Online Fallout from the First Presidential Debate

If you watched the 2012 Presidential Debate earlier this week between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, you know it was one for the ages. President Obama appeared to be off his game, Governor Romney and Jim Lehrer competed for the role of moderator and even Big Bird got caught up in the fray. Yes, Big Bird.

Not surprisingly, with 10.3 million tweets in the 90-minute timeslot, this debate was the most tweeted event in U.S. politics history. Frankly, I had more fun trying to keep up with my Twitter timeline than I did watching the sparks fly on TV.

So what were these tweets saying?

According to the Twittersphere, Romney won the debate handily, not because of his propensity toward the truth, but because of his high energy level and dominating presence. Even though Obama spoke 3 minutes longer than his opponent, Romney was more commanding and it seemed as though he was in control for nearly the entire 90 minutes.

However, many were turned off by Romney’s behavior and applauded the president for his calm demeanor.

While there was a lot on conversation online about the content of the debate, there were a few surprising stars of the show.

Jim Lehrer: Because of Moderator Jim Lehrer’s inability to control either candidate, “Poor Jim” and “Jim Lehrer” became trending topics. According to Radian6, there were more than 222,000 tweets sent that included these terms. @SilentJimLehrer also made an appearance, mocking the seemingly invisible moderator.

Big Bird: Mitt Romney announced he would cut funding from PBS saying, “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. But … I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for [it].” The Internet came to Big Bird’s rescue with more than 280,000 tweets sent about the Sesame Street icon. In addition to these tweets, parody Twitter accounts began to pop up. @FiredBigBird earned more than 26,000 followers in 12 hours!

Instant polling following the debate seems to confirm Twitter’s opinion. It would appear that such a significant victory by Romney might translate into a bump in his campaign. What remains to be seen is whether or not this debate will be an overall game changer in the race for the White House.

But hey, if you’re not much for watching the debates, there are a few less conventional ways – blink count and eyebrow maintenance to be precise – to decide on your candidate.

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