In a sign that we might actually be getting somewhere in the Democratic primary race, just 10 candidates will be taking the stage for a debate in Houston tomorrow – the first time during the 2020 campaign that the Democrats haven’t had to host back-to-back debates to showcase the entire field.

As with each of the previous debates, we were curious to see which of the candidates was dominating online conversation and buzz in the week leading up to the big event.

First, here are the runners and riders:

Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Sen. Kamala Harris; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Sen. Cory Booker; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro; and Andrew Yang.

Front Runners

Here’s what we found when we examined Share of Voice (SOV) for each candidate in the week leading up to the debate.

SOV numbers for each candidate are as follows – Bernie Sanders: 26%; Elizabeth Warren: 18%; Andrew Yang: 13%; Kamala Harris: 13%; Joe Biden: 12%; Beto O’Rourke: 7%; Pete Buttigieg: 6%; Amy Klobuchar: 2%; Cory Booker: 2%; and Julián Castro: 1%.

As he has done in each of the previous debates, Bernie Sanders dominates the pre-debate SOV amongst everyone he’ll be sharing a stage with, pulling in more than a quarter of online attention directed towards the ten candidates in the past week.

Elizabeth Warren, who has recently surpassed Sanders in polling in many parts of the country – and who leads the field outright in some areas – is in second place, with 18% SOV, up from 12% amongst all candidates leading up to the last round of debates.

Andrew Yang’s campaign is also showing momentum as the field narrows – Yang took just 5% of the SOV among all candidates heading into the last round of debates, compared to 13% over the past week.

The Pack

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kamala Harris’ campaign appears to be struggling to recapture the buzz it generated following her performance in the first debate. Leading up to the second debate in July, Harris was the second-most-talked about candidate after Sanders, attracting 23% SOV. This time around, against a smaller field, she has generated just 13%.

Presumed front-runner Joe Biden has not dominated pre-debate SOV in any of the debates so far, but his 12% showing this time around indicates a much higher level of online attention compared to the 6% he generated during the run-up to the previous debate.

Among the rest of the candidates, meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have both improved from 4% to 6% and 7% SOV from the last debate to this one, while Corey Booker’s campaign seems to be struggling to attract attention, dropping from 4% to 2%.

Finally, Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro both pulled approximately the same level of SOV this time as in the July debate, with 2% and 1% respectively.

Curious to see how these numbers change after the debates? Check back on Friday for our Debates Debrief blog post, which will include updated SOV numbers, as well as analysis around media and supporter reactions. 

Want more data-driven analysis around the election while you wait for Friday’s blog? Take a look through our Election 2020: Brands on the Ballot special report to learn why the stakes are higher than ever for brands during this election cycle.

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