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Thursday, July 21, 2011

6 debate on Twitter

Six Republican presidential candidates politely debated the debt crisis, healthcare, foreign policy and the federal government’s role during the first-ever forum on Twitter that had New Hampshire roots.

The group stuck mainly to their talking points while complying with the Twitter mandate that no tweet be longer than 140 characters.

Organizers let Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Thad McCotter submit multiple tweets to expand on their answers.

They all opposed federal healthcare reform, did not want to raise the federal debt ceiling without deep cuts in federal spending and predicted the tea party will have a major impact on the elections in 2012.

The 90-minute event offered five questions to all the candidates from the moderator and one question apiece from the public addressed to a single candidate.

@ljordan asked Minnesota Congresswoman Bachman, “Why isn’t anyone talking about the 47% of Americans that don’t pay taxes?”

Bachman quickly answered, “I am. Simple. Fair. Flat. Everyone should pay something.”

On the federal debt, former House Speaker Gingrich reminded he held the gavel when the Congress and President Bill Clinton last produced a balanced budget.

“Balance budget again by growing economy, cutting spending and reforming govt. That’s how we did it before. We CAN do it again,” Gingrich tweeted.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum jumped in on the part he played on welfare reform in the late 1990s.

“I am the only candidate that wrote & helped pass a bill (welfare) that actually ended a fed entitlement w D votes. Leadership!” Santorum said.

Michigan Congressman McCotter pulled no punches when asked if President Barack Obama was “anti-Israel.”

“Our dear ally, strategic partner, and fellow free nation Israel. Further, his failure to whole heartedly (sic) support freedom movements in Iran & Syria 2 topple the regimes haven’t enhanced US or Israeli security or the hopes 4 peace,” McCotter answered with two tweets.

Former New Mexico Gov. Johnson pressed his case to end the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Besides, we do not need 60-100k troops in Afghan and Iraq to protect ourselves. Nor do we need nation-building,” Johnson said.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain answered what he would do to amend rather than “repeal Obamacare.”

“I would promote a healthcare plan that would focus on controlling costs, and it would certainly allow individuals to choose Drs,” Cain tweeted.

Gingrich and McCotter pounced on that one, insisting the law was unconstitutional and should not be changed but repealed outright.

“I wouldn’t (amend it) even if I could (because) congressional passage offers legitimacy of the consent of the governed to the law,” Gingrich responded.

Conservative columnist and commentator E.S. Cupp moderated and warned candidates couldn’t blame any ill-advised comment on underlings.

“If they want their staff to tweet on their behalf, that’s fine.

“If they want to outsource this project, that’s fine and we won’t be checking up on them but we will be holding them and their campaign accountable,” she said.

Andrew Hemingway, a New Hampshire-based, conservative Republican activist, first came up with the idea last September to use Twitter to debate 2012 issues.

“I wasn’t even thinking of the candidates getting involved when I started,” he said.

One thing led to another and this first of its kind came about, streaming live Wednesday at 3 p.m. on TeaParty.net and www.140townhall.com.

Hemingway wants to follow it up with specific forums with the candidates on single issues.

Atlanta radio talk show host Rusty Humphries devoted 90 minutes of his show to the forum and had running guest commentary.

“It started a little slow but everyone got the hang of it,” Hemingway said.

The 18,000 who signed on at the start required organizers to enlist another computer server to boost the speed, he explained.

“It was more than what we had expected. It was overwhelming,” Hemingway said.

An exasperated DaveWeisel following the forum tweeted, “30 minutes and only two minute opening statements to go.”

Over the course of the event, there were 4,500 mentions of it elsewhere on Twitter, Hemingway said.

The biggest losers could be those who didn’t take part, Hemingway maintained – ex-Massachusetts Gov. and frontrunner Mitt Romney, ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty,

“Once a candidate sees the debate that just happened, I think they will be kicking themselves,” Hemingway said.

He later remarked, “If they are so risk averse with something this simple, what does that say about their campaigns? I want and I think the country wants somebody who is willing to take a risk.”

Cupp was less diplomatic commenting on Humphries’ program about the no-shows.

“I think it’s a slap to the process, a slap to social media, a slap to the tea party,” she declared.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.