(Reuters) - Real estate mogul Donald Trump won viewers’ attention during the Republican U.S. presidential debate, though perhaps not the debate itself, as the other candidates looked to build their own name recognition.
The billionaire businessman and television personality was the most-mentioned candidate on Twitter during Thursday night’s debate, the most-discussed on Facebook and the most-searched on Google, according to data from the companies.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was a distant second on Twitter and came in second to Trump on Facebook.
Trump, Carson, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and six other Republicans squared off in Cleveland in the first major debate for the crowd seeking the party’s nomination in the November 2016 election.
While there were not yet official poll results ranking the debate’s top performer, social media offered an early indication of who grabbed potential voters’ attention.
On Friday, Trump touted the buzz generated by the televised event. “I wonder what the ratings would have been if I wasn’t in the mix,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Twitter said Trump, who led in polls going into the debate, garnered about 30 percent of the mentions, with Carson at about 12 percent. Bush, who ranked second in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, placed seventh in Twitter mentions.
According to Facebook, which said 7.5 million people made 20 million debate-related interactions on its platform, the most-discussed issues were immigration and race relations, followed by the economy.
Other candidates embraced the chance to grab media attention, taking to morning television shows to plead their cases.
“A lot of people clearly, if you look at Twitter, discovered last night for the first time that there’s more than one woman running for president,” former business executive Carly Fiorina, the only female Republican candidate, told CNN.
On NBC, Rubio said there would be other opportunities to get attention. “What other people are doing doesn’t necessarily impact our strategy,” he said.
Both Twitter and Facebook said the most talked-about moment online came between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
Paul has supported curbs on the government’s ability to collect information on Americans, which Christie said could put U.S. citizens at risk.
The heated back-and-forth included Paul declaring Christie was so close to Democratic President Barack Obama he gave him a “big hug.”
Christie, who was photographed with the president after superstorm Sandy hit his state in 2012, shot back: “The hugs that I remember are the hugs I gave to the families who lost their people on Sept. 11, and those had nothing to do with politics.”
Trump generated top moments when he asserted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came to his wedding because he had donated so much money to her campaigns and the Clinton Foundation, and when he responded to a question about his past derogatory comments toward women, Twitter said.
Asked by Fox’s Megyn Kelly about calling women he dislikes “pigs,” “dogs” and “slobs,” Trump said he did not “have time for total political correctness.” Later on Twitter, he said Kelly “really bombed.”
But on Friday morning, Trump softened, telling ABC some of the debate questions to him were unfair. He said he did not recall making the statements about women and took the issue seriously.
Democrats did not debate on Thursday night, but Clinton still snagged media attention online.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian posted a photo on Facebook with her husband, Kanye West, and Clinton, the former secretary of state.
“I got my selfie!!!” Kardashian wrote. “I really loved hearing her speak & hearing her goals for our country!”
Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Bill Trott; Editing by Howard Goller and Lisa Von Ahn