Tea party sponsors first ever Twitter debate
Updated: Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011, 6:02 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011, 5:52 PM EDT
John Perry, Digital Media Political Producer
CONCORD, N.H. (LIN) — This isn’t your grandmother’s election season.
It was a new turning point in politics Wednesday when six 2012 GOP presidential candidates debated each other using Twitter handles in a tea party sponsored event.
The online debate, sponsored by ‘ TheTeaParty.Net ,’ was also streamed live on http://140townhall.com . Conservative radio host Rusty Humphries and conservative commentator S.E. Cupp moderated the online event.
• Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
• Atlanta businessman Herman Cain
• Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
• Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson
• Former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum
• Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich.
Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, helped to organize the event. “We want to continue to move the political dialogue to allow for greater engagement and more transparency with our political candidates. We think Twitter can do that,” Hemingway said.
The use of social media as an outreach to the American public has skyrocketed, particularly within the political realm, since President Barack Obama’s April Facebook town hall and more recently, his Twitter town hall meeting July 6.
Like Obama’s July 6 meeting, candidates were asked questions by users who tweeted their questions to a hashtag, which went directly to the moderators. Candidates, or their campaign teams, were allowed to respond.
However, unlike Obama’s town hall, candidates were forced to answer in statements within Twitter’s 140 character limit.
The bulk of the candidates, considerable underdogs, used Wednesday’s event to find early support and momentum among conservative tea party Americans.
This is particularly critical as the all-important Iowa Straw Poll is just around the corner on Aug. 13. The straw poll, a decisive determining factor of how candidates are faring with Iowan Republicans, launched little-known Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ar., to superstardom in 2008.
Of Wednesday’s Twitter participants, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., currently enjoys the most tea party support in Iowa. In a recent poll, from theconservativejournalblog.com , Michele Bachmann ( @michelebachmann ) leads the pack with 33 percent of Iowa Caucus voters.
More importantly, the Iowan-born congresswoman is ahead of former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., who leads national polls.
Atlanta businessman Herman Cain ( @thehermancain ), who surprisingly surged as an outsider since declaring his candidacy, has apparently topped out. In a recent poll asking respondents which presidential candidate would they prefer, the former CEO of “Godfather’s Pizza” sits at five percent.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ( @newtgingrich ), who endured a mass exodus of his campaign staff early on in the race, has stabled his campaign. Though he sits at eight percent nationally, Gingrich announced his campaign in a Twitter message.
Santorum ( @ricksantorum ), who is polling at three percent nationally, strikes a strong chord among conservatives on social issues but is still looking to find his stride just ahead of the Iowa Straw Poll on August 13, 2011.
For McCotter ( @ThadMcCotter ) and Johnson ( @govgaryjohnson ), who are polling at less than one percent nationally, Wednesday’s event was a crucial opportunity to capitalize on social media to align themselves to the tea party causes.