Donald Trump didn't even need to attend Thursday night's Fox News debate — the numbers make clear that the businessman had already said his piece.
When you tally up all seven Republican debates, you see that Trump has spoken more than any other candidate than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), despite the fact that he didn't show up for Thursday's event.
Trump wasn't onstage, but he was still a big presence
Though he wasn't there, Trump was still on people's minds: He was the third-most-mentioned candidate Thursday night.
Compare Trump with some of the candidates who were onstage, like Ben Carson (mentioned once) or Jeb Bush (called out twice). The Donald has become a big enough presence in the Republican race that it was inevitable he would be talked about, regardless of whether he attended the event.
The people watching at home? They wanted to know about Trump.
Trump not only didn't show up to the debate, he also counterprogrammed the event with his own rally to benefit veterans. That might explain how he managed to have the highest Google search interest throughout the night, as the above chart shows. He accrued the most new Twitter followers, too.
Twitter followers added since #GOPDebate began Rubio: +6.9k Cruz: +3.8k Paul: +2.8k Carson: +2.3k Bush: +1.9k Chrstie: +1.9k Trump: +19.0k— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 29, 2016
The one way Trump's absence was most notable, arguably, was in the ratings: Fox News got about 10 million fewer viewers for this debate than the one it hosted back in August with the Donald.