Wednesday night’s presidential debate between Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama shattered social media records, earning the recognition as the most tweeted political event in US history. The Denver, Colo. debate surpassed records set by this year’s Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention.
Nearly 24 hours prior to the event, the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign had already gained more traction on Twitter than all four debates during the 2008 election, according to Mashable.
President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney generated 10.3 million total tweets during their 90 minutes on air. The conversations during the domestic policy-themed debate ranged from health care to economic issues and even Big Bird, and viewers created their own virtual debates via Twitter.
There were 10 moments that sparked the most Twitter activity during Wednesday night’s broadcast, three of which are listed below:
- When moderator Jim Lehrer countered Romney’s request to start a topic with “Let’s not.”
- When President Obama quipped “I had 5 seconds” after Lehrer gave the time limit.
- During the discussion about Medicare and vouchers.
Tweets reached an all-time high at 9:53 p.m. during Lehrer’s “Let’s not” comment, as data from Twitter’s official blog indicates. Of the 10 points of conversation that generated the most activity, the lowest was when Romney joked about President Obama’s anniversary.
Perhaps the most noteworthy Twitter trend to pop up during the broadcast was the mention of Sesame Street’s Big Bird, which took on a character of its own on Twitter Wednesday night. A Big Bird spoof Twitter account with the handle @FiredBigBird was created during the debate and attracted more than 16,000 followers by the time the event ended. The currently suspended Twitter account came after Romney listed entities from which he would cut funding, saying that he would stop subsidy to PBS.
“I’m sorry Jim,” he said to moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS News Hour. “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it,” Romney said during the debate.
But Big Bird wasn’t the only Twitter spoof target from Wednesday night’s debate. Twitter users also created an account called Silent Jim Lehrer, mocking the moderator for his lack of aggression during the debate. The 78-year-old PBS newsman received some harsh reviews from Twitter critics following last night’s event, as the term “Poor Jim” began to trend.
“Regardless of who you think is winning, Jim Lehrer is losing,” ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams posted on Twitter. “New drinking game, when Lehrer is ignored…DRINK!”
“Jim Lehrer’s still just sitting there,” National Post sports columnist Bruce Arthur tweeted the following day.
With one debate down, the campaign trail will stop next at Danville, Kentucky where Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will face off next Thursday.
For those who missed Romney's Big Bird comment, check out the video clip below.