— -- Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wasn’t in Las Vegas for the Republican debate Tuesday night. He wasn’t even mentioned once by any of the candidates on stage. But, by the end of the night, the U.S senator from Vermont managed to pick up the most Twitter followers of any of the 2016 presidential candidates.
How did he manage to do it?
It turns out that Sanders, who has a little over 1 million followers on Twitter -- almost double the population of the state of Vermont -- live tweeted the event using the hashtag #GOPDebate and gained 5,258 followers over course of CNN’s GOP debate night coverage.
Twitter’s Government and Elections team keeps tabs on tweets, retweets, and followers during the debate and offered up the final numbers on their account, @gov.
The top tweet of the #GOPDebate was a moment of sarcasm—and eye rolling-- from Donald Trump to the former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “you’re a tough guy, Jeb, I know.”
Trump’s sharp words helped him gain the most Twitter followers of all nine Republican candidates on stage, followed by Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina.
Even so, Sanders wins for the most re-tweeted comment of the night: Repeat after me: We must combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of discrimination in our country and in our world. #GOPDebate.
His message against Islamophobia—a hot topic on the debate stage—received a whopping 10,917 retweets and 16,702 likes, and is still circulating on Twitter.
Despite picking up the most followers online, Sanders still trails Democratic frontrunner Clinton in more traditional measures. A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday shows Clinton leading Sanders among likely Democratic voters, 59 percent to 26 percent.