This GOP presidential race can change in the blink of an eye. And after Rick Santorum's strong finish in Iowa last week, he may want to invest in some eyedrops.

 

During Saturday's Republican debate in New Hampshire, Santorum blinked 793 times while speaking for 12 minutes and 55 seconds, according to an analysis by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. That's 61.4 blinks per minute, or just slightly more than one blink per second.

 

It's also well above the average person's blink rate, which is about 20 to 25 blinks per minute. No other candidate blinked nearly as much as Santorum did Saturday — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman each blinked 33.9 times per minute, the analysis found, followed by Newt Gingrich (27.7), Ron Paul (17.1) and Rick Perry (15.9).

 

People tend to blink less often when they're taking in or processing information, and more often when they're nervous or under stress. Research is less clear on a link between blinking and lying, but as University of Minnesota political scientist Eric Ostermeier explains, all that matters is how voters perceive Santorum's body language. And in general, lots of blinking isn't good.

 

"In short, Santorum's non-verbal communication cues do not make him look comfortable, and, as a result, they do not put the viewer at ease when watching him," Ostermeier writes on the Humphrey School's blog, Smart Politics.

 

Romney spoke more than seven minutes longer than Santorum during Saturday's debate, yet blinked 102 fewer times. Still, the night's two stars of staring were both Texans: Ron Paul blinked just 186 times in 10.9 minutes, while Rick Perry broke his gaze a mere 83 times during 5.2 minutes of talking.

 

While Santorum's blinkiness may seem like a liability, there is a recent precedent for GOP candidates overcoming such a tic. George W. Bush blinked rapidly throughout the first presidential debate of 2004, and many pundits agreed that Sen. John Kerry won the debate. Bush, however, went on to win the election that November.

 

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