Among the 11 candidates who qualified to participate in both debates tonight, one made quite the impression -- it just wasn’t on the stage.
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Sen. Rand Paul announced that he would boycott tonight’s debate after he failed to qualify for the main stage. Instead, as his campaign explained in a statement, he would "take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa.”
He took his message to Twitter, a medium that undoubtedly includes Iowa and New Hampshire voters. While the candidates slugged it out on stage answering questions from moderators, Paul was at Twitter’s NYC headquarters, taking questions from voters online using the hashtag #RandRally.
He videotaped responses to approximately 17 questions, ranging from the NSA to executive orders and strengthening the constitution.
#RandRally trended nationally for the majority of the debate and the duration of his Q & A.
By the middle of the debate, Twitter said he had gained the second largest following of all candidates, Republican and Democrat, although he was not among the Top 5 candidates dominating the conversation.
Twitter said all candidates are invited to visit their headquarters, and that so far, in addition to Paul, Trump and Fiorina have taken the company up on the offer.
The ultimate vindication for Paul however, may have been at the debate, when people in the audience started chanting “We want Rand!”