Facebook face-off: It's Rand Paul vs. Ted Cruz

And the winner of the first scuffle was?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ever since President Obama harnessed the mystical power of “the Internet” to boost his 2008 campaign, the Republican Party has been scrambling to catch up.

With 2016 on the horizon, many Republicans are trying to prove they can tweet just as well as any Democrat. But before they take on the social media machine that is the Democratic Party, they’ll have to face each other - and it looks like Texas Sen.Ted Cruz won the first social media scuffle.

According to Facebook data, 2.2 million people garnered 5.7 million Facebook interactions related to Cruz’s March 23 announcement in the first 24 hours. By contrast, in the first 24 hours after Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s announcement on Tuesday, 865,000 people generated 1.9 million interactions.

To give that some context, Facebook reports that in the 90 days leading up to the announcements 70,000 people per day were posting about Cruz compared to Paul’s 67,000. Basically, Paul has some work to do.

Facebook also reported the top political issues brought up in relation to the candidates in the week leading up to their announcements. Foreign policy and international relations came in at the top of Cruz’s list and second on Paul’s. Cruz also was associated frequently with education and energy issues.

Leading Paul’s list was LGBT issues, likely in light of the backlash against Indiana’s religious freedom that, until Wednesday, he hadn’t commented on. Unsurprisingly for a man selling signed copies of the Constitution as part of his campaign swag, constitutional issues also made Paul’s top three.

As someone who is trying to aggressively court the Silicon Valley crowd and raise online funds, Paul’s Facebook flop is surprising – especially since Cruz failed at one of the most basic levels of Internet trolling by not securing the proper URLs before his announcement. So now, TedCruz.com is a giant banner ad for Obama and immigration reform.

The first wave of Internet buzz is just starting to subside, but it’s a long road to the Republican primaries. Get your selfie sticks ready, senators. You’ll need them.

[Also on DecodeDC: Ted Cruz-ing for a bruising]

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