The fifth Republican debate has come to a close, and there were some some notable “firsts” tonight. It was the first time Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz directly attacked one another, the first time Jeb Bush landed a decent hit on Donald Trump, and the first time any candidate criticized the audience for booing them. (That one was Trump’s work, as you may have suspected.) But at the end of the day, which candidate spoke for the longest amount of time at this debate?
It was in fact Cruz, who spoke for 15 minutes and 58 seconds over the course of the night. Up next was Rubio, who clocked in at 13 minutes and 33 seconds. Then Trump, with 13 minutes and 25 seconds (though it seemed like much, much longer). After those top three, the candidates who spoke for longest, in order, were: Chris Christie (10 minutes and 45 seconds), Ben Carson (10 minutes and 27 seconds), Jeb Bush (10 minutes and 13 seconds), Rand Paul (nine minutes and 46 seconds), Carly Fiorina (nine minutes and 32 seconds), and John Kasich (nine minutes flat).
Most of this isn’t terribly surprising, but there are a few interesting bits. Normally, the candidates who are polling the best are given the most opportunities to speak. From that perspective, this night was a huge win for Christie, as he spoke more than all but three of the candidates, despite pulling a measly average of 2.9 percent of support in the polls. Similarly, the fact that Rubio has less than half the support of Trump in polls didn’t stop him from talking for longer than the real estate magnate.
Overall, though, the candidates’ speaking times roughly mirrored their standings in the race. It’s becoming increasingly clear that there are only four candidates in the GOP primary who have any real chance of winning the nomination: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson. Cruz has recently surged in the polls, so it’s fitting that he spoke the most. Carson's support is plummeting, which explains his relatively short speaking time.
Of course, what matters most is what the candidates said, now how long they spoke for. Every additional word uttered by a presidential candidate is a chance to win votes, but the reverse is also true. Talking more gives you more chances to make a comment that ruins your chances of ultimately becoming president of the United States.