By Angela Moon
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has moved up the ranks on social media since the last GOP debate, closely following the front-runner Donald Trump in sentiment score.
Cruz ranked second in the Thomson Reuters social media sentiment index with a score of 10.81, below Trump's 11.6, ahead of the debate to be held Tuesday night. The index looks at the average ratio of positive tweets to negative tweets on candidates since the Oct. 28 debate, hosted by CNBC.
Cruz's social media score has been improving since the last debate, when he, along with Marco Rubio, emerged as two of the strongest challengers to insurgent front-runners Trump and Ben Carson.
Cruz has also been revamping his social media campaign. The Texas senator had about 3.1 million engagements on Facebook - a combination of shares, likes and comments - from Oct. 1 to Nov. 9, third among the GOP candidates, according to data compiled by social analytics platform NewsWhip. Trump ranked second with 6.4 million engagements.
Carson was still the biggest player on Facebook with about 12 million engagements but in terms of social media sentiment index, he scored a negative number because of a controversy over his recollection of his past.
Jeb Bush, with a sentiment score of negative 4.7 going into tonight's debate, was one of the most talked about candidates on social media, mostly for his comments about killing "baby Hitler."
The hashtag #Baby Hitler and topic 'Baby Hitler' were trending heavily on social media a day after Bush said if he had the opportunity to kill Adolf Hitler when he was an infant, he would have.
(This story corrects penultimate paragraph to Jeb, corrects last paragraph to Adolf)
(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)