#GOPDebate: The React and Attack approach in the Social Media Age

by Dr. Janet Johnson on August 7, 2015


A word cloud from the most frequently used words in the #GOPDebate feed. I collected 90,000 tweets.

The #GOPDebate had two debates. The “Happy Hour” debate, which consisted of seven candidates with the lowest poll numbers and then the prime-time debate, which consisted of the ten candidates with the highest poll numbers.

I missed the first debate, but watching the clips it looks like an interesting twist of events with Carly Fiorina making a name for herself. I will say, I know little about Carly Fiorina, but found myself researching her background.

As for the second debate with the top ten candidates in the polls–it was far from a boring debate. Donald Trump, a businessman as well as celebrity, believes he won the debate. No one can ever say Trump lacks self-confidence. And that’s why he won the debate. The focus was on Trump. Trump made himself the focus. And his unapologetic ways sparked fury in the other candidates and moderators. Trump did not disappoint viewers, which made for great television. But, with that said, he still needs polish and to work on clarifying what his plan for America would be how will he make America great?

The night played into what we might see on the best episode of a Real Housewives of Whatever City. Watching throughout the night there were some who lacked the dynamics of Trump and those that showed Trump as only a celebrity who lacks the knowledge base of the other candidates.

The most eloquent speakers of the night were Senator Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush. They answered each question respectfully. Donald Trump was always on the defense. He used words as “Stupid” to explain what he saw at the border:

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I’ll give you 30 seconds — I’ll give you 30 seconds to answer my question, which was, what evidence do you have, specific evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border? Thirty seconds.

TRUMP: Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening. Because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid.

And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them.

Why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them? And that’s what is happening whether you like it or not.

Trump needs polish. He may have the gusto and speaks without filters (and unapologetic for doing so), but when you’re in a room and you’re the ONLY one doing that–it looks unprofessional and un-presidential. Perception is everything in a debate. You need to show how you can handle stress and criticism. Most importantly, can a presidential candidate convey a clear and eloquent message that viewers can respond to and understand. As a viewer, and with a little knowledge of Rhetoric, I get it Trump, you’re mad about the direction America is headed–but don’t try to bully your way into the presidency. We want a president who can keep calm and not be on the defense every time they are criticized. My point is to get a REALLY good debate coach to help smooth out your answers. As I once read, do not ever claim to be the smartest person in the room–if you think you are–you’re in the wrong room.

Some of the best lines of the night came from unexpected candidates:

RUBIO: Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.


WALLACE: Dr. Carson, closing statement.

CARSON: Well, I haven’t said anything about me being the only one to do anything, so let me try that.

I’m the only one to separate siamese twins…


The — the only one to operate on babies while they were still in mother’s womb, the only one to take out half of a brain, although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it.


Social Media 

What lacked for many presidential candidates, especially the candidates who people took notice to last night– a silent Twitter feed.

Both Marco Rubio’s Twitter feed and Happy Hour debate winner Carly Fiorina’s Twitter feed was silent. So was Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Their Twitter feed should be active with links to more information. Use the platform to help clarify statements and to share your plan.

Jeb Bush’s social media team was smart to keep information and quotes streaming on his feed. That means, while viewers were home watching and tweeting–his tweets were occasionally being seen in viewer’s Twitter feeds as he spoke. His campaign even used #GOPDebate.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 10.38.48 AM

Even Governor Scott Walker’s campaign team tweeted during the debate.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.17.51 AM


Americans need to watch the rhetoric of the candidates, especially on Twitter. After the debate Donald Trump had this to say:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.23.57 AM

Donald Trump’s rhetoric shows a lack of professionalism due to the high pathos of his posts. He needs to build his ethos and his logos during and after the debates. Attacking people is not going to keep working. Also, more concentrated answers on a REAL plan for America would help him keep his momentum. Concentrate on the issues and build the “Make America Great Again” slogan. When Trump talked about Hillary Clinton being at his wedding. I’ve never seen a wedding photo pop up on my Twitter feed so fast. The photo went viral the minute Trump said the Clintons attended his wedding. Fox News commentator baited Donald Trump and he responded exactly how Fox News wanted him to–Trump can blame Fox News commentators for doing so– but one also has a choice on how they will react to the situation. Trump’s reaction made for great television and Trump is again, one soundbite after another on the morning programs. Donald Trump definitely has today’s mindset of the social media age,which is to react and attack.

My best advice to the candidates: Keep your message on point across all media. But, use the social media platform to educate viewers. It’s an opportunity. If you’re not taking all the opportunities you have in media these days, you need to start. Stop reacting and attacking and keep the message strong and clear. You can still state your opinion and not apologize for it, but there are other ways to do so.

With this debate I was intrigued by Dr. Ben Carson. I think he was weak at first. He needs more confidence, more gusto, but his demeanor and some eloquent answers had me curious to find out more about him. I have to agree that Carson had the best closing statement which I shared above.

Presidential campaign season is messy. And as Americans we will have to endure debate after debate to whittle the weak from the strong. The candidates have to remember who they are doing this for and that is for the American people. We want to hear clear plans… clear messages… and less blaming. Help us cut through the social media noise.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Helen August 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

Great post! What I find concerning about Trump, in addition to his extreme use of pathos without backing it with substance/evidence, is how easily he has become focused on trying to feud with Megyn Kelly. He was offended and felt that she caught him out on her question and he is now totally focused on rewriting what happened in that moment of the debate and in trying to assassinate her character. The person I want to see as President is one who would not be distracted by these sorts of things. If he was offended enough to feel it necessary to say her question was inappropriate, then say that and refocus on those things that are important and appropriate. His approach and continued comments since the debate have simply proved her point.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: