Debate Stats.Com


Our Debate Grades

What follows are our grades for each candidate in each of the major debates.  The candidates were graded on their effectiveness with the Republican primary season audience. Obviously they are just an opinion.

Debate #1: Manchester, NH

June 13, 2011

CNN

Summary: This was the first debate that featured all the major candidates.  Bachmann grabbed the headlines with her announcement for president while Romney looked solid and avoided any falls.

Romney: Smooth and in charge, but exceedingly bland. B-

Cain:  Largely ignored. C+

Bachmann: Made news out of the gate with her announcement for president.  The new, new thing. B+

Paul: Knowledgable and funny, but always trying to cram six ideas into 30 seconds. B

Santorum: Despite his long-shot status, Santorum seemed the most knowledgable of all the candidates in this one.  His answers were nuanced and well-versed. A-

Pawlenty: Seemed scared and nervous.  Not taking on Romney on the "Obamaney Care" issue made him look weak. D

Gingrich: Feisty and smart, but with that mean streak always too near the surface. B 

Debate #2: Ames, Iowa

August 11, 2011

FOX

Summary: The first fireworks of the debate season as Bachmann and Palenty feuded. Santorum went after the whole bunch, while no one touched Romney.  Perry’s ghost loomed over all.


Cain: Hit some applause lines but largely ignored by the media and other candidates. C

Romney: Sidesteps all attacks and controversy.  Protecting the lead. B

Bachmann: More than held her own against Palenty, who largely looked desperate.  Fiesty. B+


Paul: Looked like the candidate most acquainted with the issues and had the biggest crowd support. A-


Santorum: Flailing about wildly against Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich, Romney and the moderators. Big drop from his first effort. C-


Pawlenty: Gets a second chance against Mitt and largely passed again.  Then tried to beat up on Bachmann but looked desperate. C-


Gingrich: Made the media his rather effective scapecoat. B+

Huntsman: First entry for Huntsman who seemed nervous and underwhelming. C- 

Debate #3: Simi Valley, CA

September 7, 2011

MSNBC

Summary: Perry enters the race and took it to Mitt.  A big slice of the questions went to these two front-runners and Perry was doing well until the vaccination issue threw him off his stride.  Everyone else seemed ignored.


Cain: First issuance of “9-9-9,” but still not getting any attention. C

Romney: Took punches from Perry and hit back just as hard.  Always in control. B+

Perry: Looked sure and confident and willing to go after Mitt until the vaccination issue took him down a peg. B-


Bachmann: Was just as strong as always but this time she was out of the limelight. B


Paul: Always a balance between wise Dr. Paul and crazy uncle Dr. Paul.  Tonight he fell more toward the latter. C+


Santorum: Slightly less provocative than in the last debate but the lack of chances he received seemed to compel him to lash out. B-


Gingrich: Strong answers and good applause lines.  Would make a fine Debater-in-Chief. B+

Huntsman: Seemed sidelined throughout. C+ 

Debate #4: Tampa, FL

September 12, 2011

CNN

Summary: Despite having a supposedly loyal audience at the Tampa Tea Party Debate, Bachmann, Santorum, Romney, Paul and Huntsman all piled on Governor Perry’s record on immigration , social security and the HVC vaccine issue. 

 
Cain: Pushed his 9-9-9 program more heavily but was largely lost in the Perry bashing. C+

Romney: As the stealth front-runner he was stable as everyone went after the man ahead in the polls. B

Bachmann: Strong and consistent, but no longer in the media glare. B


Paul: Had trouble breaking through the anti-Perry party. C+

Perry: Beat up. D-

Santorum: Joined the whacking on Perry but was lost in the chorus. B-

Gingrich: Consistent applause-getter while avoiding shots at opponents. B+


Huntsman: Clearly the adult on the stage, but the Tea Party crowd was not listening. B-

Debate #5: Orlando, FL

September 22, 2011

FOX

Summary: Cain and Perry were passing ships in this rowdy debate in Orlando.  While Cain made his first push with a strong debate, multiple flubs by Perry began to send him falling in the polls.


Cain: If there was a moment that sprung Herman Cain upwards, it was this Orlando debate in which he seemed to punctuate every answer with a strong finish that brought strong applause in the hall. A

Johnson: Finally allowed on stage, Johnson did not disappoint.  While only being able to answer 4 legitimate questions in the night, his “shovel-ready projects” line brought down the house. A-

Romney: Stood by smiling as Perry took himself out. B+

Bachmann: Wobbly answers throughout --- on passing along a false HPV claim and in saying Americans should keep 100% of their income. Losing credibility... C-

Paul: Strong answers but was asked just 5 questions and got no follow-ups. B


Perry: Unable to put together complete sentences to attack Mitt…also dug himself deeper on the immigration issue. D+

Santorum: Always around but perpetually ignored. B-

Gingrich: Had the crowd cheering and laughing..waiting for his turn to come around.  B+


Huntsman: Getting stronger each debate, but never has crowd support in the hall.  B- 

Debate #6: Hanover, NH

October 11, 2011

Bloomberg News

Summary: Charlie Rose’s enormous roundtable offered a different dynamic in the 6th debate.  There was less  audience involvement and fewer attacks between candidates.  The debate rules also led to an enormous number of questions going to Mitt Romney and Herman Cain as the other candidates largely were forced to sit back and watch.


Cain: Took the spotlight due to his bump in the polls and the interest in "999."  But didn't seem to have much to say beyond those three famous numbers. B-

Romney: This debate often seemed to be prolongued Romney interview, with follow-up after follow-up.  He stood up fine as usual. B+

Bachmann: Slipping poll numbers have resulted in her being ignored despite good performances. B-

Paul: Almost completely ignored in this debate, he was articulate when involved. B-

Perry: Consistently inarticulate and flailing about.  The questioners sudden lack of focus on Perry, compared to past debates, made it seem that he was out to lunch.C-

Santorum: Pushy and aggressive and clearly annoyed at the lack of questions coming his way. C

Gingrich: Even feistier than usual, Gingrich called for Dodd and Frank to go to prison.  Lots of red meat though. B


Huntsman: Much better than in past debates, blending attacks and strong statements together. The round table and Charlie’s attention helped him. B+

Debate #7: Las Vegas, NV

October 18, 2011

CNN

Summary: Romney was at the center of attacks again and stood up strong, winning arguments against Gingrich on the Heritage Foundation, Cain on “Apples and oranges” and Perry on “hiring illegals.” 

Cain: Cain took attacks on his "999" plan but fought back hard winning applause from the crowd for his bold stands. B

Romney: Was at the center of everything, fighting back with strength and humor. A

Bachmann: Left out of the questioning, Bachmann repeatedly tried to jam her way in with moderator Anderson Cooper.  A bit shrill tonight. C+

Paul: More involved and feisty and had the audidence as usual. B+

Perry: Was booed repeatedly in his attacks on Romney.  He was certainly livelier but not very effective. D+

Santorum: Lashing out everywhere, he made 8 distinct attacks while answering just 8 questions. C-

Gingrich: Heavy applause getter, Newt stumbled a bit on the Heritage Foundation question. B-

Debate #8: Rochester, MI

November 9, 2011

CNBC

Summary: Governor Perry’s major-league gaffe dominated the reaction to this rather professorial CNBC debate.  Perry’s mistake was probably the final nail in a coffin that he had been preparing for some time with weak debate performances.  Meanwhile, the rather technical nature of the CNBC questions lead to very little aggression on the part of the candidates.

Romney: The hometown crowd was clearly behind Mitt Romney resulting in twice as many appaulse lines as any other candidate. A-

Cain: Herman Cain resorted to “999” as answer to almost any question --- so much that it began drawing laughs each time he did so.  While backed heartily in his answer to the sexual harassment question, his reliance on “999” drains credibility. C+

Bachmann: Steady and consistent but largely ignored. B-


Paul: Received just 4 full 60-second opportunities in this debate, largely removing his effectiveness. B-


Perry: Things were not even going well before the  gaffe. F

Santorum: Was only allowed to speak 5 times in the entire debate, almost assuring a impactless performance. C+


Huntsman: Governor Huntsman was back after skipping the Nevada debate and was his usual articulate self.  Having trouble breaking through though…. B-


Gingrich: The former speaker took his attack on the media to a new level while drawing applause and laughs from the audience throughout. A- 

Debate #9: Spartanburg, SC 

November 12, 2011

CBS

Summary: Everyone was on their best behavior in this foreign policy debate mothered strictly by CBS's Scott Pelle.  Cain looked uncomfortable and Perry bounced back with a few self-depricating jokes.  Very few attacks and little news.

Cain: Has always seemed extremely uncomfortable with foreign policy. Answers couldn't be more generic. D

Romney: Took a hardline on China and Iran. Effective as always. B

Bachmann: As impressive as ever despite the lack of movement in the polls. B

Paul: Off on his own track in a largely hawkish party.  B

Perry: Seemed happy to be on stage again setting a new storyline.  Effectively poked fun at himself and seemed pleased as punch when Newt agreed with his zero-based foreign aid policy. B+

Santorum: Always more effective when not constantly attacking. B+

Gingrich: Seemed quite expert, polls on the rise. B+

Debate #10: Washington, DC

November 22, 2011

CNN

Summary: Newt took his lead and immediately put it in jeopardy with a rather liberal position on Immigration.  Others looked strong and well-versed in foreign affairs: Romney, Huntsman, Santorum, Bachmann.   Cain and Perry looked lost.  Paul out on his own fringe, but more than competent.


Cain: Seemed lost when unable to go to 9-9-9. Cain train definitely off the track. D

Romney: Tough and conservative, looked like a commander-in-chief. A-

Bachmann: In command and knowledgeable, taught Perry a lesson on Pakistan. B+

Paul: Contrarian as always on foreign policy, but appealing and knowledgable. A-

Perry: In a downward spiral. C-

Santorum: Smart and strong but no one is listening. B

Gingrich: Took a big risk on immigration, will the base reject it? B- 

Debate #11: Drake University, Iowa

December 10, 2011

ABC

Summary: It was Newt's first debate as the man to beat and everyone certainly tried to beat on him.  He largely held his own and was especially on target on the infedelity question.  Romney made a gaffe with the $10,000 bet.  It may add to his Wall Street image but he was probably going to be saddled with that anyway.


Cain: First debate without the Hermanator. The whole field suddenly seemed more knowledgable somehow.

Romney: Seemed a little more intimidated battling Newt than his past opponents. The bet gaffe put his campaign on the defensive in the post-debate spin. C

Bachmann: Her "Newt Romney" attack was a good shorthand way to battle two opponents higher in the polls in one fell swoop.  But the courting of Cain's supporters seemed too political. B

Paul: Consistent and steady.  The most applause in the room and the fewest chances to speak...as usual. B+

Perry: Much better than normal, had now has the relaxed air of someone with nothing left to lose. B+

Santorum: Always seems to be over-touting his own accomplishments.  They all do it, but for Santorum it comes off as pushy. B-

Gingrich: Held strong and kept momentum.  In a year of debates, the best debater is now on top.  A- 

Huntsman: Avoiding Iowa makes sense, but not being able to appear on these debates that the nation and NH are watching intently has become a major problem for his campaign. F

Debate #12: Sioux City, Iowa

December 15, 2011

FOX

Summary: This was not the first time this year that everyone piled on the Non-Romney allowing Mitt to skate by untouched.  Plus Governor Romney did not even have to dirty himself going after Newt since his competitors did it for him.

 

Romney: It's funny how Romney has spent the past year as everyone's true front-runner (despite day-to-day polls) and yet he has often stood and watched as Perry, Cain and now Gingrich has been everyone's focus of attacks. B+

Bachmann: Very tough on Newt --- and effective. A-

Paul: Made his case against foreign intervention hard.  Have to see if it hurts among the GOP electorate or only solidifies his own supporters. B-

Perry: The Tim Tebow reference was a bit awkward but he generated applause all night. B+

Santorum: Not bad, but out of the picture as usual. B

Gingrich: Bachmann's attacks wounded him, but his performance was much stronger than the media reviews indicated.  Won the most applause and laughter in the hall of any candidate, according to our statistics. B+

Huntsman: His preachiness always seems to rub the audience the wrong way. C+

 


Debate #13: St. Anselm College, New Hampshire

January 7, 2012

ABC

Summary: Most commentators criticized the "Non-Romney" candidates for not going after the front-runner with such a large lead in the New Hampshire polls.  Instead, the conservative candidates largely attacked each other in an effort to become the alternative to Mitt.

 

Romney: Protecting his lead and avoiding controversy. B+

Paul: His most aggressive debate so far --- not so appealing.  C

Perry: Had a good debate until he said he wanted to send troops back to Iraq now.  Would have been another widely publicized gaffe if he was not so far down in the polls.  D

Santorum: In his first debate in the spotlight, Santorum seemed a bit ill at ease.  Overly senatorial at times.  B-

Gingrich: Strong as always but increasingly out of the picture. B

Huntsman: His speaking in Mandarin seemed haughty and superior rather than fun and lively. C

  


Debate #14: St. Anselm College, New Hampshire

January 8, 2012

NBC

Summary: After holding back on the Romney attacks the night before, the "non-Romneys" hit back harder the next morning. The debate had a political overtone with 24 of the 49 questions being on politics.

 

Romney: Took some hits but nothing serious. B+

Paul: After a harsh tone the night before Paul seemed a bit lackluster the next day.  C-

Perry: Increasingly marginalized by the questioners.  C

Santorum: Stronger than the night before but often on the defensive about his record.  B-

Gingrich: Good attacks on Romney, he made up for the night before. B+

Huntsman: Probably his best debate yet...strong and confident.  B+



Debate #15: Myrtle Beach

January 16, 2012

FOX

Summary: A rowdy crowd appreciated Newt and Perry's red meat.  This debate resurrected Newt's campaign.

 

Romney: On the defensive, especially on the tax question.  Perhaps his worst debate of the season. C+

Paul: With one minute and 30 seconds to answer, Paul seemed to ramble more than ever. C

Perry: His last debate was probably his best. 5 applause lines from the crowd. B+

Santorum: Remarkably, no big applause lines all night in a crowd that was jumping. C+

Gingrich: A record 8 applause lines including a standing O.  A




Debate #16: Charleston, South Carolina

January 19, 2012

CNN

Summary: All over in just five minutes.  Newt's attack on John King's opening question got him 2 standing ovations and dominated every recap of the debate in the following days.

 

Romney: Not terrible, but uncomfortable answer on tax question dominated the coverage. B-

Paul: More rambling and odd than in perhaps any other debate this year.  D+

Santorum: Confident, strong, substantive and on the attack. A-

Gingrich: Wasn't completely sharp all night, but those first 5 minutes put it away. A


Debate #17: Tampa, Florida

January 23, 2012

MSNBC

Summary: It was all about the crowd.  Without any applause allowed, Newt seemed to wilt and substance ruled the day.  Mitt was not that sharp but the constant attacks matched those on the airwaves in Florida.

Romney: Threw the whole oppo file at Newt.  B

Paul: Very few questions, less and less relevant.  C

Santorum: Seemed a bit too lowkey.  Some decent attacks on both his rivals. B-

Gingrich: Just not the same without the audience to bounce his attacks off. B-


 

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