Fact-checking post-debate analysis on the Sept. 20 Sunday shows

Carly Fiorina on "Fox News Sunday," Sept. 20, 2015. (Screengrab)
Carly Fiorina on "Fox News Sunday," Sept. 20, 2015. (Screengrab)

The second Republican debate has shifted voters’ perceptions of the candidates, and politicians and pundits took to the Sunday shows to analyze the Wednesday night debate and what it meant for the Republican field.

A CNN poll unveiled Sunday showed a huge bump for former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.  It found Fiorina shot from 3 percent in early September to 15 percent now, putting her in a statistical tie for second with physician Ben Carson. Real estate billionaire Donald Trump still leads with 24 percent, but he’s down 8 points from the last CNN poll.

That jumping around is normal, said conservative analyst Karl Rove.

At this time in 2012

"Let's just remember, we are at the beginning of this process," Rove said on Fox News Sunday. "As of now, in 2012, Rick Perry was ahead at 29.9 percent, and we had seven more leads before it finally settled on Mitt Romney on Feb. 28 of 2012. "

That rates Mostly True.

Using polling averages from RealClearPolitics.com, Rove offers a fair summary. Some might argue that the lead moved around even more. We found that five individual candidates -- Perry, Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- handed the lead back and forth during that time period.

Looking at individual polls, the lead shifted less often, but the window on the race those polls offer is not as detailed as the method Rove used.

The 2012 Republican nomination saw a robust number of competitors. The race this year is even more crowded. Martin Cohen, a political scientist at James Madison University, said this all feeds into "the media's fetish with the new and exciting." Cohen places very little importance at polls at this point.

"Voters are influenced by media coverage and the post-debate spin," he told PunditFact. "But it doesn't mean that is the way they will ultimately vote or even whether they will vote at all."

What was lacking from Wednesday’s debate

Pundits weren’t the only ones critiquing the CNN debate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the high polling numbers for the GOP presidential field’s "outsider" candidates are in part the result of the media refusing to discuss substantive issues

"We had a three-hour debate, no discussion about the national debt, very little about the economy," Rubio said on ABC’s This Week. "It was a constant he-said-she-said, what do you say because so-and-so called you this name or that name."

Rubio isn’t really exaggerating. His claim also rates Mostly True.

Candidates fielded questions about the minimum wage and tax policy, which one could argue are related to the economy. But there were no direct questions about job creation or debt.

Still, candidates did mention the economy as they addressed other questions.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pointed out Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton’s call for a higher minimum wage is "her answer to grow the economy." Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee mentioned that finding cures to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s will save the country trillions, and would "change the economy and the country."

Rubio, meanwhile, discussed the economy when answering a question about climate change. He said disregarding alarms raised by "the left-wing government" was necessary because "every proposal they put forward are going to be proposals that will make it harder to do business in America, that will make it harder to create jobs in America."

"We are not going to destroy our economy," he said. "We are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather, because America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely."

There also were a few mentions of the national debt.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cited debt service as a major portion of what the federal budget is stuck dealing with. "Seventy one percent of all federal spending is on entitlements and debt service," he said.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his 4 percent economic growth plan will "deal with the structural fiscal problems that exist because of our entitlement problems that will overwhelm and create way too much debt," but didn’t discuss specifics about controlling projected costs.

Carly Fiorina on Planned Parenthood comments

Fiorina appeared on Fox News Sunday, where moderator Chris Wallace asked her about her debate performance, including comments Fiorina had made about Planned Parenthood.

During the debate, Fioria said this: "I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.' "

Wallace challenged her description. "Do you acknowledge what every fact-checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it? There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned," Wallace said.

"No, I don't accept that at all. I've seen the footage," Fiorina said. "And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checker in the mainstream media claim this doesn't exist. They're trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape," adding "Anyone who wants to challenge me, first, is going to have to prove to me that they watched it."

But Fiorina is mischaracterizing what fact-checkers, including PolitiFact, found. Fact-checkers have watched the videotape, even linking to it in their reports.

PolitiFact found that Fiorina’s description of the video was exaggerated, rating it Mostly False. It did not show "a fully formed fetus on the table" moving while someone says "we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."

What the Center for Medical Progress’ videos attacking Planned Parenthood actually shows is an interview with a woman identified as a former tissue procurement technician, who tells about an experience in a Planned Parenthood pathology lab where she sees a fetus outside the womb with its heart still beating.

According to the woman, her supervisor said they would procure the fetus’ brain. The video’s creators added footage of an aborted fetus on what appears to be an examination table, and its legs are moving. The stock footage was added to the video to dramatize its content.