history, topping this year's Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
With 11.1 million comments, Wednesday's debate was the fourth most tweeted telecast of any kind, coming in just behind the most recent Grammy awards, MTV's Video Music Awards and the Super Bowl, according to William Powers, director of the Crowdwire, an election project of the social analytics firm Bluefin Labs.
The consensus on social networks was that Romney's debate performance had breathed new life into his recently sliding campaign.
Unlike the wider television viewing audience, debate watchers who comment on social media "are politically engaged in the strongest possible way," Powers said. But, he added, "it's a bit of a hothouse population. It does skew younger, and I'm not sure how much middle America is represented."
Twitter scored Romney the debate's clear winner, according to Peoplebrowsr, a web analytics firm. The group found 47,141 tweets mentioning Romney and "win or winner" compared to just 29,677 mentioning Obama and "win or winner."
Romney was also the top tweet in the handful of battleground states that will decide the election, including Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado, Peoplebrowsr found.
In Ohio, a key battleground state where polls show Obama has emerged with a lead in recent weeks, the top two debate tweets were "Romney" with 15,115 and "Mitt" with 5,446. "Obama" placed third with 5,328.
The debate, focused on domestic issues, was a numbers-heavy discussion of the economy, debt and entitlement reform.
Search engine Google announced the debate's four most searched terms: Simpson-Bowles (the bipartisan fiscal commission Obama appointed); Dodd-Frank (a democratic-backed financial reform law); Who is Winning the Debate; and the popular "Sesame Street" TV character Big Bird.
The social chatter settled into a few major themes.
Early in the debate, Romney said he would defund public broadcasting to bring down the deficit but added that he liked Big Bird. Social networks immediately responded, with participants posting spoof photos of Big Bird and other "Sesame Street" characters on Facebook and setting up parody Big Bird Twitter accounts.
The veteran PBS newsman was widely criticized as the debate moderator, with viewers saying he asked weak questions and did a poor job of keeping command of the debate's time and tempo.
Romney's big win
Social media participants marveled at Romney's strong outing and pronounced Obama's debate performance flat, non-energetic and meandering.
Obama supporters were some of his toughest critics. Andrew Sullivan, a pro-Obama writer for the Daily Beast, "This was a disaster for the president."