Hogging the Spotlight

Did it seem to you that the four moderators spoke about as much as the candidates in last night’s Democratic debate? Me too. Having some time on my hands, I decided to see if my hunch was accurate. Here’s what I found out:

Peter Jennings spoke more words than each of three candidates: Gen. Wesley Clark, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Jennings spoke nearly as many words as Gov. Howard Dean, who was expected to be the focus of this debate. In total, 30 percent of the words spoken came from one of the four moderators/questioners.

Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I thought the point of having these debates was to give the candidates a chance tell us what they intend to do as president — and maybe even argue with each other — not so we can hear some guy from a New Hampshire TV station talk.

Sen. John Edwards, the accomplished courtroom lawyer, spoke by far the most. Using the familiar debate tactic of simply ignoring that annoying bell, he was able to get in 24 percent more words than runner-up Sen. John Kerry, and 72 percent more than Al Sharpton, who spoke the fewest.

Here’s the full run-down, in total words spoken:

Edwards: 2641
Kerry: 2128
Lieberman: 2089
Dean: 1968
Clark: 1619
Kucinich: 1550
Sharpton: 1532

Jennings: 1870
Hume: 1403
Griffith: 1296
Di Staso: 1185

—Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.