Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) had breakout performances at Wednesday's Republican debate, outshining Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who led in the polls, and Jeb Bush, Rubio's onetime mentor.

Trump, a businessman and television star, had dominated previous debates. In Boulder, Colo., a freshman senator commandeered the conversation. Marco Rubio said nearly 16 percent of all the words spoken by candidates – more than every other candidate in each of the first two debates.

How much each candidate said

of words spoken by candidates

15.8%

RUBIO

11.1%

TRUMP

10.7%

FIORINA

9.8%

CRUZ

9.8%

KASICH

9.1%

BUSH

8.7%

HUCKABEE

8.5%

PAUL

8.4%

CARSON

8.1%

CHRISTIE

15.8%

of words spoken by candidates

11.1%

10.7%

9.8%

9.8%

9.1%

8.7%

8.5%

8.4%

8.1%

KASICH

HUCKABEE

BUSH

RUBIO

TRUMP

CARSON

FIORINA

CRUZ

CHRISTIE

PAUL

[GOP candidates tangle with one another — and CNBC — in a chaotic debate]

Rubio, who has risen in polls since mid-September, was in a better position on stage this time around. The candidates with the highest poll numbers are in the center and generally receive more airtime than candidates on the outskirts.

Rubio was closer to the center than in the previous two debates. He spoke much more than the leading candidates, Trump and Carson, despite their advantageous stage positions.

OCT. 28

15.8%

of words

SEP. 16

3rd

11.4%

 

6th

AUG. 6

11.0%

 

7th

Center of stage

in debate 2

(11 candidates)

Center of stage

in debate 1 and 3

(10 candidates)

OCT. 28

15.8%

of words

SEP. 16

3rd

11.4%

 

6th

AUG. 6

11.0%

 

There was

an 11th

podium in the

second debate.

7th

Center of stage

in debate 1 and 3

(10 candidates)

Center of stage

in debate 2

(11 candidates)

With three debates down, patterns of performance are beginning to emerge. Here, compare the candidates’ Real Clear Politics national polling average on the day of each debate and how much they spoke:

How much candidates spoke
versus polling averages

Rubio

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Trump

Fiorina

Cruz

Bush

Kasich

Huckabee

Carson

Paul

Christie

5%

0%

10%

20%

30%

Polling average

Rubio

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Trump

Fiorina

Kasich

Cruz

10%

Bush

Huckabee

Paul

Carson

Christie

5%

0%

10%

20%

30%

Polling average

Rubio's on an upward trajectory – better poll numbers and more on-air time in the debates.

Rubio

Oct. 28 debate

15%

Sept. 16

Share

of Words

Spoken

Aug. 6

5

0%

10

20

30

Polling average

Rubio

Oct. 28 debate

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Sept. 16

Aug. 6

10

5

0%

30

10

20

Polling average

Trump did not dominate Thursday’s debate like he did the first two, but his poll numbers remain strong.

Sept. 16

15%

Aug. 6 debate

Trump

Share

of Words

Spoken

Oct. 28

5

10

20

0%

30

Polling average

Aug. 6 debate

Sept. 16

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Trump

Oct. 28

10

5

0%

30

10

20

Polling average

Carson has gained significantly in polls since the first debate, but he hasn't spoken much in any of the debates.

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Carson

Aug. 6 debate

Oct. 28

Sept. 16

5

10

20

0%

30

Polling average

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

10

Carson

Oct. 28

Aug. 6 debate

Sept. 16

5

0%

30

10

20

Polling average

[Carson stays his quiet course]

With polling numbers down and much less airtime Thursday, Bush appears to be getting lost in the pack. He dropped from second to fifth in national polls, moving him a bit further from the center stage limelight. He spoke a much smaller percentage of words than in the previous debates.

15%

Sept. 16 debate

Share

of Words

Spoken

Aug. 6

Bush

Oct. 28

5

10

20

0%

30

Polling average

15%

Share

of Words

Spoken

Sept. 16 debate

Aug. 6

10

Bush

Oct. 28

5

0%

30

10

20

Polling average

OCT. 28

SEP. 16

AUG. 6

9.1%

of words

12.2%

 

12.1%

 

2nd

2nd

5th

Center of stage

in debate 2

(11 candidates)

Center of

stage in debate

1 and 3

(10 candidates)

OCT. 28

SEP. 16

AUG. 6

9.1%

of words

12.2%

 

12.1%

 

2nd

2nd

5th

There was

an 11th

podium in the

second debate.

Center of stage

in debate 1 and 3

(10 candidates)

Center of stage

in debate 2

(11 candidates)

[Winners and losers from the third Republican presidential debate]

Rallying against the democrats

Several candidates, especially those in the middle of the pack, focused on steering the conversation toward what the party needs to do to beat Hillary Clinton next fall and emphasized their strengths in that matchup. “In your heart of hearts, you cannot wait to see a debate between Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina. I will tell you this, I will beat Hillary Clinton,” former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Fiorina declared.

When asked whether Trump had the moral authority to unite the country, Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee brought up Clinton again: “Let me tell you, Donald Trump would be a president every day of the week and twice on Sunday, rather than Hillary.”

Attacks on Clinton

3

3

3

1

1

5

3

3

3

1

1

5

Attacks on CNBC and the media

Candidates showed their discomfort with the tone of the questions throughout the evening.

Moderator John Harwood directed his first question to Trump: “Let’s be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”

Trump answered drily: “No, not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question the way you say that.”

More complaints during the debate:

RUBIO

“This is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement.”

“I know the Democrats have the ultimate super PAC. It's called the mainstream media”

CRUZ

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American

people don't trust the media.”

 

“The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, 'Which of you is more handsome and why?' "

CHRISTIE

“Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved

in fantasy football?”

 

“We have $19 trillion in debt.

We have people out of work.

We have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us. And we're

talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”

RUBIO

CRUZ

CHRISTIE

“This is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement.”

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media.”

 

“The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the

media was, 'Which of you is more handsome

and why?' "

“Carl, are we really

talking about getting

government involved

in fantasy football?”

 

“We have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us. And we're talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”

“I know the Democrats have the ultimate super PAC. It's called the mainstream media.”

[The next Republican debate is on Nov. 10 in Milwaukee.]

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