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Gingrich Remains Go-To Candidate for Opening Question in GOP Debates

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The former House Speaker has received the moderator's first question in six of the last seven debates

newtgingrich12.jpg"And Mr Speaker, I want to start with that this evening. As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post. And this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?"

It was probably the most talked about question of the night, and it was the first question of the night - when CNN moderator John King asked Newt Gingrich about a recent report and interview with Gingrich's second ex-wife.

Gingrich then spent more than two minutes attacking King, his staff, CNN, and the "elite media" for raising this charge to lead off the South Carolina debate.

That Gingrich deflected and used this question as an opportunity to condemn the elite media was not a surprise.

Nor was it a surprise that Gingrich received the first question of the evening.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that Gingrich has been the recipient of the first question in six of the last seven Republican presidential debates, dating back to the CNN gathering in Washington D.C. nearly two months ago.

The only other candidate to receive an opening question during this two-month span was Mitt Romney during the ABC New Hampshire debate in Manchester earlier this month.

Gingrich has been the moderators' go-to candidate to launch their presidential debates prior to his December surge (in Washington D.C.), at his peak in popularity (in the second and third Iowa debates), after the subsequent crumbling of his polling numbers (in the fourth New Hampshire debate), and during his recent resurgence (in the third and fourth South Carolina debates).

Of the 17 debates that have been conducted since the first South Carolina gathering last May, Gingrich has received the most opening questions with six, followed by Herman Cain with four, Michele Bachmann with three, Rick Perry with two, and Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney with one each.

Missing from that list are two of the four candidates who took the stage in Charleston Thursday evening - Rick Santorum and Ron Paul - who, for whatever reason, moderators have determined do not warrant receiving the high profile opening question of the debate.

Recipient of Opening Question During Republican Presidential Debates

#
Debate
Recipient
1
South Carolina #1
Tim Pawlenty
2
New Hampshire #1
Herman Cain
3
Iowa #1
Michele Bachmann
4
California
Rick Perry
5
Florida #1
Michele Bachmann
6
Florida #2
Rick Perry
7
New Hampshire #2
Herman Cain
8
Nevada
Michele Bachmann
9
Michigan
Herman Cain
10
South Carolina #2
Herman Cain
11
Washington, D.C.
Newt Gingrich
12
Iowa #2
Newt Gingrich
13
Iowa #3
Newt Gingrich
14
New Hampshire #3
Mitt Romney
15
New Hampshire #4
Newt Gingrich
16
South Carolina #3
Newt Gingrich
17
South Carolina #4
Newt Gingrich
Excludes introductory statements. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

But although Gingrich may have made headlines in the latest South Carolina debate with his fiery opening, it was actually Rick Santorum who received the most camera time on Thursday - thanks in part to several unprovoked attacks he launched against the other candidates and Gingrich in particular.

For the first time, the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator led the GOP field, coming in at 22 minutes and 30 seconds, or 28.2 percent of the total candidate speaking time.

Santorum was followed by Mitt Romney at 22 minutes and 8 seconds (27.7 percent), Newt Gingrich at 18:56 (23.7 percent), and Ron Paul at 16:19 (20.4 percent).

Total Candidate Speaking Time During CNN South Carolina GOP Presidential Debate

Candidate
Time
Percent
Rick Santorum
22 min. 30 sec.
28.2
Mitt Romney
22 min. 08 sec.
27.7
Newt Gingrich
18 min. 56 sec.
23.7
Ron Paul
16 min. 19 sec.
20.4
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Santorum has been languishing in fourth in South Carolina polling and likely took an aggressive posture against Gingrich - the candidate he has previously most warmly praised throughout the campaign - as a last-ditch attempt to recapture the anti-Romney vote before it intractably coalesces around the former House Speaker.

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Previous post: What's So Special About South Carolina?
Next post: Number of Presidential Candidates Tops 330 and Counting

1 Comment


  • Everytime the Liberal News Media trys to kick Newt ,,it backfires;;This is going to happen to Obama unless he can get quicker telepromter responds...

  • Leave a comment


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