Tonight's town hall debate - and you

Twenty years ago, the first presidential town hall-style debate was held to so that voters could directly ask candidates the questions that mattered most to them. Tonight the tradition continues: President Obama and Governor Romney face the cameras, millions of viewers — and a group of citizens at Hofstra University (@HofstraU) in New York.

The town hall meeting has historically been one of the most direct forums for candidates to engage with their fellow citizens. In this race, the candidates and campaigns rely on Twitter to engage in this very personal form of retail politics.

As President, Obama has used Twitter to answer questions following an address about energy policy:

Governor Romney’s team shares behind-the-scenes photos that bring voters closer to life on the campaign trail and at local town halls:

Engaging in tonight’s #debates conversation on Twitter (www.twitter.com/#debates) means you can participate in a truly collective town hall meeting, sharing opinions with the person sitting (or tweeting) next to you, asking follow-up questions to the campaigns, and hearing firsthand from the candidates. 

Playing a unique role in this town hall debate will be the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley (@CrowleyCNN). As the first woman serving as presidential debate moderator since 1992, Twitter conversation about Crowley is already crescendoing. Her role is also sparking discussion given the high level of conversation and opinion about the two moderators to date, Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz. With the growing interest around the moderators this year, we applied the Twitter Political Index to analyze sentiment about their performances:

Jim Lehrer
2-Week Average: 59
Day Before: 39
Day After: 30
Net Day-to-Day Change: -9
Net Change vs. 2-Week Baseline: -29

Martha Raddatz 
2-Week Average: 47
Day Before: 44
Day After: 56
Net Day-to-Day Change: +12
Net Change vs. 2-Week Baseline: +9

Following the debate tonight, we’ll release new Twitter Political Index (election.twitter.com) scores for the candidates, their running mates, and moderator Crowley. We’ll also share an overview of the night’s biggest moments and trends. If you’re interested in seeing the real-time volume of Twitter conversation (Tweets per minute, or TPM) during the debate, tune into Fox News, which will feature a Tweet tracker in the lower corner of the screen at key moments, and a full summary following the debate. And now, off to Hofstra to prepare for tonight!

Posted by Adam Sharp (@adams)
Head of Government, News, and Social Innovation