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October 4, 2012
America watches the first debate of the 2012 presidential contest

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Big Bird is endangered. Jim Lehrer lost control. And Mitt Romney crushed President Barack Obama.

Those were the judgments rendered across Twitter and Facebook Wednesday during the first debate of the 2012 presidential contest. While millions turned on their televisions to watch the 90-minute showdown, a smaller but highly engaged subset took to social networks to discuss and score the debate as it unspooled in real time.

Until recently, debate watchers would have waited through the entire broadcast to hear analysis and reaction from a small cadre of television pundits. Social media has democratized the commentary, giving voice to a far wider range of participants who can shape the narrative long before the candidates reach their closing statements.

(21 images)




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Dawn, left, and Randy Cornell, watch the presidential debate at the United Steelworkers Local 4856 Union Hall Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Henderson, Nev. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced off, Wednesday night, in their first debate. AP / Julie Jacobson
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Members of the Massachusetts GOP Young Republicans react as they watch the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Boston. AP / Elise Amendola
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Potential voters watch U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in Washington, D.C., during their first presidential debate. MCT / Olivier Douliery
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Rowan University student Bilal Rice watches the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on television in Glassboro, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Courier-Post / Jose F. Moreno
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University of Iowa political science students watch the first presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, at the Adler Journalism Building in Iowa City, Iowa. The students were testing out a new mobile app developed by political scientists that allowed them to react to the candidates' statements in real-time. AP / Ryan J. Foley
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Bill Locke watches the presidential debate at the United Steelworkers Local 4856 Union Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Henderson, Nev. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced off, Wednesday night, in the first debate. AP / Julie Jacobson
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Ryan Roques holds his 8-month-old daughter, Peyton, while watching the presidential debate at the United Steelworkers Local 4856 Union Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Henderson, Nev. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced off, Wednesday night. AP / Julie Jacobson
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President Obama is reflected in Mary Jackson's eyeglasses as she watches the first Presidential debate between Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and President Barack Obama on Wednesday Oct. 3, 2012, at a restaurant in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. AP / Joseph Kaczmarek
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Harriet Garrett reacts while watching the first Presidential debate between Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and President Barack Obama on Wednesday Oct. 3, 2012, at a restaurant in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. AP / Joseph Kaczmarek
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A group of about 30 people watch the presidential debate at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 12012. The museum set up "blue" and "red" sides, but most of those in attendance sat on the side representing Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. AP / Allen Breed
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Austin Reid leans in to listen to his girlfriend, Emily Millette, during a presidential debate event at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. The two are registered independents, but they were leaning toward voting for President Barack Obama, and didn't hear anything from Republican nominee Mitt Romney to change that. AP / Allen Breed
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Melanie Nicholls, a sophomore at Augustana College from Rockford, Ill., watches the first presidential debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, in a packed Great Hall of Emmy Carlsson, in Evald Hall on campus, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in Rock Island, Ill. Quad-City Times / John Schultz
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Augustana College students in Rock Island, Ill., bring chips and snacks to the Great Hall of Emmy Carlsson, in Evald Hall as they watch the first presidential debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in Rock Island, Ill. Quad-City Times / John Schultz
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Video Only salesperson Mark MacCoby, of Fremont, Calif. watches the presidential debate on a wall of plasma televisions at the store in Dublin, California, on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. It is the first of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate held in October. Contra Costa Times / Doug Duran
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Calvin Goad watches the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney from a restaurant in San Diego, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. AP / Gregory Bull
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With a broadcast of the presidential debate reflected in a mirror above the bar, customers at the Havana Social Club in Seattle watch President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney debate, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. AP / Ted S. Warren
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Teri McClain watches the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the University of Denver on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. The Denver Post / AAron Ontiveroz
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Caitlin Alexander, 20, a supporter of President Barack Obama. watches the debate on a screen outside at the University of Denver Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. AP / Chris Schneider
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People watch the Presidential Debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. The Denver Post / Aaron Ontiveroz
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Journalists watch the first 2012 Presidential Debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in Denver. The Denver Post / Helen H. Richardson
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President Barack Obama watches as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. AP / Michael Reynolds

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