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Who won the Republican debate on social media?

Republican Candidates Take Part In Debates At Reagan Library In Simi ValleyRepublican Candidates Take Part In Debates At Reagan Library In Simi Valley
Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush during the Republican presidential debate on CNN.Photograph by Sandy Huffaker — Getty Images

The nearly three hours that Republican presidential hopeful spent sparring on stage Wednesday night during CNN’s debate took a lot out of the candidates, and—it seems—social media users.

According to Netbase, a social media analytics company, social media mentions of the contest peaked in the first hour of the broadcast with 775,000 references to the debate or the candidates. In the final hour mentions had fallen 20% from that high to 630,000.

But before social media users petered out for the night, they did select an obvious winner. Based on which candidate saw the biggest upswing in social media sentiment Wednesday night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came out on top. When Netbase compared sentiment in the 24 hours leading up to the debate with the average sentiment over the course of the broadcast, Rubio gained 28 points—the most of the 11 Republicans who appeared on stage. Carly Fiorina, the former Lucent executive and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO, who exchanged fiery verbal spars with frontrunner Donald Trump, came in second as her sentiment improved 17 points. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the last place finisher on that front, with his sentiment dropping 25 points.

There were nearly 2 million mentions of the debate on social media, according to Netbase’s count. From a pure numbers perspective, Trump was also a winner with 446,117 total mentions, far more than second-place finisher by that measure Fiorina, who had 165,767.

The lowest sentiment on social media Wednesday night came when former Florida governor Jeb Bush said that his brother, President George W. Bush, “kept us safe” in reference to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Netbase says that’s also when Bush’s personal sentiment began to trend downward.