Twitter: Romney's 'Big Bird' reference explodes online

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According to Twitter, two of the most popular moments in the first 40 minutes of the debate were both references made by Romney, while discussing some of the federal subsidies he would cut as president.

Looking directly at moderator Jim Lehrer, the host of PBS's "NewsHour," Romney said he would cut subsidies for PBS, even though he likes Big Bird.

"Big Bird" and "PBS" each earned 17,000 tweets per minute, Twitter reports. That's nowhere near the high Twitter traffic during Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention, which hit 52,757 tweets per minute, but it's more than Romney earned during his nomination acceptance speech at the GOP Convention, which hit a high of 14,289 tweets per minute. None of those numbers indicate whether users were for or against Romney on the "Big Bird" subsidies.

The debate was driving the majority of Twitter traffic on Wednesday night. Romney's campaign owns the top trending topic on the microblogging service, but half of the other top ten topics on Twitter were also about the debate. 

One popular hashtag in heavy rotation during the debate is #zinger, referring to a report in The New York Times last week that Romney's team "has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August."

Many Twitter users were looking to identify which parts of Romney's debate response were the "zingers" he had pre-planned.