Thursday was going to be the day that Lindsey Graham showed social conservatives he is one of them by highlighting his authorship of a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. But instead, the South Carolina senator, waging a long-shot bid for the Republican nomination, found himself talking about being a bachelor and GOP colleague Mark Kirk’s off-color joke that he is “a bro with no ho.”

[Our colleague Colby Itkowitz’s piece on the kerfuffle]

Social media allows these kinds of stories to enter the bloodstream faster than ever before.

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A new Washington Post partnership with Zignal Labs, a San Francisco-based analytics firm, allows us to see just how quickly the story blew up.

Here is a word cloud reflecting all mentions of Graham across social media on Thursday morning during the 9 a.m. Eastern hour. You can see the conversation is mostly abortion-focused:

Then the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein went up with a story at 12:47 p.m. Eastern with the comment, and several other organizations quickly followed with pieces of their own from the audio recording of an Appropriations Committee meeting. Kirk, who already faces a difficult reelection next year in the blue state of Illinois, made the comment during a low-profile vote.

Here is the word cloud during the 1 p.m. Eastern hour of all Graham mentions:

It was certainly not the day Graham expected to have, and it keeps the unhelpful bachelorhood story in the news for at least one more news cycle. While he’s “been close once” to marrying a woman, he told Politico that he’s not “defective” because he did not.

But it’s also a great illustration of how quickly the media narrative can change.

As of 9 p.m. Eastern, there were more than 10,500 mentions of Graham — already 40 percent more than any other day in the last week.

Here’s an hour-by-hour chart of mentions of Graham from Thursday, via Zignal Labs:

Kirk later apologized for the remark. But maybe the distraction from the abortion bill wasn’t all bad for the Illinois Republican. Kirk is one of the few pro-choice Republicans in the Senate conference and would not be helped by the Senate taking up Graham’s proposed 20-week ban, which will never become law as long as Obama is president, anyway.