GOP hopefuls to Twitter debate after early snafus, confusion
July 20th, 2011
10:21 AM ET
11 years ago

GOP hopefuls to Twitter debate after early snafus, confusion

Washington (CNN) - Getting politicians to keep their answers short is tough. On Wednesday, six of them will be forced to by the confines of Twitter.

In what's being billed as "groundbreaking," six of the 10 major Republican presidential candidates will participate in a Twitter presidential debate. They will answer questions in 140 characters or less. That, of course, is the maximum number of characters allowed per tweet. Organizers of the debate say they will allow the candidates to type multiple tweets - but that short answers are still encouraged.

The debate is sponsored by the online tea party group, It will feature Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

It will be hosted by radio talk-show host Rusty Humphries, who said in a statement: "I can't wait to see what a politician can say in 140 characters."

Conservative political commentator S.E. Cupp will also moderate. Though none of the candidates will be seen or heard from during the debate, organizers say each candidate will send a video message for viewers assembled on site in Concord, New Hampshire. Most of them will be tea party members and supporters. Others watching online will be able to pose questions via Twitter.

Meanwhile, there have been snafus and confusion ahead of the event.

First, a press release from July 5 listed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as "confirmed" to attend along with the others. That release did not mention Johnson at all.

When asked about the discrepancy, Pawlenty adviser Alex Conant said in an email, "We never confirmed." Pawlenty will not attend the debate.

An official with a public relations and political consulting firm helping to promote the event admitted there was a communication problem.

"Somebody confirmed verbally ... that was my understanding," Audrey Mullen of Advocacy Ink told CNN. "I don't know who was talking to who," Mullen added. "They're going back and forth to figure out who said what, when."

Dustin Stockton of told CNN: "That's a miscommunication between the guy who was doing our scheduling" and Pawlenty's campaign.

"We apologize to the former governor for just accidentally getting him in there. We thought we had him confirmed."

Also, after listing which GOP hopefuls were "confirmed," that same July 5 press release boasted: "with the rest of the major candidates expected to confirm soon."

The other candidates will not attend the debate. Debate organizers have told CNN that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul were invited - even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is considering a presidential bid but has yet to jump into the race.

There was also a snafu concerning the debate moderator.

Organizers initially said that conservative strategist Dick Morris would guide the debate. Now, he will not. Mullen explained that there was a scheduling problem.

As for the debate format, might forcing candidates to address complicated issues in 140 characters or less dumb down the issues to simple messages and campaign slogans?

"I think the exact opposite is true," Stockton recently told CNN. "It forces them to really have to answer the question."

"Everybody will have the opportunity to respond at the same time," Stockton said. "You'll be able to compare each candidate's answers side by side. And since it's a silent medium, the transcripts really kind of rip out somebody's oratory skills to evade a question."

- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Gary Johnson • Herman Cain • Michele Bachmann • Newt Gingrich • Thad McCotter • Twitter
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. EatRunDive

    This only verifies that they are indeed twits.

    July 20, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. Marie MD

    Okay, if this is test I give up. Who are the two clowns on the right?? A mccotter and a johnson?
    Their message is already dumb down and scary. I wonder what the flake is going to say about her visions and her anti gay rants with onky 140characters. Never mind cain against muslims. I guess they haven't learned that it hasn't worked for the AK quitter! Then again a LOT of hate can be said in 140 characterx.

    July 20, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. jennifer

    Gosh, for a moment I read the headline as saying.. "debate twits"

    July 20, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Gee, does this mean that they will not begin every remark by saying, "What most Americans want...", or "The will of the American people...", "blah blah ... job creators ... blah blah"?

    July 20, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Can you say tongue tied?

    July 20, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  6. Britannia

    That headline sort of sums up the state of the Republicans and TPs at the moment, doesn't it? " .... snafus and confusion."

    July 20, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Okay, these jokers in suits and ties, and the occassional cocktail dress, CANNOT be who the GOTP is REALLY running for president.
    This bad joke has gone on long come on, who is it? Will the REAL GOTP presidential candidate please stand up?
    These people are embarrassing, individually or collectively, take your pick. They suck hugely.

    July 20, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    So the Twits will be Tweeting, huh? I have been enjoying watching these folks break Reagan's First Commandment ("Thou shalt speak no ill against a fellow Republican") in the run up to the primaries, in their bashing of each other. It may be fun to see what happens if the two adults (Huntsman and Romney) decide not to participate. Now all they need is confirmation from Rick Perry, and the 7 Dwarfs analogy will be complete.

    July 20, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. SaintM

    This sounds ridiculous. Maybe they are trying to catch up technologically after McCain lost the presidency to Obama. Obama navitaged his presidential campaign through cyberspace like an expert compared to old man McCain's cluelessness.

    Good thing they have to keep their answers short–they are all full of hot air, and they have a limited vocabulary.

    July 20, 2011 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. Heh...

    This sounds like a neat idea. I can't wait to see what'll happen when the Double Speak and Politician Posturing gets limited to a couple sentences. They'll either cleverly not answer the question as usual, give broad generalizations that assume no specific moves, or...they'll actually have to SAY something! Lest they all respond with the same lame slogans. Actually, that'd be even funnier to see...6 simultaneous "Cut, Cap and, Balance!" tweets 😛 It'll be much harder to deflect questions, answer vaguely, or fill a response with a bunch of nice sounding but utterly worthless words. I'm stoked 😀

    July 20, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. shadysider

    1. Gary Johnson
    2. Obama
    3. Ron Paul
    4. None of the above.

    July 20, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. FM

    Sorry guys, I do not see any from this picture looking presidential!

    July 20, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. Palermo

    No politician can answer any question in 140 characters or less. This will end up just being a series of preselected soundbites that have nothing much at all to do with the questions.

    July 20, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. Newton Minow

    These people have done nothing but twitter endlessly since they began campaigning. Now they will be using technology to pander to those whose attention span is limited to 140 characters. I would love to be able to trust that the election will be decided by those who still have the ability to stay with a real debate and will discern the inainty, phoniness , and hypocrisy rampant at those events.

    July 20, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    For some questions that isn't enough space to really answer the question. What I have learned from my father is that sometimes an answer needs to be more than just yes or no. Even 140 characters can be too short. For those that often stick their foot in their mouth, then it might be too much.

    I am wondering if there were invitations to all those that have declared they were running. The listing does say that Pawlenty chickened out of the debate. I wonder if Gary Johnson's campaign will take off and get him 5% on a national poll?

    July 20, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. Mike D

    Huntsman or Romney would be crazy to go anywhere near this thing. Both are trying to put as much distance as they can from the crazies bringing up the year.

    July 20, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. Mike D

    ...rear that is.

    July 20, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. Phil in KC

    Good grief! First we force candidates to keep answers short enough to qualify as sound bites, now we ask them to keep their answers under 140 characters? How in the world can you understand where a candidate stands on the issues in such a short span? I want longer and more well-thought-out answers to my questions. The ADD generation is killing us.

    July 20, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |