The four remaining Republican presidential hopefuls went toe-to-toe in Arizona during Wednesday night's CNN debate, dishing out terms like "romneycare" and "bridge to nowhere." But which was the expression that sparked the curiosity of debate watchers and Internet searchers across the nation? "Earmark."
Google's Politics and Elections team monitored the search engine during the two-hour Republican debate. During that time, searches for "earmark" skyrocketed by 2,300% above the normal rate for the term.
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In Congress, an earmark is a guarantee of federal funding for a certain project, sometimes hidden away in bills intended for a different purpose altogether. Because earmarks can be tucked inside unrelated bills and sometimes benefit voters from a politician's home turf, they're often the target of those who argue against excessive government spending. And during Wednesday night's debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum got into a spat about that very issue.
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Romney has been tagging Santorum as an "earmarker" in recent campaign ads. During Wednesday's debate, Rick Santorum defended his earmarks by explaining that there are "good" and "bad" earmarks, using the example of salvaging a military aircraft project as a "good" earmark.
Santorum went on to attack Romney for taking advantage of earmarks for the Salt Lake City Olympics, for which Romney was CEO. Romney returned fire by criticizing the earmark process in general.
“While I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the bridge to nowhere,” he said to Santorum.
"You're misrepresenting the facts," responded Santorum. "You don't know what you're taking about."
Finally, the two found common ground on the line-item veto, which allows the president to veto small provisions of a bill without touching the rest of it.
But the back-and-forth between the candidates was enough to pique the interest of millions of Americans, who turned to Google's search engine to learn more about earmarks and the "bridge to nowhere" metaphor, which was second on Google's list of debate-related searches. "Bridge to nowhere" is a reference to earmark spending on projects that benefit a politician's supporters.
Google also found that searches for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spiked during the debate in Arizona and nationally. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum enjoyed the highest number of absolute searches across the nation.
Do you think Google trends are an effective way of seeing what parts of a debate resonate with an audience? Sound off in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- Republican debate