ANALYSIS: Exit Polls Don’t Back Rubio’s Claim That Debate Hurt Him

PHOTO:Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio waits to speak at a caucus site, Feb. 1, 2016 in Clive, Iowa. PlayPaul Sancya/AP Photo
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Given continued coverage of Marco Rubio’s claim that his poor performance in Saturday’s debate caused his fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire Republican primary, we wanted to put some data behind the point -– that the exit poll just doesn’t back him up.

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We’ve got two ways to look at it, one direct, the other indirect, and neither shows any evidence that the debate harmed Rubio in terms of vote choices.

Indirectly: 47 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said they finally decided on their candidate either on Election Day itself, or in the previous few days. Twelve percent of them voted for Rubio. The rest decided before the final debate. Ten percent of them voted for Rubio.

Directly: 67 percent called “the recent debates” an important factor in their vote. Ten percent of them voted for Rubio. The rest said the debates were not an important factor. Twelve percent of them voted for Rubio.

Two points is not a meaningful difference in the exit poll. Rubio’s support was essentially the same whether people decided before or after the debate, and whether or not they said the debates were important to their vote.

Rubio may have some reason for blaming his fifth-place finish on the debates, rather than some other cause. What we don’t see are data to support it.

Rubio's camp did not immediately comment.