Thursday night's nationally televised GOP presidential debate gave many Americans their first look at the full field of declared candidates, and for candidates languishing in polls such events might be their key out of the basement.
In the most recent Post-ABC News poll, those more tuned into the '08 race were more likely to support one of the candidates outside the top tier (Giuliani, McCain and Romney) of announced candidates than those paying less attention.
While 19 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the poll who were paying "very close" attention to the race supported one of the seven other candidates in the race, just seven percent of those less engaged in the campaign supported one of those contenders.
Exposure may not be the only key to a candidate's competing with the political celebrities at the top of the national polls, but it'll be interesting how the debates change the contours of the nomination battle.
And did Thursday's performance at the Reagan Presidential Library earn the GOPs almost-famous a few more supporters? New polls will tell, but Behind The Numbers checked in with some survey respondents to get a first take "in their own words."
Jeff Rogers of Denton, Tex., a lukewarm Giuliani supporter, watched and was unimpressed by the single-digit seven, and expressed disappointment in the field. "The Democratic choices are frightening," he said, and feels that in November 2008 he'll be "left with no choice but to vote for the lesser of two evils."
Phyllis Smith of Greer, S.C., caught the highlights on the Friday morning news. She was pleased to see some positive reviews of former Gov. Mike Huckabee's performance, but felt that the media "hardly covered anyone other than the top three."
Few of the survey respondents contacted actually watched the debate, with some prefering to read about it afterwards, others unaware it was on or otherwise occupied and one person opting instead to watch her beloved Pirates take on the Brewers.