Since we’ve had (roughly) about 647 GOP presidential debates over the last few months, we’re finally in a position to hand out some grades.
Over at the Mr. Media Training blog, they’ve done exactly that. Their analyst, Brad Philips - a former journalist with ABC and CNN - handed out marks based on criteria that included clarity of message, optimism of message, and charisma. He’s not too forthcoming on how he actually scores those up, and of course anything of this nature has to be taken with a pinch of salt, but his judgments are rather fun.
TPM whipped the results into a bar chart where the candidates were given 5 points for each gradation. So you have zero points if your grade is F; 5 points if you have a D Minus and 60 points if you achieve the top score of A Plus.
As you can see, there are no surprises at the top end, with the two current frontrunners also being the strongest performers in the debates.
What is perhaps surprising is that Michele Bachmann, whose support cratered shortly after the entrance of Rick Perry, has also received a surprisingly high grade. Philips says of her:
Rep. Bachmann, who briefly flirted with the lead, has shown an impressive ability to articulate an unambiguous message throughout the debates (ObamaCare bad, repeal good). She has also demonstrated a skillful ability to attack her opponents directly without ever appearing nasty. Still, she falls off-script too often, such as when she said after one debate that the HPV vaccine caused “mental retardation.”
Philips’ judgments of the various performers are often vivid but terse. He writes, for instance, of Rick Santorum that he is “passionate, but conveys that passion with an ever-present sour expression… [W]hereas Ronald Reagan used to eviscerate his opponents with a warm smile, Mr. Santorum looks thoroughly disgusted with his opponents.”
Jon Huntsman comes in for a grilling as well, with Philips saying he’s “mostly memorable for his frequent (and failed) attempts at humor. Whether making a joke invoking Kurt Cobain or the “gas” coming from Washington, Mr. Huntsman too often resembled the awkward uncle who elicits sympathy laughs at family events.”
You can read the full rundown over at the Mr. Media Training website.