Donald Trump was the big winner across social media on Thursday night during the seventh Republican presidential debate – despite the fact that he was not even there.
Trump was the most searched-for candidate on Google during the debate, according to data supplied by the search engine, which co-sponsored the event with Fox News.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also gained traction on Google.
Trump also dominated Twitter mentions among all candidates during the debate, according to Brandwatch, a social media monitoring company.
The billionaire businessman received roughly 130,000 Twitter mentions during the debate, according to Brandwatch. This marked a roughly 40,000-tweet decline from the previous GOP debate – which he attended.
In all, Trump commanded 36 percent of the Twitter traffic during Thursday night's debate, according to the social media company.
Trump – who boycotted the event after Fox News refused to yield to his demand that network anchor Megyn Kelly be yanked as a moderator and after Fox News issued a sarcastic news release about the contretemps – hosted his own event in Des Moines, a fundraiser for veterans. He was rewarded with positive social media buzz.
Not long after he took the stage on Thursday night at his event at Drake University, a group of protesters chanted loudly. Trump responded: "I love the protesters in the big arena because the cameras [don’t move away from] my face."
That quip won him praise on social media, and his Twitter sentiment measured largely positive during the event, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.
"An unbelievable night in Iowa with our great Veterans!" Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted. "We raised $6,000,000.00 while the politicians talked!"
At the debate, Ted Cruz came out swinging against Trump in his initial comments, mocking the tycoon’s penchant for brash criticism.
“I’m a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly,” joked Cruz, in an effort to, as he put it, get "the Donald Trump portion" of the program out of the way.
Cruz’s joke became one of the standout moments in the first half of the debate, gaining momentum on Twitter among news outlets and average Twitter users alike.
The debate moved on to discussion of substantive issues. Foreign affairs, national security, immigration, reproductive rights and health care were the most tweeted-about topics during the debate, according to Twitter.