Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fox News South Carolina Debate 1-16-2012

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If there was a winner out of this mess, I cannot fathom who it is. It does seem odd that as soon as I write an article about media bias that Fox News flies in to assure us that there is indeed a lack of objectivity. Bret Baier inserted his own slant by once again labeling Ron Paul as "far to the left of President Obama", he didn't quote any of the other nominees, he simply stated his own opinion. How can this be construed as anything but creating your own narrative?

In the opening segment -- dominated mostly by Bain and political attacks -- Newt Gingrich had three turns talking, Santorum had seven turns, Mitt Romney spoke eight times, Rick Perry twice and Ron Paul once. Even though Kelly Evans was seeking a followup to Ron Paul, Rick Santorum was allowed a response and then immediately a followup and then a fresh question. Three turns in a row.

This wasn't exactly unique considering Romney was allowed a fresh question directly after a response four separate times. Twice separated by a commercial break (he answered/responded before the break, and then received the next question upon returning from break), and twice in mid-debate where he was allowed a response and then a fresh question. Other than Senator Santorum's aforementioned back-to-back response/question, no one else received a fresh question after a string of responses.

If only that were the end of it. The most obvious possible self-created narrative was that eight of Congress Paul's 13 turns talking was regarding foreign policy, easily his widest point of conflict with the Republican base, but rather than receive one single question regarding the economy (he spoke eight turns about foreign policy, once about political ads, once about taxes, once about racism in the drug war and twice about gun rights) the line of questioning seemed to target his "left of the most lefty left thing in the galaxy" foreign policy. Never mind Ron Paul has created the only plan to balance the budget, was the only person on the stage to predict the housing bubble many years before it burst and is the reason so much attention is being paid to economic policy. Now, whether this is for good TV or to hurt Dr Paul I will not try to interpret, because who really knows other than Bret Baier, the lead moderator.

I normally try to make this column a little less Paul centric, but the moderating here was extremely irritating and it seems the stats back it up when broken down a little more granular than the normal overall stats would reveal. Otherwise, it looks like this was a fairly balanced debate where Paul/Santorum/Gingrich received nearly equal time, when it was anything but.

The highlight for me was during the response to Representative Paul, where Paul defended his ads stating Senator Santorum is guilty of bad policy and Santorum conceded his bad policy decisions stating, "I'm a strong conservative, but I'm not perfect. President Bush's signature initiative was No Child Left Behind, I voted for it, [but] I shouldn't have." Booyah. Well, that and when Newt refused to directly answer Juan Williams' question regarding Newt's statement that "blacks should demand jobs, not food stamps", because there's no hint of racism lurking in there. Hey Hannity, want to discuss that instead of Ron's 20 year old newsletters he didn't write? No? Perhaps we'll let Jon Stewart tackle that.

Here's the debate stats for the SC GOP Debate:

Total Talk %
Romney 21:59 30.76%
Santorum 14:13 19.90%
Gingrich 13:28 18.85%
Ron Paul 12:13 17.11%
Perry 9:33 13.37%
Total 1:11:29 100.00%
*Note: This is uninterrupted talking time, except for audience cheer/applause in the middle of a response as this goes against their official response time.

Turns Talking %
Romney 26 32.50%
Santorum 16 20.00%
Gingrich 15 18.75%
Ron Paul 13 16.25%
Perry 10 12.50%
Total 80 100.00%

Avg b/w Talks Longest Wait
Romney 2:15 11:50
Santorum 3:25 12:09
Gingrich 5:17 17:26
Ron Paul 5:21 13:49
Perry 8:44 18:45

Qs Responses Follow-ups
Romney 10 11 5
Gingrich 8 4 3
Santorum 8 7 1
Perry 6 1 3
Ron Paul 6 4 3
Total 38 27 15
Note: Qs = Questions; Responses (candidates responding to each other); Followups (moderator following up from the previous question)

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