Republican presidential candidates argued over lack of experience, waterboarding and even the Super Bowl at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., three days before the New Hampshire primary. Here are the key moments in less than three minutes. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

If you only tuned in for the first half of the Republican debate on Saturday night, you were going to spend your time at the watercooler on Monday morning talking about one thing: The Super Bowl.* Or, I guess if you and your co-workers talk about politics in this metaphorical workplace of yours, you were going to talk about one of two things: the hysterically terrible introductions, or Chris Christie finally getting to use that mop he’s been talking about — which it turns out is Marco Rubio.

After the first hour, Rubio was winning the social-media-mention war, for what that’s worth. And it’s hard to believe that this was a good thing for this campaign. But the debate wore on, and that wasn’t the most-talked-about thing on Twitter. It was third, but, still. Could have been worse!

(The most-tweeted was Donald Trump shushing Jeb Bush.)

Rubio’s early dominance of Google searches — which we use as a rough approximation of what people want to learn more about — continued over the course of the entire debate. Trump got a lot of searches, as he always does, and ended up as the most-tweeted about guy on the stage.

But people wanted to know more about Rubio. Particularly once he relayed the story about his brother having lost teeth while jumping out of planes in the military. As always, it was a personal story that caused searches to spike. The second biggest spike was for Ted Cruz’s story about his half-sister, who died of an overdose.


(Here’s Cruz's story — and here's more about Rubio’s brother.)

But in New Hampshire, the picture was different. Google put together this graphic showing the amount of search traffic in the state, and Rubio dominated during the second half of the debate, where he performed much better. The media (like me) makes a lot out of fights like the one he had with Christie. But voters maybe are paying less attention to it.


The campaign claims it saw a fundraising spike. Could it be that the pundits are wrong? Haha, no. Pundits rule.

As with Trump’s skipping the last debate, the next few days will see a lot of moving parts, so it’s hard to know if Rubio’s fight with Christie will hurt his chances in the state. But even if it does, his exchange was by no means the bleakest thing to happen on Google or Twitter during the night.

That honor goes to Bush, for whom America had a few questions it was trying to answer.

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The answers to those questions, if you're wondering:

1. Unless he’s the nominee at some point, yes.

2. John Ellis Bush.

3. Um.

4. Well.

5. Let’s see.


* For a brief moment, more people wanted to learn about the debate than about the Super Bowl! A brief moment.