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Published March 11th 2016

React: Foreign Policy Dominates Crucial 12th GOP Debate

Brandwatch analyzes online conversation surrounding the 12th GOP debate

Thursday night saw the University of Miami, Florida, host the 12th GOP debate in what many touted as a make or break event for the remaining candidates.

This was the last time to impress ahead of the upcoming “winner takes all” primaries in Florida and Ohio, and tension was high as the big debate began.

The moments that mattered

Looking back on previous debates, the big moments on social are startlingly different in nature.

Last week, Trump’s comments on the size of his “hands” generated more social engagement than any other point during the debate. This week, Trump may still have got the biggest mention spike, but it was on a far more serious matter.

With less insults and more serious policy talk, the biggest moments of the night were during discussions on tackling ISIS, climate change and violence at rallies.

Big moments on social

After Rubio came out swinging last week, many commentators predicted a far more tranquil set of candidates and it seems they were right. With no real drama or name calling on stage those looking for a Jerry Springer style shouting match may have been disappointed.

However Rubio’s answer to Trump’s comments on Islamic extremism, in which he said “I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct”, earned him an impressive spike in mentions around the 21:48 mark. It was certainly a debate defined by wittier soundbites than the last.

Interestingly, Trump failed to dominate social conversation in the way he has previously and on several occasions he was out-mentioned as other candidates took their moments in the social spotlight. Ted Cruz managed the feat several times which is an achievement in itself.

Hot topics

Foreign policy proved to be the biggest social topic of the night, drawing 20.8k mentions overall.

Climate change came second, while taxes and immigration, which came up much earlier in the debate, garnered 6.6k and 6.2k mentions respectively.

Topics final

Perhaps surprisingly, Rubio’s largest spike in mentions came as he discussed climate change. He scooped in around 4k mentions on the topic and got a spike at 10:22 when he made some controversial remarks about the climate always changing.

The candidates

While Trump, Cruz and Rubio all had their moments in the spotlight, Kasich’s presence on social was fairly limited. While his largest spike was during discussion around climate change, the spike of 750 hardly registered against Trump’s 1.5k in the same minute.

However, this didn’t stop him scooping the title of Twitter’s favorite on social sentiment, with the best ratio of positive to negative tweets.

Sentiment FINAL

Perhaps it was the hair.

Now the final debate is over before the next round of high-stakes primaries it’ll be interesting to see how the candidates’ performances last night effect the results next week.

Follow @BW_React for more juicy data.

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