Watching the first presidential debate, my friends and I were struck by an apparent paradox: President Barack Obama spoke for about four minutes longer than challenger Mitt Romney, but it seemed like Romney had dominated the time. In their post-debate reactions, analysts and pundits like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also were surprised that Obama had more opportunities to speak.
So before counting sheep for the night, I decided to count the words that each candidate spoke. (And there were a lot of words: More than 15,000 between the two men, all told.)
While a simple word count isn’t always enlightening, I think it helps explain analysts’ impressions here. Despite getting 11% more microphone time, Obama actually uttered about 9% fewer words than Romney did last night.