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The debate according to Twitter

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It was the biggest political event to ever unfold on Twitter. On Wednesday night, the first presidential debate broke all of the records for previous political events—elections, primaries, debates, and all—that have been covered on the social media site.

By the time the debate had started on Wednesday, shortly after 7pm ET, there had already been more than 2 million tweets about it during the previous 24 hours: more tweets than the 2008 presidential debates produced combined. According to early data from Topsy.com, mentions of the debate started early Wednesday and skyrocketed shortly before President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney took the stage.

But while Twitter had a good night, Romney might have had a better one. The former Massachusetts governor needed a boost after a damaging few weeks on the campaign trail. During the debate, Romney appeared lively and ready to fight, whereas Obama looked as if he wanted to be elsewhere. Twitter may have agreed, according to 140elect.com's Zach Green. From a random sampling of 500,000 tweets after the debate, Green found that “Romney won” came up 3.7 times as much as “Obama won.”

“I am guessing that Obama is now wishing he had just sent an empty chair in his place tonight, tweeted Chuck Woolery, referencing the GOP convention when Clint Eastwood talked with a chair that represented the president.

“Obama apparently took the expectations-lowering game a little more seriously than anyone expected,” wrote Peter Suderman.

Obama's campaign was working hard on Wednesday to try and defeat the idea that the president had lost the debate. His account was fact-checking Romney's statements and sending out quotes from campaign officials, including the first lady.

“I simply couldn’t be prouder of my husband tonight,” Michelle Obama wrote, tagged with the signature “–mo,” meaning she herself wrote it.

While Michelle was proud of her husband, some viewers may have been disappointed if they were looking for one of those iconic moments debates are known for—the type of moment that lives on YouTube. While there were no $10,000 bets or “You're no Jack Kennedy,” there was Big Bird. Romney said he would cut funding to PBS, even though he's a fan of the big yellow bird.

The “big bird” moment wasn't lost on Twitter. According to the social media site, there were 17,000 tweets per minute about Romney's love for Big Bird. Parody accounts popped up immediately.

“Big Bird was big, like the empty chair; Twitter ran with it,” Green told the Daily Dot after the debate.

But the big question is this: Will Twitter run with the debate next week and break its own record when the vice presidential candidates take to the stage? Stay tuned.

Photo via The New York Times/YouTube