Thursday, September 8, 2011

MSNBC/Politico 9-7-2011 Debate: Statistics on Talking Time & The Perry Romney Show

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To the casual viewer, it's clear that this debate revolved around Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Perhaps a little understandable that the media and masses are eager to hear from the new kid on the block, Rick Perry, but the penalty of waiting so long to jump in the race is, in fact, the loss of your time to promote your platform. While understandable, it's an error to allot any extra time to the "new kid" or to polled front-runners.

Why? Obviously, the point of a debate is to allow discussion of each candidate's views in order to help them change their campaign in the polls. The very move of giving extra time to current front-runners only reenforces the front-runners' lead and perception of importance. It's a feedback loop. If there is one time that even coverage should not only be allowed, but expected, it's in a debate. If you don't want to hear from certain candidates then why are they there? It can be no surprise that the most memorable performance will go to one of the candidates given the most talking time. To hear a candidate say that Bachmann underperformed is absurd, it's hard to perform without adequate time. I'm no fan of Bachmann, to say it politely, but I am a fan of equality.

Here are the statistics:
Total Time Spent Talking (minutes):
Perry 14:59
Mitt 11:57
Paul 09:19
Bachmann 09:05
Newt 06:53
Herman 05:41
Santorum 06:11
Huntsman 08:52

Number of "Talking Blocks" (not the number of questions, but the number of times allocated to one person at a time. Ex: Perry answers question, is asked a followup and they move to Cain. This is 1 block of talking time for Perry.):
Perry 15
Mitt 11
Paul 7
Bachmann 8
Newt 6
Herman 6
Santorum 5
Huntsman 7

Average Time Between Questions/Talking Blocks (minutes, rounded to nearest 2nd decimal):
Perry 3.98
Mitt 5.23
Paul 9.09
Bachmann 7.15
Newt 10.14
Herman 11.01
Santorum 11.18
Huntsman 7.77

Percentage of Talking Time Allotted:
Perry 20.54%
Mitt 16.38%
Paul 12.77%
Bachmann 12.45%
Newt 9.44%
Herman 7.79%
Santorum 8.48%
Huntsman 12.15%
73 Minutes Total Talking Time

Other interesting factoids: Ron Paul was the last talker before every break, including the last speaker at the debate's end. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney were the first speakers at the beginning or return from each break, including the lead-off to the debate (it was Perry/Romney/Perry).

By all accounts, there weren't really big losers, just two big winners: Perry and Romney. Though the case can be made that Santorum and Herman Cain both were rather silent, taking up only 11 or 12 minutes combined. In each stat it's easy to see that it never took long to get back around to Perry or Romney. The real mystery is how Huntsman, though statistically without a heartbeat in the polls, managed to get as much action as Paul and Bachmann.

Just seems rather arbitrary by the forum.

Note: None of the talking time contains any of the moderators' talking/questioning. The stats reflect only the time actually spent talking by candidates.

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