Who Has Been the Victim of Attacks Most Often?
Not surprisingly, the front-runners have usually been attack victims. Mitt Romney has been a kind of de facto front-runner as he has watched others jump up and down in the polls. And Rick Perry was hammered when he entered the race, receiving 28 attacks in just his first 3 debates. Of course, one Perry fell out of the lead he was largely ignored by opponents.
Meanwhile, as each candidate in the parade of short-lived poll toppers has made his/her rise, they have been attacked by the other candidates. For instance, while Herman Cain was largely ignored by the rest of the field in the early debates, he was suddenly on everyone's list for a two-debate period. Then he fell off the other candidates' radar screens again.
In many ways, it has proven to be beneficial to be attacked. Better to be challenged than ignored. Being the recipient of an attack gives candidates more speaking time in debates due to the "right of response." You don't want to be Rick Santorum who spent most of this cycle as a kind of yipping puppy, always attacking but never attacked. In the first 10 debates he made 28 attacks while the other candidates only bothered to attack him once.
These statistics also run counter to the media perception that the other candidates have not gone after Romney. Perhaps campaign strategy should have dictated even stronger and more sustained attacks, but these stats show he has the worn the target far more than any other candidate.
78 (in 17 debates)
38.5 (in 13 debates)
35.5 (in 17 debates)
18 (in 16 debates)
10.5 (in 10 debates)
9 (in 12 debates)
9 (in 16 debates)
5 (in 11 debates)
Scoring: An "attack" was judged as anytime a candidate specifically challenged an opponent's position or record. Cordial disagreements were not counted. A 1/2 attack was recorded when an attack was made but the candidate being attacked was not mentioned by name.