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Who is the Smartest Republican Candidate?

Who is the Smartest Republican Candidate?

Everyone has their own litmus test in making a decision in Presidential politics. It’s can sometimes be difficult to decipher what some of these slick politicians are trying to say.

So I came up with my own litmus test, an intelligence test from which they cannot hide.

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My test measures unrehearsed speech, and thus I’m able to use their language as a measure of intelligence and clarity of message. How large are their vocabularies during conversation for which they cannot have prepared, and how easy are they to understand?

For this experiment, I used the transcript of the Republican debate that took place on September 7, 2011.

For reference, here are the number of words spoken by each candidate. As you can see, then-newcomer Rick Perry had ample opportunity to speak, which didn’t always work in his favor, as we’ll see below.

Total words spoken by each candidate:
Rick Perry: 2644
Mitt Romney: 2416
Ron Paul: 1830
Jon Huntsman: 1800
Michelle Bachmann: 1538
Newt Gingrich: 1161
Rick Santorum: 979
Herman Cain: 858

Round 1 – Average Word Length
First let’s look at the average letters per word spoken, using all words spoken by each candidate in the debate. In the results below, we are seeing the average number of letters per word spoken. So, for example, Newt Gingrich spoke with an average of 4.48 letters per word. Bigger words point to a larger vocabulary, and thus higher intelligence.

1. Newt Gingrich: 4.48
2. Michelle Bachmann: 4.41
3. Herman Cain: 4.33
4. Rick Santorum: 4.28
5. Jon Huntsman: 4.24
6. Mitt Romney: 4.23
7. Ron Paul: 4.23
8. Rick Perry: 4.21

Bottom line:
You can’t argue that Newt draws from a large pool of words in his extensive vocabulary. Rick Perry wasn’t so impressive.

Winner: Gingrich
Loser: Perry

Round 1b – Average Word Length, minus articles
I took the analysis from Round 1 a step further and removed many of the small articles of speech such as “and” or “the” and ran the same numbers. We see that the order of candidates doesn’t change much, but the gap between them candidates widens. Again, the numbers below represent the average letters per word spoken by each candidate.

1. Newt Gingrich: 5.06
2. Michelle Bachmann: 4.99
3. Herman Cain: 4.94
4. Mitt Romney 4.73
5. Jon Huntsman: 4.71
6. Ron Paul: 4.63
7. Rick Santorum: 4.29
8. Rick Perry: 4.21

Without the small words, Newt’s vocabulary is even more impressive, with an average over 5 letters per word. Rick Perry’s average didn’t improve at all.

Winner: Gingrich
Loser: Perry

Round 2 – Ending sentences with a preposition
Here I’ve counted how many times a candidate ended a sentence with a preposition, which is a grammatical no-no. A low number on this list points to a candidate with a firm grasp on the English language, one who sticks to the rules even during speech. Once again, Rick Perry has the dubious honor at the top of this list.

Rick Perry: 21
Ron Paul: 14
Mitt Romney: 11
Michelle Bachmann: 7
Jon Huntsman: 7
Newt Gingrich: 6
Rick Santorum: 5
Herman Cain: 3

Winner: Cain
Loser: Perry

Round 3 – Small words used, and as a percent of all words:
We’ll now count the number of small words filtered out in Round 1b, and calculate what percentage of all words spoken they were. A higher percentage means there are more of these insignificant words used. This allows us to see which candidates relied too much on small words, thus creating more filler speech and less substance. They are sorted here by percentage.

Herman Cain: 198, 23.1%
Rick Perry: 607, 22.9%
Michelle Bachmann: 334, 21.7%
Mitt Romney: 482, 20.0%
Newt Gingrich: 231 19.9%
Rick Santorum: 192, 19.6%
Jon Huntsman: 342, 19.0%
Ron Paul: 315, 17.2%

Winner: Paul
Loser: Cain

Round 4 – Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
There are two further methods I applied to each candidate’s spoken words, which are typically applied to written words. First up is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. The Grade Level score is simple – the school grade level required to read and comprehend the text. Keep in mind that I’m applying this to each candidate’s spokenwords.
What we really want here is a low grade, meaning that a candidate is using easy-to-understand language. A higher grade level means the candidate’s message may be confusing for some people.

Rick Perry: 11
Newt Gingrich: 11
Herman Cain: 10
Michelle Bachmann: 10
John Huntsman: 9
Mitt Romney: 9
Ron Paul: 8

Curiously, the most difficult to understand language comes from the two extremes of round 1. It can be surmised that Gingrich’s difficulty may reside in his flowery language, while Perry’s difficulty may lie in his long, rambling sentences.

Winner: Paul
Loser: Perry & Gingrich

Round 4b – Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score:
The Flesch-Kincaid Reading ease score is a number calculated to show how easy a particular text is to read. The higher the number, the easier it is to understand. A low number is difficult to understand. Here, a high number is desirable in that a candidate is getting his or her message across the clearest.

Ron Paul: 60
Mitt Romney: 55
Jon Huntsman: 55
Herman Cain: 52
Rick Perry: 52
Michelle Bachmann: 50
Newt Gingrich: 49

Winner: Paul
Loser: Gingrich

To summarize the numbers above, Newt Gingrich gets the nod for his obvious intelligence, but stumbles in simplicity of message. Herman Cain appears to be striking a nice balance of presenting an intelligence message with clarity. Rick Perry’s poll numbers have have dropped drastically, with a 50% drop in support since he entered the race, perhaps in part due to his inability to portray an intelligent and clear message.

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