Google search trends indicate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) was the candidate voters wanted to learn more about, but cable news has given her performance little to no attention on Thursday.
Getting most of the attention on the news has been Julián Castro, who entered the night polling identically to Gabbard, and was declared "breakout star" of the night by both MSNBC's Kasie Hunt and the New York Times. A clip of Castro pushing former Democratic congressman Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke to embrace his plan of decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings was played throughout the morning. Also mentioned throughout the morning were the attempts by Castro, O'Rourke, and Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) to speak Spanish during the debate.
Gabbard, on the other hand, was only mentioned twice throughout the whole morning on MSNBC—first getting mocked on Morning Joe for not answering a question directly and then during a conversation with Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio), who brought up a back-and-forth he had with Gabbard on foreign policy.
There was much more interest with Gabbard's debate performance among the viewing public. Google announced shortly after last night's debate that Gabbard was the most searched-for candidate in a majority of states.
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 27, 2019
A minute-by-minute visualization created by the search engine shows she was the top searched candidate throughout most of the debate's second hour, despite being one of the lesser known candidates entering the night.
The Times piece crowning Castro as a "breakout star" mentions Gabbard just once, as part of the group of candidates who failed to have the "electric, campaign-launching moment they were hoping for."
The search interest measure has limitations, of course. There is, for example, no way to determine whether searches were driven by positive or negative reactions to Gabbard, who recently refused to say Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was a war criminal. It is indicative, however, of a desire for more information about Gabbard, which the voting public isn't going to get watching MSNBC on Thursday.
Media critic Howard Kurtz predicted earlier this week that the "media verdict" on who won and lost the debate would be more important than actual performances due to the constraints of a 10-person debate stage.