By Shannon Travis, CNN.com
Might future presidential debates feature candidates that voters can’t see, can’t hear and who answer questions in 140 characters or less?
While televised presidential debates are far from political extinction, what’s certain is that more and more presidential-type forums are making significant use of social media or wholly being broadcast online.
Cases in point: on Wednesday, President Obama became the first president to tweet when he answered questions on jobs and the economy via a Twitter townhall. The White House has its own Twitter account separate from an account designated for his re-election efforts. Tweets from the president are signed “-BO.” The Twitter townhall follows the president’s Facebook townhall in April.
Also on Wednesday, an Internet-based Tea Party group – TheTeaParty.net – announced it will hold a presidential debate with Republican candidates wholly on Twitter.
That debate is scheduled for July 20, and candidates will answer questions via Twitter’s requisite restriction that encourages short answers: in 140 characters or less.
That Twitter debate will feature Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Organizers say they’ve invited and are waiting for a response from other GOP presidential candidates – including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and even Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has not launched a presidential bid but is considering one.
Might forcing candidates to address complicated issues in 140 characters or less dumb down the issues to simple messages and campaign slogans?
“I think the exact opposite is true,” TheTeaParty.net spokesman Dustin Stockton told CNN. “It forces them to really have to answer the question.”
As Stockton explained, though candidates will be limited by a character count, they will be allowed to respond in multiple tweets, and will have two or three minutes to “delve into” a question.