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Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.
  • The second-place topic — also pushed by Republicans — was the former vice president's comments on oil and fracking.

Why it matters: The Hunter Biden story — one of Trump's final Hail Marys against Biden — is still blazing away in the conservative media ecosystem, even though it seems to have fizzled on a broader stage.

The backstory: Trump and his team had high hopes for an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, and Trump had mentioned publicly that it was coming. But when it posted just after the debate, the findings undercut the Republican case by saying available records showed no impropriety by Joe Biden.

  • Several Trump advisers told Axios they were angry about the outcome of The Journal's reporting.

The big picture: The debate was Trump's last big chance to convince a huge swath of voters to reconsider their choice ahead of Election Day.

After Hunter Biden, the second biggest online storyline out of the debate was also one being pushed by Republicans: Biden's comments about oil and fracking. (He's already doing damage control on the oil comment.)

In a major reversal from the first debate, the response to the moderator was overly positive.

  • Publications from the right and the left hailed Kristen Welker's performance after Chris Wallace was slammed following the first debate. All sides chastised him for letting things get off the rails and the right attacked him for alleged bias against Trump.

By the numbers: Overall engagement on social media (likes, comments, shares) was considerably lower than for the first debate, according to the data from NewsWhip.

  • By the morning after this week's debate, the top 100 stories generated 2.77m interactions (likes, comments, shares) — 59% lower than for September's debate.

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.

Data: Newswhip; Graphic: Axios Visuals — Note: Hover over the graphic on desktop to see weekly articles and interactions for candidates and issues.

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden on Trump's impeachment trial: "I think it has to happen"

President Biden told CNN Monday that he believes the impeachment trial of former President Trump "has to happen," but he does not think 17 Republicans will join Democrats to vote to convict.

Why it matters: Biden's comments are most concrete he has made about his views on Trump's second impeachment.

51 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

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