The first head-to-head debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney tonight is also the first presidential debate where both campaigns will be engaged in a virtual showdown on Twitter.
While the first face-to-face debate it a momentous occasion every election year, this year Twitter is placing the stakes even higher, as many analysts believe that the social network is expected to hold the key to which candidate emerges victorious.
“The spin room which traditionally followed the debate will now occur in real time on Twitter,” predicted Peter Greenberg, Twitter’s head of political advertising, according to The Hill.
“Social media and Twitter has upended the power structure of the campaigns in being able to spin the results of the debate,” said Andrew Rasiej, a digital strategist for Democratic campaigns. “Spin-doctoring is now simply fielding social media reaction to the debates, as opposed to setting the direction of the coverage with the mainstream media.”
Romney’s digital director, Zac Moffatt, said Twitter is “going to fundamentally change rapid response and fact-checking” in debates, just as it did during the national conventions, The Hill reported.
“When debates are going on, it’s almost as much fun to keep your Twitter feed open as to watch the debate. You’re listening, but you’re also reading. That’s the reality,” said Moffatt. “If you don’t provide a two-screen experience, I think you will get left behind.”
“This is the first Twitter debate where the citizens and the candidates as well as the mainstream media are all engaged in using the platform during the debate,” Rasiej said, according to The Hill. “The campaigns recognize this now, so they will be in fact-checking mode, and they have established seasoned teams of people to monitor Twitter during the debates to respond with facts or reactions to the opponent’s points of view and also to monitor mainstream outlets’ coverage of the debate as it happens in real time and immediately provide either rebuttals or information.”
Twitter reports that this year, it tracks more tweets about the candidates every three hours on any given day than during the entire day of the first debate in 2008.