The first presidential debate, by the numbers

October 4, 2012

With the first presidential debate in the books, here's a look at some key facts and figures that matter from Wednesday night's showdown between President Obama and Mitt Romney: 

* 3 (Number of minutes more that Obama spoke): CNN ran a clock tracking the total time each candidate spoke during the debate. By its count, Obama spoke for about three minutes more than Romney. Considering that most of the post-debate analysis suggested Romney had the upper hand Wednesday night, it might come as a surprise that Obama actually spoke longer. But Romney kept his responses concise -- a reminder that it candidates can say more with less in debate settings.

* 29 (Number of times candidates mention "middle-class" or "middle-income"): Obama mentioned the words 17 times, and Romney made 12 references. Going into the debate, the burden was on Romney to convince voters he could empathize with average  Americans, especially following his "47 percent" comment. He delivered, with a memorable line early in the debate; "Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300," said Romney "This is a tax in and of itself. I will call it the economy tax."

* 52 (Number of times the word "Medicare" was uttered): Reminders that disagreements over the future of entitlements remain a central focus in this campaign were everywhere Wednesday, as Obama hit Romney over his plan to revamp Medicare and Romney noted the cuts to the program the president's federal health care law caused. 

* 0 (Number of times Romney's "47 percent" comment came up): Obama notably didn't bring it up, even as his campaign has been running scads of ads hitting Romney over his remarks at a May fundraiser. That doesn't mean Obama won't bash Romney on it at a future debate, but it perhaps does signal that the incumbent didn't want to appear too aggressive (or political) in the first debate. 

 * 2 (Number of times "leadership" was raised by the candidates): Each candidate weighed in once on the crucial question of what leadership actually means. Here's what they said: 

Obama:

"And so part of leadership and governing is both saying what it is that you are for, but also being willing to say no to some things. And I’ve got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party."

Romney:

"And Republicans and Democrats both love America. But we need to have leadership -- leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if -- if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again."

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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Chris Cillizza | October 4, 2012