On Wednesday, TheTeaParty.net held the first ever presidential debate on Twitter, posing questions to candidates in 140-character bursts as hopefuls answered in kind. On the sidelines, 22,400 viewers watched and commented.
The project is the brainchild of Andrew Hemingway, the creator of Digital-Acumen.com, which teaches politicians how to use Twitter effectively, and the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. He originally came up with the idea while riding in a car with presidential hopeful and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. He took the idea and started working with developer Adam Green, who, with his son Zach, helped create the debate.
The use of platform rather than face-to-face conversation does pose a troubling question: Are candidates themselves delivering the answers, or is their staff deliberating and deciding the most politically popular answer that will guarantee their candidate’s election? Hemingway assured TIME that all of the candidates were “fully engaged” in what their campaigns were tweeting for the debate. Organizers couldn’t be more specific, but Zach Green did say that McCotter typed his own responses while others, such as Johnson, were read the question and then dictated responses to an aide.