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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

With his blunt words, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15," Beto O'Rourke saw a bigger spike in online attention than any of his 2020 Democratic rivals in the 3 debates, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke identified the right issue at the right moment. Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings, guns have risen to the forefront of the national conversation. For 3 straight weeks, and for 6 of the last 7, stories about guns have generated more interactions on social media than any other issue.

By the numbers: Stories about O'Rourke generated more interactions (comments, likes, shares) on social media following last week's debate than for any other candidate in the previous 2 debates.

  • The 33 biggest articles about O'Rourke last week were all about his position on guns.
  • The slant of those pieces spanned the political spectrum: from straightforward news to cheering from the left and skewering from the right.

The big picture: While online interest in mass shootings typically lasts just 3 weeks after the event, activism around gun violence has been more sustained than usual since the August massacres.

  • Immigration, which had been the top issue throughout much of 2019, is now in second place behind guns.

Between the lines: Spikes in online interest for Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Julián Castro have preceded subsequent polling surges in the Democratic primary. But each has been followed by a corresponding tumble back to Earth.

  • Already, O'Rourke has jumped ahead of Cory Booker in polling and pulled even with Andrew Yang.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

See all past editions of the tracker here.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America is anxious, angry and heavily armed

Data: FBI; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Firearms background checks in the U.S. hit a record high in 2020.

The big picture: This past year took our collective arsenal to new heights, with millions of Americans buying guns for the first time. That trend coincides with a moment of peak political and social tension.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

America on borrowed time

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic recovery will not be linear as the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Despite being propped up by an extraordinary amount of fiscal stimulus and support from central banks, the state of the global economy remains fragile.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

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