Yahoo! readers still unsure about Romney as frontrunner

When it comes to social media, Saturday's ABC/Yahoo! debate clearly captured the attention of many more Americans than earlier brawls with the crucial New Hampshire primary just days away. We saw nearly double the social media traffic compared to our Dec. 10 debate with ABC, according to social tracking firm Attensity. During the debate's broadcast, Attensity counted nearly 38,000 tweets about the candidates and their positions. Nearly 240,000 readers joined us to follow Yahoo!'s liveblog of the debate as well.

Mitt Romney emerged from both debates largely unscathed by the increasingly acidic attacks candidates have lobbed at one another. On Saturday night, Yahoo! readers told us they felt that Mitt Romney narrowly won the debate, earning 44.78 percent of the vote in our audience response poll. Ron Paul was a close second for the win, with 37.23 percent. However, when we asked Yahoo! readers at the end of Sunday morning's Facebook/NBC "Meet the Press" debate if they felt Romney had secured the position of front runner, voters were still on the fence: 54 percent said he had not, while 45 percent said he had. (Meanwhile, the prediction markets we follow at The Signal still heavily favor Romney to win the nomination.)

Rick Perry's Iraq moment proves unpopular
One of oddest moments of Saturday night came when Rick Perry suggested that we should put troops back in Iraq. Yahoo! readers reacted strongly to his suggestion: Of the the more than 25,000 responses, 73 percent said they were not interested in hearing more from Perry about further military involvement in Iraq.

You can watch video of the moment below:

Sentiment on social media mirrored this. Our partner Attensity found that an overwhelming majority of tweets around Perry last night were negative, and largely related to foreign policy.

Newt and Paul spar over military; readers split
Another tense moment came between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich: Paul attacked Gingrich for not serving in Vietnam. (Of the current field, only Paul and Perry have experience in uniform.) We asked Yahoo! readers if military service was crucial experience for the job of commander in chief: a slim majority (52.76 percent) said that it was not important.

You can watch video of the two debating military service below:

Economy still a top issue

During the Sunday morning Facebook/NBC "Meet the Press" debate, the first question from a Facebook user asked if it was un-American to receive government assistance. The economy has consistently been an important issue for Yahoo! readers: during the Dec. 10 ABC/Yahoo debate, 70 percent of debate watchers told us the economy and jobs was their top issue. Facebook polled users before Sunday morning's debate and found similar results: around 60 percent of their users named the economy the top issue facing the country.

Perry took the moment to correct his most memorable gaffe of the campaign--his inability to name the three government agencies that he would close. (In the original debate, he named Education and Commerce but forgot about the Energy Department.)

You can watch Perry's humorous rebound below:

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