One way to gauge the success — or sometimes, the catastrophic failure — of a candidate during a debate is to watch how people discuss and interact with them on Twitter in real time. During Monday night's debate, searching for mentions of @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump yielded a slew of reactions, from praise for one candidate to outright disdain for the other. But who gained more Twitter followers during the debate? And is that a marker of success anyway? It does give a candidate more opportunity to spread their message.
A significant jump in Twitter followers can also show us where public support lies at any given time. During last September's Republican debate, for instance, support for self-professed anti-establishment candidates Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina was echoed by a spike in their followers. Their boost in Twitter users mirrored the flash-pan support they had been receiving in the polls. Now, it reflects a by-gone era when the GOP considered people like Carson and Fiorina to be anti-establishment, when compared to Donald Trump.
For his part, The Donald has always had quite a Twitter presence — He managed to snag more users during a January Democratic debate than both Clinton and former candidate Martin O'Malley, despite the fact that he wasn't even in attendance at his rival party's forum. Only Bernie Sanders beat him out on the Twitter front. And while Clinton and Trump prepped their social media for Monday's debate, only Trump promised a "team of deplorables" to run his social media accounts for the night.
Did it pay off for The Donald? According to a count from Politico's Dan Diamond, not so much. Nearing the end of the debate, Clinton had snagged an additional 51,168 new followers, while Trump had only amassed 28,501. What a bummer for his team and their social media strategy.
Clinton's lead in new Twitter followers is in line with a number of post-debate polls on who emerged victorious. According to a poll of national voters from Public Policy Polling, Clinton beat out Trump 51 to 40. A CNN poll showed her leading the GOP nominee with 62 percent compared to his 27 percent. Political commentators also said that the "original Trump," filled with more bluster and less facts, came out for the debate.
And knowing Trump, his 28,501 new Twitter followers will be on the receiving end of some angry tweets about how the debate went.