Trump, who fell atypically silent during the heart of the debate's policy discussions, rallied at the end with his renewed fight with Jeb Bush. And his several one-on-one confrontations with Fiorina got him a decent amount of attention as well. Interest in Fiorina was well above anyone besides Trump, however, with Bush and Ben Carson a ways behind.
Among the fastest-rising searches for each candidate over the debate's three hours:
Jeb Bush: "jeb bush wife"
Ben Carson: "how old is ben carson"
Chris Christie: "chris christie wife"
Carly Fiorina: "lori ann fiorina" (her daughter)
Mike Huckabee: "how old is mike huckabee"
John Kasich: "governor kasich"
Rand Paul: "rand paul net worth"
Marco Rubio: "how old is marco rubio"
Donald Trump: "donald trump height"
Scott Walker: "governor walker"
Compared to the first debate, Carson and Cruz saw big declines in interest.
What does all of this mean? We'll see. After the first Republican debate(s), it was the people who saw the most sustained interest on Google who also saw the biggest poll jumps. There's no telling if that will hold true once again. Fiorina's job, though, was to make her presence felt in the much tougher space of the much bigger debate.
That, without question, she accomplished.
The updates below are in reverse chronological order.
Winding down: A spike for Fiorina
When candidates get personal, people pay attention.
Earlier in the debate, Bush's defense of his wife generated a lot of attention. (See below.) When Fiorina mentioned the stepchild she'd lost to drug abuse, the same spike occurred.
This is a pattern we've seen in all four debates so far. A candidate will spike when something personal is raised, but that doesn't always match how much interest they generated overall. Fiorina, though, adds this interest on top of a steady stream of attention over the course of the debate.
Hour 2: Fiorina vs. Trump on business
Chris Christie's insistence that viewers didn't care about the business records of Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump was wrong. Trump's attack on Fiorina's business record and her subsequent defense spurred a lot of interest on Google.
What were people looking for? "tom perkins carly fiorina," "carly fiorina fired," and "carly fiorina fired why" when searching for Fiorina.
The focus quickly shifted back to national security, though -- after Marco Rubio explained away his missed Senate votes by explaining that the world outside D.C. was more important.
Christie actually got more attention from his debate with Ben Carson over using strength or strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism.
But anyway, back to Trump and Fiorina. Their exchange earlier in the debate, when Fiorina smacked Trump's "vote for that face" quote in Rolling Stone, spurred a lot of interest on Twitter. Where Trump had been getting much of the attention, Fiorina's rejoinder switched that around quickly.
Hour 1.5: Suddenly, Jeb Bush
Shortly after we completed our look at the first hour, Jeb Bush was asked about how Donald Trump had suggested that he only cared about immigration because of his wife, Columba, who is a native of Mexico.
Bush asked Trump to apologize to his wife. Bush didn't get that, but he did get a huge spike in search interest.
The top searches? All of these were in the top 20.
- jeb bush wife
- jeb bush's wife
- columba bush
- jeb bush wife photo
- jeb bush family
- jeb bush children
- jeb bush and wife
- jeb bushs wife
Family seems to fascinate watchers. In the first Republican debate, Lindsey Graham's mention of his family resulted in a huge interest spike, too. But, again, that didn't do much for him in the polls.
Columba later weighed in on Twitter.
Hour 1: Trump continues to lead -- but by less
Donald Trump has dominated Google searches for Republican candidates for so long and by so much, that dominating searches by less is itself notable. And during the main-stage CNN debate on Wednesday night, Trump still saw a lot of early interest -- but so did some of his competitors.
Now, it is not our fault that there are 11 candidates on the stage and that this graph therefore looks messy. But we can hopefully explain our way through it.
During the candidate introductions, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson generated the most interest (Fiorina in blue, and Carson in purple). Then, Trump did battle with Fiorina and Rand Paul, which got people curious.
Shortly after, Jeb Bush leveled his charge that Trump had sought the legalization of gambling in Florida. That was when Trump's searches peaked. Among the most searched questions: "trump bankruptcy 1991" and "donald trump bankruptcy cost to taxpayers."
But then it changed. Fiorina and Ted Cruz had strong answers on national security, and then Cruz continued to generate interest as he talked about Iran and Syria, then transitioning to Planned Parenthood.
Carly Fiorina's answer on Planned Parenthood -- the issue is "about the character of our nation" -- also generated interest toward the end of the hour.
What's interesting here is that some of those who generated big interest in the first debate haven't been heard from yet. Marco Rubio and John Kasich, for example, haven't gotten much attention.
On Google, we meant. Though it also apparently applies to the debate stage as well.