The senator from Vermont has surged in recent polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. His focus on income inequality has made him a real threat to what had been perceived as Hillary Clinton’s race to lose.
Yet only one question at the debate dealt with Sanders, and candidates rarely mentioned his name. Moderator Maria Bartiromo cited recent polling of Sanders’s popularity in a question to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“What does it say about our country that a candidate who is a self-avowed socialist and who doesn’t think a 90 percent tax rate is too high could be the Democratic nominee?’’ she asked.
It was quickly pushed aside.
“If that’s the case, we’re gonna win every state, if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. That’s not even an issue,’’ Kasich said, laughing. “And I know Bernie, and I can promise you he’s not going to be president of the United States.’’
Kasich’s response was a swift dismissal of Sanders, and nobody on stage questioned his conclusion. Sanders was hardly mentioned again.
On Twitter, though, Sanders fired back with a tweet showing his lead over Republican candidates in a hypothetical heads-up battle, using polling from Quinnipiac University last month.
That was the most retweeted post of any candidate during last night’s debate, Twitter said, according to The Washington Post.
The second most? Another tweet from Sanders directed at Trump.
I have a message for Donald Trump: No, we’re not going to hate Latinos or Muslims. We are going to stand together. #GOPDebate— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 15, 2016
Among all candidates, Sanders gained the second-most followers during the Republican debate, Twitter said.
That social media presence could come in handy as the primary elections get nearer. The two states whose residents were most engaged in the debate were New Hampshire and Vermont, according to Facebook data.