Santorum’s blinking problem

January 9, 2012

Insurgent Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum might have a blinking problem, according to an analysis by a research associate at the University of Minnesota.

Eric Ostermeier, a political scientist who writes the non-partisan Smart Politics blog, said that Santorum blinked at more than twice the rate of the rest of the Republican field during Saturday night’s ABC News presidential debate in Manchester.

’While research may not be settled regarding whether people who lie blink more often than those who tell the truth, potential voters are no doubt more at ease with a candidate who looks them straight in the eyes and does not pepper their speech with repetitive non-verbal tics,” Ostermeier wrote.

Smart Politics counted 2,284 on-camera blinks when candidates were speaking at the ABC debate, and Santorum accounted for 35 percent of them.

Santorum, who spoke for 12 minutes and 55 seconds in Saturday’s debate, blinked 793 times while delivering verbal remarks, or 61.4 times per minute — much higher than the average person’s rate of approximately 20-25 times per minute. The rest of the GOP field blinked 1,491 times, or just 27.8 times per minute of speech.

Santorum eclipsed the 100-blink mark during three of his responses and also frequently displayed a non-verbal tic of looking down and to his right while delivering answers to the moderator or responding to statements made by other candidates.

Frontrunner Mitt Romney blinked at 33.9 blinks per minute, but his blink rate accelerated during a long, uncomfortable exchange with moderator George Stephanopolos on whether states have the right to outlaw contraception — a line of questioning that Romney, whose debate answers are often pulled straight from his stump speeches, could not have prepared for.

The two Texans in the field, Congressman Ron Paul and Governor Rick Perry, had the lowest blinking rates among the six, although Paul’s blinking accelerated when he was asked about the controversial newsletters written under his name two decades ago.

Ostermeier blogged separately that frontrunner Romney got the lion’s share — 30 percent — of speaking time at the two New Hampshire debates over the weekend, doubling up on Paul, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and tripling Perry’s air time.

During the debate, Gingrich chided Romney for continuing to speak beyond his allotted time for certain answers and responses. “I realize the red light doesn’t mean anything to you because you’re the frontrunner,” Gingrich barked.

Familiarity might breed at least a little contempt, though. The daily tracking poll by Suffolk University/Channel 7 in Boston shows Romney’s wide lead in New Hampshire narrowed after the weekend debates as opponents, despite their limited speaking time, delivered a few well-timed jabs.

Photo credit: Rick Santorum speaks as Mitt Romney listens, in a Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 7, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar

One comment

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It’s ironic that someone with such ideological and religious blinkers on blinks so much. If it is true that blinking indicates lying, I find it encouraging that on some level Santorum knows that his ideological propoganda does not square with reality I think this article has really nailed something that has been bugging me about Santorum — I never get a sense of integrity from him, he gives me the impression of an eight year old boasting about the dinasour in his back yard. Definitely not presidential material.

Posted by robroberts | Report as abusive