Rubio, Christie and Kasich get more debate traction on social media

NEW YORK Donald Trump lost his social media dominance for the first time during the Republican presidential debates as the candidates made their eighth showing Saturday night in New Hampshire.

Instead, many on Twitter took to mocking contender Senator Marco Rubio, who came under heavy attack on Saturday from rivals. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also saw a big bump in his share of the social conversation.

By the end of the night, Trump, who has the most followers, still received the largest share of mentions on Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), with 33 percent compared to Rubio’s 20 percent. Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, came in third, with 15 percent.

But Twitter said an hour into the debate that Rubio was the most tweeted about candidate on the social media platform, marking the first time a candidate other than Trump came out on top within that time frame.

Overall, Rubio received 10 more mentions per minute on Twitter than he did during the last Republican debate on Jan. 28, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.

Three days before New Hampshire’s primary for the Nov. 8 election, many of the mentions were negative as Rubio became a target for continuing to repeat many of the same lines from his campaign stump speech.

“Marco, the thing is this,” said rival Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, “when you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person.”

That moment was measured by Twitter as one of the top social moments of the night.

Actress Mia Farrow, @MiaFarrow, tweeted, “Rubio keeps saying the same thing.”

A Marco Rubio Glitch (@RubioGlitch) account also emerged, gaining nearly 1,200 followers as of Saturday night as it parodied Rubio as a robot in tweets in Spanish and English.

Rubio also had his worst performance yet with millennials on the popular messaging app Yik Yak, where he had a 44 percent disapproval rating. In contrast, Ohio Governor John Kasich had his best performance with millennials, earning a 41.4 approval rating, and maintaining the largest share of the conversation on Yik Yak.

The debate was also a big night on social media for Christie, who has rarely been a top contender in social mentions. According to Brandwatch, a social media analytics firm, he had the second highest percentage of positive social mentions, 61.5 percent, compared to Trump’s 62.5 percent.

Tyler Freeman (@tyfreem) tweeted, “#GOPDebate Chris Christie has been most underrated candidate the whole campaign. He finally stood out tonight. One of the best performances.”

(Reporting by Anjali Athavaley; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Mary Milliken)

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