Don’t Neglect the Twitter Effect on Debates

by Nathan L. Gonzales October 1, 2012 · 3:19 PM EDT

Amid all the pregame coverage of the first presidential debate, don’t neglect the Twitter effect. The winner and loser could be decided and the post-game narrative and media coverage could be set before the candidates even leave the stage.

Of course, Twitter launched before the 2008 campaign, but certainly wasn’t as widely used or relied upon compared to today, particularly when it comes to the political media.

Many national, state, and local political reporters follow each other on Twitter and have a continual conversation about the state of the race. During the debate, the online dialogue will only be heightened as reporters analyze President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney in real-time. And once a particular storyline takes hold (whether it be focus on an answer, zinger, twitch, or tie color), it will likely only be cemented by subsequent tweets, blog posts, newspaper stories and cable news coverage.

It’s a very different dynamic from the traditional Spin Room, the adjacent location where campaigns send operatives and surrogates to meet with reporters to plea for their candidate’s victory after the debate. Now, both parties will have to use those pesky telephones, emails, or GChat to interject their spin into the real-time debate happening on Twitter.