On stage at the University of Denver for the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season, it was a night filled with few zingers, plenty of wonkiness, and a moderator who failed to wrangle in the two men who are competing for the most powerful political seat on the planet.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took a loose, fighting stance against incumbent challenger President Barack Obama’s statuesque, professorial style, as the pair tussled over taxes, job creation, deficit reduction, health care, and more taxes.
Neither candidate managed to serve a knockout punch (or any punches at all, really), but the general consensus among the hoards of Twitter users, who followed the debate’s every syllable, was that Romney probably won. Obama, cool and collected throughout, failed to match Romney’s pseudo-fiery style. In the end, both candidates managed to bore everyone to death with “facts” and “data.”
While a winner may have not been blatantly apparent, it’s clear who the loser was: Moderator Jim Lehrer, of PBS fame. Throughout the night, Romney and Obama (but especially Romney) talked over Lehrer’s feeble attempts to keep the candidates on topic and within their time limits.
“bu…..wait……no lets……sir…..please your time…………ok lets……uh…..plea……..can we……” -Jim Lehrer
— Stefan Urkél (@McLovinIsFresh) October 4, 2012
“Jim Lehrer is the replacement refs of the election,” tweeted comedian Kumail Nanjiani. HIs apt metaphor was retweeted 2,547 times.
“Fact check. President Obama was not honest. .when he said Jim Lehrer did a ‘good job,'” posted Mediaite founder Dan Abrams.
And on, and on. The steamrolling of Lehrer was so pronounced that his single effective effort to put Romney in line — a simple “Let’s not,” in response to Romney’s attempt to return to the beat-to-death topic of Wall Street regulation — generated more activity on Twitter than any other moment of the night — more than 158,000 tweets per minute, according to Twitter.
Despite the decidedly poor showing of all three men involved in last night’s debate, the event was still a boon for Twitter, which saw approximately 10.3 million tweets related to the debate and the candidates published during the hour and a half that the match took place — a record for a political event, according to Twitter’s @Gov crew. The phrase “Big Bird” peaked at 17,000 tweets per minute, following Romney’s reiterated commitment to de-funding PBS. And in the minutes after this comment, a novelty Big Bird account had been created. As of this morning, it has about 8,750 followers.The torrential downpour of tweets was so strong that may professional political observers complained that their Twitter feeds were moving too quickly to read, thus negating the real-time social media platform’s value.
Among the 10.3 million tweets, one managed to cause the most uproar: In the middle of the debate, this tweet appeared before the 24,000 followers of KitchenAid:
This insensitive tweet was quickly deleted from the @KitchenAidUSA account, and quickly followed up with a steam of apologies from the company. KitchenAid’s Cynthia Soledad, who runs the brand’s social media, told Mashable that the tweet was “mistakenly” posted by a member of the KitchenAid Twitter crew, who had intended to post the bitter joke to a personal account, rather than to KitchenAid’s account. Needless to say, that person will no longer be tweeting for the company.
In the end, the lightning-quick chatter on Twitter provided a snapshot of today’s talking points: That Romney, down in the polls though he may be, made ground against President Obama. But overall, nothing much has changed. And poor Jim Lehrer, bless his polite soul, should never moderate another presidential debate ever again.