US presidential debate performances lift Cruz, Rubio to top of social media

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Cruz, Rubio Have Standout Nights

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz stole the spotlight on social media from the front-runners during a televised GOP debate on Tuesday night, drawing attention and getting positive reviews.

The U.S. senator from Texas, considered a mid-tier candidate in terms of his standing in opinion polls, had the highest social media sentiment analysis score of 11 as well as the highest number of mentions on Twitter during the debate, according to Thomson Reuters data.

SEE ALSO: Republican Jeb Bush survives debate with steady performance

He topped Republican front-runners Donald Trump, who scored 3.3, fourth in the social media rankings, and Ben Carson, who scored negative 6.7 and came in fifth, for the first time since the 2016 presidential campaign season kicked off this year. A score above 0 means there are more positive mentions on Twitter about a candidate than negative ones.

Cruz also went into the debate with the most positive social media sentiment score among the eight candidates who took the stage in Milwaukee for the debate televised on the Fox Business Network.

See notable moments from Tuesday night's debate in photos:

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GOP Debate Nov. 10
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US presidential debate performances lift Cruz, Rubio to top of social media
Donald Trump talks to supporters after the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Jeb Bush and Donald Trump shake hands after the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talk during a commercial break at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) waves at the start of the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (L) and Donald Trump (R) look on as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre on November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
John Kasich speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) speaks while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) looks on while Donald Trump looks on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Rand Paul speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ben Carson laughs during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Donald Trump, left, speaks as Ben Carson watches during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Donald Trump speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Marco Rubio speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Ted Cruz, left, speaks as Carly Fiorina listens during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Rick Santorum gestures as Chris Christie watches during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
John Kasich speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ben Carson speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) and Jeb Bush take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage in the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul take the stage during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks while Ben Carson looks on the during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) speaks while Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) look on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (R) and John Kasich (L) participate in the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
Police gather in front of Donald Trump's bus outside of the Milwaukee Theatre before a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul stand on stage during the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another mid-tier candidate, also rose to the top ranks on social media with a score of 6.5, third in the rankings, according to a Thomson Reuters social media sentiment analysis tool. The tool tracks and aggregates social media mentions of candidates to generate a score based on the ratio of positive versus negative mentions.

SHINING MOMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

One of the most tweeted Cruz moments involved his comments about taxes and the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service, or IRS: "Washington is fundamentally corrupt. There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible. And not a one of them is as good."

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His quip about foreign policy - "You think defending this nation is expensive; try not defending it" - also ranked among the most tweeted remarks.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky stole the spotlight in the last hour of the debate when he corrected Trump, pointing out that China is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. Paul's social media sentiment score jumped from negative to positive, giving him an end score of 8.1, just behind Cruz.

Carson, however, had the most-liked social media post of all candidates: An image of himself and his granddaughter having "pre-debate time" that got more than 171,300 likes on Facebook, according to technology data company Engagement Labs.

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