For a while in the middle of Wednesday night's main Republican presidential debate -- that is to say, well over an hour into it -- Donald Trump seemed to vanish. The voluble businessman came out of the gates punching everything in sight and then just ... stopped.
He didn't literally leave the stage. But it was like when you only notice that the air conditioning has been humming loudly after it's been shut off.
We noted Wednesday night that Carly Fiorina attracted a ton of attention for her performance, as measured in people searching for the candidates on Google. This isn't a foolproof or, as far as I know, tested method of evaluating performance, but it's a logical one. People see someone, then want more information about them.
In the first debate, in August, Trump generated a ton of search interest, as he usually does. There were occasional spikes, but nothing long-term. The closest to matching him was Ben Carson -- and, of course, both of them saw increases in the polls after the debate.
Wednesday night's picture was different. Trump was overtaken by Fiorina a few times and by Bush once -- in part thanks to Fiorina and Bush's personal stories. Fiorina's overall search pattern pretty closely matched Trump's throughout the event. Trump still got more searches, but it wasn't the same.
Notice, too, that we added a benchmark search: "Kardashian." Interest in the other big name of reality TV is generally pretty steady. Wednesday night's debate's searches spiked higher above the Kardashian baseline than August's.
Compare them directly. You can see how Trump's searches were spikier over the course of the hours on Wednesday and how much more bunched up he was with other candidates. In part this is due to the size of the Fiorina and Bush spikes in the latest debate, but in part it was Fiorina more closely matching him.
And compare Fiorina in August to Fiorina last night. If Donald Trump stayed about the same, Fiorina crushed it. Maybe, for once, the pundits are right.
We all deserve what we get....