Presidential debate most tweeted political event in US history

Josh Peterson | Tech Editor

American voters were all a-Twitter Wednesday evening.

Twitter’s official politics account — @gov — announced that Wednesday evening’s presidential debate set an all-time political event record for 140-character messaging, eclipsing the two major parties’ political conventions barely a month ago.

“Tonight’s debate was the most tweeted about event in US political history,” the company wrote, “topping the numbers from the RNC and DNC.”

Users sent 10.3 million tweets during the 90-minute debates, according to Twitter’s official estimates.

Twitter is, of course, only six years old. The buzz surrounding the event, however, was electric.

“In the last 24 hours there have now been as twice as many Tweets about tonight’s debate than there were about all of the #debates in 2008,” Twitter announced at At 6:16 p.m. EDT.

Fox News Anchor Brett Baier tweeted at 8:26 p.m. that the number of tweets had nearly tripled.

Minutes into the debate, the number of tweets about the event for the previous 24-hour period had already passed 2 million, said the company, eclipsing the number sent during the RNC and First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech during the DNC “in terms of Tweets per minute.”

Tweets about moderator Jim Lehrer’s “Let’s not” admonishment of Gov. Mitt Romney’s request to change topics came at a rate of 158,690 per minute at 9:53 p.m., making the exchange the most tweeted-about moment of the night.

As of October 3, Romney led President Barack Obama by one point on the social network’s historical index, a “daily measurement of Twitter users’ feelings towards the candidates as expressed in nearly two million Tweets each week,” Twitter wrote on its blog.

Romney’s comment that he loves the Sesame Street classic character Big Bird, but still hopes to eliminate federal funding of PBS, was also a hit among Twitter users.

Big Bird and fellow Sesame Street neighbor Oscar the Grouch were both among the top-trending terms in the U.S. for the evening. Many tweets included photo attachments featuring a cackling Romney with overlaid words reading: “Obama got Bin Laden, I’ll get Big Bird.”

Full disclosure: This reporter may or may not be casting a ballot for Big Bird on Election Day.

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