U.S. presidential debate performances lift Cruz, Rubio to top of social media

Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose before the start of the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder
Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich, former Governor Mike Huckabee, former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz pose before the start of the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Evan Semon

November 11, 2015

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz stole the spotlight on social media from the front-runners during a televised GOP debate on Tuesday night, drawing attention and positive reviews.

The fourth televised debate for the Republicans hosted by Fox Business Network had more people talking about it online than the third debate hosted by its older and bigger rival CNBC two weeks ago. The Tuesday night debate ranked in an average of 13.5 viewers, setting a record for the eight-year-old network.

The U.S. senator from Texas, considered a mid-tier candidate in terms of his standing in opinion polls, had the highest social media sentiment analysis score of 11 as well as the highest number of mentions on Twitter during the debate, according to Thomson Reuters data.

He topped Republican front-runners Donald Trump, who scored 3.3, fourth in the social media rankings, and Ben Carson, who scored negative 6.7 and came in fifth, for the first time since the 2016 presidential campaign season kicked off this year. A score above 0 means there are more positive mentions on Twitter about a candidate than negative ones.

Cruz also went into the debate with the most positive social media sentiment score among the eight candidates who took the stage in Milwaukee for the debate televised on the Fox Business Network.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another mid-tier candidate, also rose to the top ranks on social media with a score of 6.5, third in the rankings, according to a Thomson Reuters social media sentiment analysis tool. The tool tracks and aggregates social media mentions of candidates to generate a score based on the ratio of positive versus negative mentions.


One of the most tweeted Cruz moments involved his answer when asked about his desire to raise the retirement age and reduce benefits for future retirees: “I don’t think we should be pushing any grannies off cliffs.”

An intense argument over tax code and military spending by Rubio, Paul and Cruz in the second hour of the debate was also one of the most shared moments, according to data by Twitter.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky stole the spotlight in the last hour of the debate when he corrected Trump, pointing out that China is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. Paul’s social media sentiment score jumped from negative to positive, giving him an end score of 8.1, just behind Cruz.

Carson, however, had the most-liked social media post of all candidates: An image of himself and his granddaughter having “pre-debate time” that got more than 171,300 likes on Facebook, according to technology data company Engagement Labs.

But the most-shared tweets of the night came not from accounts linked to the GOP candidates, but from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders).

His tweet targeting Trump – “We already have the biggest military in the world, yet veterans sleep out on the streets. Will Republicans talk about this? #GOPDebate” – had more 4,000 retweets and 5,000 likes on Wednesday.

There were about 1.5 million mentions that included hashtag #GOPdebate on Tuesday on Twitter, nearly double the amount seen on the day of the CNBC debate, according to Thomson Reuters analysis of Twitter.

(Additional reporting Melissa Fares; Data complied by Connie Yee, Thomson Reuters F&R and Armineh Nourbakhsh, Armineh, Thomson Reuters R&D; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

  • Marsha Roseman

    I am for an all Cuban Republican ticket.

  • Lee

    I wish the candidates would explain how they would implement their tax plan.

    Any reduction in credits or deductions faces the wrath of the lobbyist who have congress in their hip pocket. Every deduction and tax credit has strong support by lobbyist or they would be eliminated.

    Donald may not be accepting money from the lobbyist but everyone else is and he is right in that the lobbyist get their way… meaning no changes to the credits and deductions.

    It would be helpful if the candidates discussed what they really can do as president rather than discuss what can’t be done.

    • jomotro

      He lied in the debate. He is not solely self-funding his campaign.

  • Wm. Early

    I have voted for the Presidential Candidate that I felt would adhere to the promises of their campaign that aligned with my beliefs and policies. This was started with Goldwater in 64′ and has afforded me a clear conscious for my voting privileges through the years. My choice for this year is Ted Cruz – Hands down with zero reservations.

    • jomotro

      Mine too! No other candidate is even in the same tier.

  • Rowen

    Agree Rev G re Rubio and Bush. I thought Carson should have stayed home. He doesn’t belong in the race, as his negative numbers prove. I wondered if he thought he was at a drug conference when he made his final remarks. Too strange! As to the rest, I liked Cruz, but there are a lot of reasons that I don’t think he is the man for the job, “at this time.” I still think Trump won the debate by acting presidential, and believe he is the only one who can get America out of the mess she finds herself in.

  • Rev G

    Rubio and Bush both erased any chance with their illegal alien advocacy.
    That along with their advocacy of allowing millions of Muslims into the United States from the world over. Both might as well join Fiorina in a deep pool for a long swim, down the drain.

  • I agree and I think dr Carson is the smartest, most humble and most Godly man we’ve ever had seeking office,
    The debate was refreshing. The questions were intelligent and we really got to see where the candidates stand. We should be very proud to have such quality men seeking the highest office. Unlike the other side running a regurgitated socialist and Hillary, who is too old and too dishonest to ever hold the office.
    What a contrast between the two parties. I’d love to see Cruz debate her. She wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    • jomotro

      Carson is not the most Godly man we have ever had running for office. He isn’t even Godly at all. He is a member of the Seventh Day Adventists. This is a cult-like religion started in the 1840’s when their prophet was wrong about the date of Christ’s return. They have many unbiblical teachings. They look good, but Satan is an angel of light. He doesn’t always show up with horns and a pitchfork. Carson has been duped into believing this “church’s” unbiblical beliefs. If a man doesn’t have the wisdom to hear from God regarding the truth of the Gospel, he is not a godly man.

  • TP

    Cruz is the only proven conservative running! He wears his conservative values on his sleeve for all to see all the time. He fights in the Senate daily for conservative principals and he the smartest guy or gal on stage! he won’t change after he is elected. He is who he says he is!