 sec.
7 min. 26 sec.
7
Paul
10.7
7.3
9.2
13.0
11.1
10.2
37 min. 01 sec.
7 min. 24 sec.
8
Santorum
10.4
11.2
8.5
11.8
8.0
10.0
35 min. 05 sec.
7 min. 01 sec.
* Percentages in Florida debate #2 do not sum to 100 because Gary Johnson participated in the debate. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Cain's rise to the top of the polls after the second Florida debate in late September gave him an initial boost in face time, but it has not elevated him anywhere near Romney status in the moderator's eyes.

In the second New Hampshire debate, Cain received the third most speaking time (behind Romney and Perry), followed by just the fifth most speaking time in Nevada (behind Romney, Perry, Bachmann, and Paul), and the third most time in Michigan (behind Romney and Gingrich).

While Romney and Cain have been essentially even in the polls during the time period surrounding these last three debates, Romney has tallied 50 minutes and 25 seconds of speaking time compared to just 26 minutes and 42 seconds for Cain.

In Michigan's debate on Wednesday, Romney led the way with 14 minutes and 51 seconds of speaking time, or 21.8 percent of the total time allotted to the eight candidates.

Newt Gingrich was next with 9 minutes and 19 seconds (13.7 percent), followed by Herman Cain at 8 minutes 25 seconds (12.4 percent), Jon Huntsman at 7 minutes 58 seconds (11.7 percent), Rick Perry at 7 minutes 29 seconds (11.2 percent), Ron Paul at 7 minutes 23 seconds (11.1 percent), and Michele Bachmann at 6 minutes and 54 seconds (10.1 percent).

The odd man out in Michigan was clearly Rick Santorum, who was only called on four times by the moderators all evening long for a total of just 5 minutes and 28 seconds of speaking time (8.0 percent).

Put another way, Romney's advantage in speaking time over Santorum of 9 minutes and 23 seconds was 3 minutes and 55 seconds greater than the total time in which the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator was afforded to speak.

Santorum was not even given the courtesy of being called on during the final round of 'last questions' of the candidates.

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Next post: Staging the GOP Debates: Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit (In the Polls)

8 Comments


  • Mitt Romney: brought to you in part by the main stream media.

  • I find this is very interesting information. Perhaps the news networks and presidential candidates would be interested in having this information. Maybe CBS should be asked if they will use a more balanced approcah during the dabate they are sponsoring on 11-12-11.

  • I'm sure Rick Perry would get more speaking time if he had anything to say.

  • It's important to note that a large chunk of time results from attacks from other candidates. Each time a candidate is mentioned by someone else, he is given 30 seconds to respond (and usually gets 45 or more). Get attacked 5 or 6 times in a debate and you've scored another 3 to 5 minutes.

    Nobody is going after Santorum so he doesn't get any rebuttal time. That's not to say he is given an equal number of initial questions, but I don't think Romney's advantage in attention from moderators is quite as extreme as the total time might indicate. I would be interested to see a similar breakdown to this one in terms of question total from moderators.

  • A partial explanation is that in some of these debates, nearly everyone dogpiled on Mitt. Since the rules allow a rebuttal, it makes sense that he would get more speaking time than the rest.

    Since he has no control over that, and neither do the moderators, you ought to include that in your analysis as a partial explanation of his speaking time advantage.

  • I'm glad we got to hear more from Mitt than anyone else. Let's face it, barring some major Perry-like gaffe, Romney is the presumed nominee. I disagree with those who state he will be the nominee because he gets more face time in debates.

    To make the debates more meaningful and to highlight the differences between candidates, there should be a progressive elimination system for candidates who fail to gain in the polls (eliminate any candidate from debates who fail to poll above 5%) This would give the plausible candidates more time to debate issues and help voters better identify the differences between candidates.

  • > A partial explanation is that in some of these debates, nearly everyone dogpiled on Mitt.
    > Since the rules allow a rebuttal, it makes sense that he would get more speaking time
    > than the rest.

    This is relevant, but a few points: First - the attacks issue was mentioned in this report:

    "During the last five debates, Romney has logged in 73 minutes and 22 seconds of speaking time in answering moderator questions and responding to candidate attacks, giving him a significant advantage over the other candidates to communicate his message to the American public."

    Also, as documented in a previous Smart Politics report, Rick Perry has been attacked much more in the debates than Romney. See here:
    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2011/10/fight_club_intraparty_punches.php

    Thirdly, in Michigan's debate there were scarcely any attacks on the candidates (against Romney or otherwise).

  • Spit! All the "big" boys in Wall Street and the banksters are for willard.
    If the repubs allow the liberal media, the conservatives are going to be left out.....like
    Ron Paul. It's a damned shame the way the media is ignoring Dr Paul, the most honest, and the most knowledgeable of all the candidates on EVERYTHING in goobermnt. DO AWAY with the FED, do away with 5 departments of goobermnt (unConstitutional) and DO AWAY with foreign aid to everyone. Cut $1 trillion or more the first year and balance the budget the third year. Go back to THE GOLD STANDARD.

    Now, tell me what willard has to say about anything.......uh huh! Nuthin'. He will not be suported by the South. He needs to go back to massasashits and plead insanity.

  • Leave a comment


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