Trump Got Double Walker's Speaking Time

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Twelve minutes and nine seconds. In a completely fair world, that’s how long each of the presidential candidates would have spoken during last night’s GOP presidential debate. But politics isn’t fair, and some candidates got more time — significantly more time — than others.

I generated the figure below using data from NPR’s Barbara Sprunt, who helpfully tracked the total number of minutes and seconds each candidate spoke during the prime-time event in Simi Valley, Calif. Collectively, the candidates spoke for a total of 133 minutes and 54 seconds. Split 11 ways evenly, each should have had the floor for just over 12 minutes. The graphic shows how much each candidate’s actual speaking time differed from that number.

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush led the pack, each speaking for much longer than the 12-minute benchmark – over 18 minutes for the former and over 15 for the latter. Both men owe at least some of their extra time to the high number of questions directed at them. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Leah Libresco, the moderators directed 13 questions at Trump and nine at Bush. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul count’s was the third highest at seven.

Trump and Bush also benefited from the debate rules. Whenever one candidate mentioned someone else, that person was given 30 seconds to respond. For example, that gave Trump, the current leader in the polls and thus a natural target for attacks, a number of extra opportunities to speak. According to Libresco’s count, Bush and Trump led in this category as well. The business mogul was given nine such opportunities to respond and the former Florida governor was given 10. Paul and Ben Carson had the next highest number of opportunities to respond at four apiece.

Paul, Carson, Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were all within two minutes of the 12 minutes 9 seconds mark, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had significantly less time than many of their opponents. Walker suffered the most, speaking for less than half of the time Trump did.

David Byler is an elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at dbyler@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidbylerRCP.

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