News Column

Debate Hashtags Dominate Twitterverse

Oct. 23, 2012

John Timpane

Even after the presidential debate, when there was nothing more to make fun of, the hashtags continued to fly on Twitter.

Over the course of Monday night, if you followed the tweets, you got a great taste of the high points of the debate. #Alloverthemap . . . #whereismolly (referring to the pronunciation of the African country Mali) ... #colorofties (Mitt Romney's red and white "bipartisan tie," President Obama's staid iron-blue with little flecks).

A half hour before the debate closed, all 10 of the U.S. trending topics on Twitter were debate-based. And worldwide, #whopper was the second most common trending topic, referring to Obama's attack on Romney's truthfulness. And No. 3 was #horsesandbayonets, referring to Obama's snarky attack on what he depicted as Romney's old-school ideas about military strength. Without a doubt, those were the highlight hashtags, the funniest and most trenchant Twitterverse memories.

Romney had his shots -- #fouryearscloser, referring to his assertion that after Obama's term, the world finds itself four years closer to a nuclear Iran.

#Rosecoloredglasses bounced around a little, as Romney asserted he sees a dangerous world through clear eyes (#cleareyes), including the ever present, to Romney, threat of Russia.

Twitter traffic, at 6.5 million tweets, was the least for any the three debates. And the minutes following Obama's "horses and bayonets" attack on Romney -- the one truly dramatic moment in a dull debate -- attracted the strongest Twitter spasm of the night, at a rate of 105,676 tweets a minute.

The single funniest tweet was from comedian Albert Brooks -- but you had to know movie history. Romney's face appeared to have a thin sheen of sweat throughout the debate, leading to the hashtag #sweatylip. As the debate and the sweat emerged, Brooks wrote: "If Romney sweats any more, I get a royalty." That refers to Brooks' celebrated flop-sweat scene in the 1987 film Broadcast News, in which Brooks, as an aspiring anchor wannabe, gets his big shot and collapses in flowing sweat and a tied tongue.

The Twitterverse evidently found the debate boring and felt Obama had the best lines. But it also reacted to Romney's strengths, especially on the economy, and on China.

But a lot of people were watching football and baseball Tuesday night, and fewer may have seen a debate on a topic no one cares much about, yet a topic on which, unlike the economy, presidents have a lot of influence.



Source: (c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by MCT Information Services