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Fiorina-mentum? Former HP CEO dominates on social media

Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson emerged as social media favorite's during the second Republican debate on Wednesday.

In the first prime-time, top-tier GOP presidential debate, Carly Fiorina didn’t make the cut and was instead relegated to the “kids table."

However, in the second debate, Fiorina made it to the main stage -- and came out on top as a social media favorite.

According to Twitter, Fiorina gained the most Twitter followers of any of the 2016 GOP candidates on Twitter last night. And the top two most buzzed-about moments of the evening on the social network were Fiorina responding to Donald Trump’s comments regarding her looks, and Fiorina discussing Planned Parenthood.

On Google, searches about Fiorina spiked during the debate. While Trump still maintained his previous position as the most searched candidate on Google, which he held prior to the debate as well. Meanwhile, Fiorina surged in search interest during the debate to be the second most-searched candidate behind Trump. It shows significant momentum in search and social media for a candidate who only just barely made it into the prime-time debate -- and didn’t make it to prime-time at all in the last debate in August.

Fiorina’s social domination wasn’t surprising -- she was widely seen as a strong performer during the debate. But another candidate that also won momentum on social media was someone who spoke up a little less than Fiorina -- neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

According to social media analytics company Crowdtangle, Carson gained over 300,000 new Facebook fans during the debate, and also had the top two most engaging candidate Facebook posts of the night. In one of those posts, at the end of the night, Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote: "Tonight we gained over 300,000 new Facebook fans. More than Jeb Bush has in total. We gained more Twitter followers than anyone. On top of all of that, we raised over a million dollars in small donations. In every metric that matters, Ben Carson won tonight."  

However, though Bennett's post said Carson gained more Twitter followers than anyone, a spokesperson for the social media site reported that the biggest follower gains of the night were for Fiorina, Trump, and Bush. But on Facebook, Carson was the clear winner in terms of fan growth and engagement.  

The most popular tweet of the night, however, goes to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who tweeted (or presumably had a staff member tweet, since he was on stage) "Sorry Mom" after revealing in the debate that he had smoked marijuana in the past. The tweet received over 25,000 retweets. 


Democratic presidential hopefuls also got in on the social media action, even though they weren't present for the debate. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley all tweeted their own responses and commentary during the debate. Sanders was the most vocal of the bunch, live tweeting the event with the hashtag #DebateWithBernie. Two of his tweets, directed at Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, were the second and third-most retweeted candidate tweets of the evening (behind Jeb Bush's "Sorry Mom"). Hillary Clinton also received high engagement for two tweets responding to the candidates comments about women and reproductive rights.