2011 Republican primary debate on Twitter.com
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CBS News report:
A group of Republican presidential candidates participated Wednesday afternoon in the first-ever presidential debate held entirely on Twitter. But the most compelling case they made may have been for the limitations of the format.
Michele Bachmann (@michelebachmann), Herman Cain (@thehermancain), Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich), Thaddeus McCotter (@ThadMcCotter), Rick Santorum (@ricksantorum) and Gary Johnson (@govgaryjohnson) participated in the debate, which was sponsored by TheTeaParty.net. Four candidates--Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul--took a pass.
Twitter limits users to 140 characters, and a language has developed among users to get as much information as possible into that space. Hence Bachmann's first Tweet: ".@140townhall TY for this forum. I'm running for President of the United States to bring the voice of the people back to DC. That voice requires fundamental changes." (The @140townhall was an identifier so that people following the debate on Twitter would see her comment; generally, Twitter users use what are called hashtags--the # symbol--for that purpose.)
The candidates were allowed to use two or three Tweets to make their points, giving them a little extra flexibility in responding to questions and making statements. (Bachmann followed up with ".@140townhall Fundamental change in how we spend #taxpayer $, & return to constitutional principles of ltd government and personal responsibility.") Some, like Gingrich, Tweeted out links to videos on their websites to allow interested parties to get more information.
But for the most part, the character limit meant the candidates were reduced to offering little more than slightly modified talking points. They did not engage with one another, instead simply responding to questions from the moderator, conservative commentator S.E. Cupp, and the public with relative generalities that could easily have been found--in more detail--on their websites or in their public comments. And because the Tweets came fast and furious, it was often hard to follow what the candidates were saying when they tried to make a point in more than one Tweet.
Consider the second question posed by Cupp: "How do you weigh the cost of fighting the war on terror against the exploding debt crisis?" That question would seem to require a detailed response laying out the specific, hard choices that may need to be made when it comes to national security in light of the United States' current fiscal woes.
But specifics are hard to come by in 140 characters. Here's the response from Gingrich, the most followed Twitter user in the group: "Exploding debt crisis b/c of exploding politician spending in Washington, not b/c of national security." And from Bachmann : "Our security requires a strong defense and wise leadership. I will preserve our #military strength while using it judiciously."
If those answers told you anything you didn't already know about either politician, than you probably didn't tune into the debate in the first place.
It's understandable, and laudable, that the candidates want to reach out over new communications platforms. Candidates know new media platforms can be a powerful tool for reaching voters, as then-candidate Barack Obama illustrated in his 2008 campaign.
But Wednesday's Twitter debate showed they are still trying to figure out the best way to do so. When President Obama answered questions in a recent "Twitter town hall," he took the questions on Twitter but offered his answers over a live, streaming video--allowing him to offer complete thoughts instead of responding via Tweet.
[Note: OnTheIssues.org combined multiple tweets together, and translated twitter abbreviations into English. -ed.]
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Budget & Economy|
Gary Johnson: Stop incurring more debt; balanced budget by 2013.
Gary Johnson: Our debt is greatest threat to our national security.
Michele Bachmann: Raising debt ceiling is failure of leadership.
Newt Gingrich: Federal government pays at least $150B a year to crooks.
Thad McCotter: Justice Dept. shouldn't undermine DOMA.
Energy & Oil|
Gary Johnson: Current policy prevents common-sense energy development.
Thad McCotter: Israel is our dear ally and fellow free nation.
Gary Johnson: As governor, vetoed 750 bills.
Gary Johnson: Government creates jobs by reducing its role, not expanding.
Herman Cain: Cut through all bureaucracy; reduce regulatory authority.
Newt Gingrich: The era of big government is over, and I mean it.
Newt Gingrich: Abolish all White House Czars.
Rick Santorum: Overturn & freeze all Obama regulations in process.
Rick Santorum: DC doesn't work; ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment.
Thad McCotter: Cut, Cap & Balance now; end Big Government for long-term.
Herman Cain: Focus on controlling costs and choosing doctors.
Michele Bachmann: ObamaCare is the largest spending program in our history.
Michele Bachmann: I will not rest until Obamacare is repealed.
Newt Gingrich: Rampant Medicaid/Medicare fraud: stop paying the crooks.
Rick Santorum: First Executive Order: suspend ObamaCare.
Herman Cain: Can't put a price on security; cut waste, but nothing more.
Michele Bachmann: Defense spending did not cause our budget crisis; no cuts.
Newt Gingrich: Defense as percentage of GDP is lowest since WWII.
Rick Santorum: Cut waste in DOD, but don't cut defense budget.
Thad McCotter: 1990s "peace dividend" was inane trope by the Left.
Gary Johnson: Oppose NLRB recent actions against Boeing in SC.
Herman Cain: Government doesn't create jobs; businesses create jobs.
Michele Bachmann: Attract jobs by cutting job creator taxes.
Newt Gingrich: Jobs & Prosperity Plan: cut business taxes & regulations.
Rick Santorum: The federal government kills jobs!
Thad McCotter: President only "creates jobs" in the bloated public sector.
Principles & Values|
Gary Johnson: Tea Party insures that Republicans are part of the solution.
Herman Cain: Uniquely qualified to be America's CEO.
Herman Cain: Tea Party checks the powers within the Republican Party.
Michele Bachmann: Bring the voice of the people back to Washington.
Michele Bachmann: Tea Party has held congress to account.
Michele Bachmann: I will represent you with a titanium spine.
Newt Gingrich: Tea Party prevents mistake of electing conservative Dems.
Rick Santorum: The soul of America is God-given liberty.
Rick Santorum: Tea Party is now the backbone of the conservative movement.
Thad McCotter: Our American Dream is endangered, economically & militarily.
Thad McCotter: GOP must honor Tea Party, or they'll make a third party.
Gary Johnson: Reform all entitlements, including Social Security.
Herman Cain: Restructure entitlement programs instead of reshuffling them.
Michele Bachmann: 47% pay no taxes; everyone should pay something.
Newt Gingrich: Obama's "balanced approach" is code for raise taxes.
War & Peace|
Gary Johnson: Absolutely would not have gone into Libya; get out now.
Herman Cain: US intervention in Libya is inappropriate and wrong.
Michele Bachmann: No vital US interests at stake in Libya.
Newt Gingrich: No US conventional forces in Libya.
Rick Santorum: No national security at stake in Libya.
Thad McCotter: Libya has ill-defined mission; no US boots on the ground.
Welfare & Poverty|
Rick Santorum: Send Food Stamps & means-tested entitlements to the states.
The above quotations are from 2011 Republican primary debate on Twitter.com.
- CNN Arizona debate (Feb. 22, 2012)
- CNN Florida debate (Jan. 26, 2012)
- CNN South Carolina debate (Jan. 19, 2012)
- Fox News South Carolina debate (Jan. 16, 2012)
- Meet the Press New Hampshire debate (Jan. 8, 2012)
- WMUR-New Hampshire debate (Jan. 7, 2012)
- Yahoo's "Your Voice Your Vote" debate (Dec. 10, 2011)
- CNN National Security debate (Nov. 22, 2011)
- S.C. foreign policy Debate (Nov. 12, 2011)
- Your-Money-Your-Vote Debate (Nov. 9, 2011)
- Cain vs. Gingirch head-to-head (Nov. 5, 2011)
- Las Vegas debate (Oct. 18, 2011)
- Dartmouth N.H. debate (Oct. 11, 2011)
- Orlando Google debate (Sept. 22, 2011)
- Tea Party debate (Sept. 12, 2011)
- American Jobs Act debate (Sept. 8, 2011)
- Reagan Library debate (Sept. 7, 2011)
- Iowa Straw Poll debate (Aug. 11, 2011)
- Twitter debate (July 21, 2011)
- St. Anselm NH debate (June 13, 2011)
- Faith & Freedom Conference (June 4, 2011)
- South Carolina debate (May 5, 2011)
- NRA Conference (May 1, 2011)
- CPAC Conference (Feb. 10, 2011)
- "The Hannity Primary" (Interviews 2011-2012)
- Interview with Green Party's Jill Stein (Dec. 21, 2011)