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Trump beats Republican debate partners on social media (again)

Donald Trump not only fares well during the GOP debate, he also gets the most mentions on Twitter.

Trump followers got their tweets on again during Tuesday night's debate.
Erik Kabik Photography/MediaPunch/Corbis

"The Donald" has yet again Trumped the GOP competition on social media.

The front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump was the most talked about candidate on Twitter during Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas, with 35 percent of all mentions.

Twitter users sent more than 1.6 million debate-related tweets during the event, according to Crimson Hexagon, a company that specializes in social-media data. More than 268,106 tweets focused on Trump, while Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio got the spotlight about half as much, the firm said.

The most discussed moment on Twitter during the two-hour debate, which featured nine candidates in their fifth face-off this election season, involved Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush trading fusillades about Trump's proposal to ban noncitizen Muslims from entering the US.

"Donald, you're never going to be able to insult your way to the presidency," Bush said at one point. He also called Trump a "chaos candidate."

Trump complained about how he's being treated, to which Bush responded, "If you think this is tough the way you're being treated...this is a tough business."

"Oh, you're a tough guy, Jeb, I know," said Trump, which became the top tweeted moment.

The Twitter chatter underscores the increasingly vital role social media plays for candidates seeking attention in the presidential race. The candidates are using social media to spread their messages and lure voters, particularly voters who often turn to Facebook and Twitter to get their political news. Voters themselves are using the services to cheer on their favorite candidate.

"Trump continues to dominate overall buzz," said Chris Kerns, vice president of research and analytics for Spredfast. He said activity was particularly high when Trump mentioned shutting down certain parts of the Internet to stop terrorists, and when he discussed killing their families.

It wasn't all good for Trump though. Kellan Terry, a data analyst with Brandwatch, said Trump finished the debate with the highest percentage of negative mentions online. Meanwhile, sentiment toward Bush was evenly split between positive and negative mentions.

"Bush's mentions had been faltering in previous debates," Terry said. "He may not have clearly won the debate, but he certainly improved the most upon the last debate."

Trump's Twitter showing on Tuesday is consistent with his performance in previous GOP debates. He's always been the focus of most debate-related tweets, and his 35 percent share Tuesday was the highest since he garnered a 37 percent chunk in September.

A nonparticipant in the debate also made a strong showing on social media during the event. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' tweet about combating anti-Muslim bigotry has been retweeted more than 11,000 times.

"Repeat after me: We must combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of discrimination in our country and in our world. #GOPDebate," he wrote.

Sanders has picked up more than 5,000 Twitter followers since the tweet. Nevertheless, he still trails Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton by a more than a 2-to-1 margin among likely voters, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.